The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully for me, which is something that tends to happen when I’m on my own. It took four hours to develop a plan for the first exhibition at the Shanghai Car Show as well as a sales forecast that might keep Germany happy. The rest of the time was spent wandering around the little cafes at the base of the building and staring out at the view from the window.
My business partner wasn’t so lucky; on his tour of sites the general manager had once again proved his inability to do anything useful. They were visiting an Audi service center when his inexperience with the boss’s Range Rover came to the forefront and he drove it into a freshly repaired car outside the center. The people who ran the place were pretty calm about it, and advised they could fix the damage “off book” for 200 RMB, no need for insurers, etc. and then both owners would be none the wiser.
Any sane human being would have leapt at this offer, but not our GM – who insisted that because the boss’s car was insured he wanted to use that instead. The bill immediately went up by thousands of RMB. And my chum was trapped on some industrial wasteland for nearly 2 hours waiting for all the paperwork to be completed. Then there was the small matter of informing the boss that the GM had damaged his car…
When they got back to the office all we wanted to do was head out to our “new” apartment and chill out. It was a straight forward drive (even in rush hour) and 20 minutes later we were in the drabbest neighborhood I have ever had the misfortune to spend time in. Our building was one of 40 identical buildings; there was nothing on the outside of any of them to distinguish them from each other.
We were also isolated from any amenities whatsoever – no metro stop within walking distance, no cafes, no pubs, no bars, no restaurants, nothing except for a grotty little shop under the building. This shop specialized in not selling anything you’d want to buy and a quick scan of the shelves revealed everything to be at least 1 year past sell by date. This didn’t stop us from picking up a couple of beers to dampen down the shock of the remoteness of our lodgings.
Then it was up in the dodgy (it was swaying ominously from side to side) elevator and into our “luxury apartment”. Well I’ve stayed in some complete dumps in my life, but nothing that held a candle to this place. Each of the rooms had been decorated by someone who must have suffered from total color blindness, reds, yellows, blues, pinks, greens and browns clashed on every single wall and surface.
They’d neglected to provide any bedding or towels, so the driver was quickly dispatched to sort this out. What we didn’t know, and wouldn’t find out until much later that evening was that there was also no water supply to the toilets (to continue the lavatorial theme) and no hot water supply at all. For this we would require a gas payment card and some credit – and we had no card, and no ****ing clue that we needed one.
The first bedroom was adequately spacious with a decent sized double bed; however the second was slightly smaller than a prison cell and came with a bed that would be well suited for a cast member from Willow (the movie). For us normal sized people it would have been impossible to get our legs in it. A brief discussion over who would sleep in the sofa led to my mate insisting he’d prefer to sleep in the living room as there was a telly in there.
Other moments of joy included discovering that there was no cooking equipment in the kitchen, the heating didn’t work (in Beijing in winter!) and that every surface was filthy and the loos stank because they hadn’t been flushed in weeks (and wouldn’t flush that night either).
We called our 2 colleagues and shouted at them for a bit, and then told them we were going out because staying in wasn’t really an option and they said the company would pick up our tab for doing so. We didn’t know it at the time but they lied about this too. So we headed back into Beijing for its most famous bar district Sanlitun. And that’s where you’ll find us tomorrow.