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Dear Foreign Businessman Who Gave Me a Cigar on the Train from Shanghai

Dear Foreign Businessman Who Gave Me a Cigar on the Train from Shanghai,

I still have the cigar, by the way, which you so generously handed me after we had exchanged no more than ten words – mere pleasantries between strangers on a train – as you and your wife were stalled in the aisle beside our seats. Here is the gist of our conversation:

Us: “Hello.”

You: “You guys just playing or what?”

Us: “We are teachers.”

You: “Oohhhh, just playing, huh?”

Boom. We were pals. Let me say, businessman, you could befriend a stump, if you were in desperate need of a chat.

You had a mustache, of course. There’s no doubt about that. And your leather briefcase harked back to a different era and style of salesmanship. Perhaps it was from there that you procured the USA cigar I suddenly found pinched between my fingers – I wasn’t watching. In fact, I was facing forward when your chummy hand surprised my shoulder from behind. How long was it? Thirty seconds to physical camaraderie? Your Chinese associates must have been impressed. A gen-U-ine American good ol’ boy hustler – the sort that can tell a joke, wink, and have you signing away your life and bank account, all within a quick minute. Legendary. The living embodiment of American deal-making.

And those associates of yours were probably unable to detect, with their limited English, that as you rattled off figures and assurances for the big deal, it was in the very same voice and unwavering confidence with which educated your wife on the width and course of the famous Nanjing River*, which we were then passing**.

Really, what a gem.

I can only imagine how many other friends you’ve made in your travels, or how many cigars you’ve tossed away for the sake of showmanship. Here in China, you’d probably benefit more from a few cartons of cigarettes from the Duty Free; dish those out and you’d be rolling in guanxi.

You have your own ways of doing things. We understand: wherever you go, you’re still an American, goddamn it, and you’ll act like one. So once again, thanks for the stogie. One day I just might light it up and think of you.


This Ridiculous World

* May or may not exist.
** It was a slough.

2 Responses to “Dear Foreign Businessman Who Gave Me a Cigar on the Train from Shanghai”

  1. MyLaowai says:

    They may some of the most naive people in the West, but – gosh darn it – I like yanks.

  2. Chinamatt says:

    A real foreign friend in China will give you a Cuban cigar.

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