Thursday, September 15, 2011

Detained, not Arrested (There’s a Big Difference, Mom)

I have to confess that I feel a little sorry for the People’s Republic of China.  They exported their single greatest source of energy sixteen years ago. Now she’s back, roaming around Beijing, dressed in a geeky school uniform and armed with a camera, her mind and her mouth.

Her first little spot of trouble occurred when she and her pal Max Fong (of the Nob Hill Fongs) decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood.  They came across an official-looking building, one which Emma must have decided would make the perfect profile picture on the Facebook page she’s still managing to maintain. (Illegal in China, but that hasn't stopped her.)

“It was all going great until the guys with the guns showed up,” she reported.

That’s not the sort of phrase one wants to hear from one’s daughter, but I suppose there are worse ones, and I’ll try not to think of those right now.  Anyway, here are Max and Emma being interrogated, and here is Max doing his best to get them out, and here is Emma Losing Her Mind because she does not know what is going on. She always knows what is going on, even when she doesn’t.

Turns out that, while Max is fluent in Chinese, he’s not fluent in the sort of Chinese the guards are currently shouting at him. His parents don’t speak the language at home, but his grannies do. This explains a lot. I am guessing that Max’s vocabulary might be limited to words and phrases such as “Have some more,” “You look skinny,” “How are your grades?” and “You are the sweetest boy in the whole world, come give your granny a kiss.” He is probably less familiar with terms such as “Restricted access,” “Positively no photography,” “What are you, a dumbass American?  We said No Photography” and “We have big guns and you don’t, kids.”

This all happened twelve hours after she’d arrived back in her homeland. Just saying.

Finally, Max was able to extricate the two of them from the situation, possibly by telling the guards that they were the sweetest boys in the world and that they should come give him a kiss. The guards erased everything on Emma’s camera (if they had ever wondered how many photos of yourself you can take from arm’s length, crooking your head to one side as if your neck is broken and sticking your tongue out, and they discovered the answer – a lot). She left the situation with her dignity mussed and her outrage intact. “You can take pictures anywhere you want in America,” she said, sounding suspiciously as if she were debating at the Ronald Reagan Library with the rest of the Repub-la-goons.

You’re not in America anymore, toots?  Yeah, we said it, but it didn’t take.  In her view, she’s the sole citizen of the Empire of Emma, no passport required.

So, while they are having high-level meetings in Beijing to discuss how guys with guns can handle a teen with attitude, Emma continues to explore the place she left fifteen years and six months ago.  She saw a guy peeing on the street. She’s already developed a theory that you need to be at least the third person to step across the curb into traffic, because the first two are likely to get hit.

And, so far, she still understands the important difference between detention and arrest.

Good luck, comrades.


  1. actually we weren't brought anywhere.
    And i think i said i was american like 50 times.
    All the pics were from my last days in america and first few in china. None of me actually! haha

    Also, the guard was skinny and looked like he couldn't even pick up a gun, let alone shoot one in my direction. I coulda took him. But I didn't because then i would probably be detained, arrested, maybe tortured (but know one would know) and then deported. or dead. dunno which.

    oh well, im not worried. To protect my rights, nothing is too high of a cost. with the exception of mary's life.