Timing is Everything

So I’ve seen on more than a few occasions parents on their phones while their children are just kinda staring off into space wondering, “why isn’t my mom playing with me?” or even staring at their moms thinking, “Why aren’t you playing with me?” And I attribute this mainly to the fact that they are so, so obsessed with their phones here it’s outrageous. Everyone is always on their phone. I’m told many Chinese have bad eyesight and it’s primarily attributable to the fact that they have to study so much that their eyes just go. Well nowadays I think the fact that they bury their faces in Candy Crush or any number of mind-numbingly simple, mash-the-shit-out-the-screen-with-your-finger games may have something to do with their eyesight. Yes, I am suggesting a direct correlation between Angry Birds and glasses.

Anyways, I don’t sit here on my perch of absolute objectivity, of which I am king, emperor and God, and cast out judgments with utter perfection. It’s merely approaching perfection – near perfection actually. And so I do recognize that in other places in the world, yes, mothers and fathers do use their phones for completely nonsensical time-wasting activities while their offspring sit there, brains melting to the floor. Yes, Americans are, in fact, stupid enough to do this. (Says the kid staring at a screen, typing for hours and listening to subpar music.) But I’d seen it umpteen times here that I had previously recorded it in my China Bible. But I have to say, sometimes we miss things and perspectives change. This is a good thing (if you recognize it.)

So the other day I was walking back home, and outside the mall/apartment complex I live there’s always a myriad of activity, including but not limited to: merry-go-rounds, fake trains that go around a ten-yard-long track, people smoking, fake trains that move up and down the sidewalk, people drinking outside a convenience store, people smoking, roller blading lessons, people smoking, women with a huge speaker dancing/aerobics-ing and of course people smoking. This particular night, my attention was drawn to a father and his son on the fake train. (The one that goes up and down the sidewalk.)

In all fairness the father wasn’t on his phone. But he was just staring off into the distance, and in no way interacting with his child who sat there, lip sagging toward the floor and drool swooping down to unheard-of distances, as a brain heat map revealed an overwhelming navy blue hue. And I observed this for about 30 seconds, which seems like a long time to be staring at someone, but to my defense:

A) They sat in the last car of the train.

B) A human being can easily walk as fast as a train with rubber tires, so I simply strolled alongside a moving train.

So having kept my eyes affixed to a human for what may be described as “way too long” I looked away to something else, anything else – Ah! A man smoking. And as I regathered my thoughts, and collected the half-baked ideas in my head (“yep, so that’s now half a gazillion and one parents I’ve seen who haven’t played with their children…”) and spun my pre-conceived notions with my ill-conceived statistics into one of my social-theory tapestries, I looked up to damning surprise. There was the father simply playing with his child, tickling him making him smile. At first, I didn’t see this as the thread-cutter to undo my fabrics. I saw it as it was – a beautiful moment. There’s few things in this world that universally put a genuine smile on someone’s face like someone else putting a genuine smile on someone-else else’s face.

Timing is everything. I go out into this world everyday with what I believe is a keen eye, an open mind and a sincere heart. I look for patterns and new ideas. I look for ways to essentially document humanity, including strangers, friends and myself. And every moment, every observation adds to the anthology we call “life.” But sometimes we miss things, and sometimes we do see things. In fact, studies in psychology show that (fairly obviously once stated) we weight things we see once way more than the things we don’t see. I see one parent ignoring a child, and then I ignore the millions who don’t do this. In a parallel universe, I may have missed the two seconds of that father tickling his son, and thus these 1000 some odd words would never have been written, and I would’ve had the same world view. Timing is everything; you just have to be willing to wait and be open for when it happens. (“it.” What is it? I have no idea.)

And there I was having thought I nailed down another brilliant social theory. I thought I’d be up there with the best of them: Durkheim, Freud and the Godfather himself, Choquette. But nope. I stood there with empty spools and clipped threads on the floor, and my theory undone. I stared around at my tools and spools and ideas, and thought I should probably reuse them somehow. And I stared again at the child, and realized that I’ve thought about and stared at this child and father for eons. That’s kinda creepy.

It served as a good reminder that we all have our own way of looking at the world, sure. We have our own stories, and perspectives and notions about what’s what. But we always should be searching to change our perspective. Open the shades. Dim the lighting. Move the sofa so that things always look different. Maybe I’ve already been in China too long and think I see things in a “true” light, when really I’ve already pigeonholed and categorized things into neatly packaged, Westernized ideas. If I think I can typecast all Chinese as cellphone-wielding, child-ignoring dimwits, I should probably reimagine things a bit. And what better time to do that than on my Christmas break.


Like what you’re reading on China? Check out some other related articles in: The China Chronicles!

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