"I AM THE POLICE"
We had just returned from running, and were covered in
sticky sweat, when our doorbell rang. It was a policeman. He emphasized
this fact by pointing to the emblem on his sleeve and saying, “I am the
Police.” We had been warned that some day a policeman might show up and
want to see our documents—which makes perfect sense, given the high numbers
of Americans who try to illegally immigrate to China. In limited English,
he asked how many people lived here. We said two. He asked to see our
passports. We produced our passports with our Chinese work visas, our
Foreign Expert certificates, as well as our residence registration papers.
He wrote some information down in a notebook. He asked if we worked here.
We showed him our school brochure and business card, and encouraged him to
call them if he had any questions about us. He asked again if there were
only two people living here. We assured him we were the only ones. Towards
the end of the interview, he revealed that one of our neighbors had
complained of a loud noise and that’s why he was here.
We found this to be a bit ironic, since Zac and I are
probably the quietest people in the neighborhood. There has been pounding
for the past two
months due to remodeling in the apartments around us, the
old ladies outside are always shrilly arguing with each other, the trash
collectors routinely call loudly (often with the aid of a bullhorn) for
boxes and bottles, the man upstairs is constantly grunting, and in the
apartment next to us someone noisily chops vegetables with a cleaver all
day. Add to this the constant honking of horns, the opera music that blares
from the loudspeakers at Xinghai Square, and the occasional sirens or
firecrackers, and I don’t know how anyone could have heard a noise even if
we made it.
So here’s what I think. Two of our American friends
came to our house on Friday, and given the policeman’s repetition of the
question about how many people lived here, someone must have thought we were
harboring westerners. I think one of our neighbors is reliving the good old
Red Guard days, when one would receive kudos for informing on one’s
neighbors. Our neighbors have been none too smiley towards us since we
arrived, but now when we look at them we can’t help but wonder which are the
ones who tried to get us into trouble with the police. Their normal blank
stares have taken on a sinister hue.
On the other hand, the policeman was quite friendly
and polite. He didn’t even try to beat a confession out of us. He left us
his business card, so we think we’ll give him a call the next time our
neighbors get too rowdy during a game of mahjong.