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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Refining Influence of Wealth?

I sometimes fall into the trap of assuming that more educated, wealthy folks are more likely to have what I consider to be good manners. 
Last night I was on a long train ride. A few rows in front of me was a couple watching a movie on their computer with speakers and sound volume worthy of a big-screen theatre. I ignored it for quite a while, but as the vampire flick grew more violent and bloody, the sounds of smashing, thrashing, and gnashing became increasingly annoying. It was as if they owned the train and no one else was on board. At my left a tired woman was trying to sleep. Across the aisle a man was visibly annoyed. But why was everyone just sitting back and taking such rude behavior? 

Finally, mostly out of sympathy for those around me, I decided to take action. It was a tough decision because it meant the potential sacrifice of a prized possession of mine. But I took them out of my bag and walked over to the offending couple, trying not to glance at the carnage on the screen. With my best fake smile, I held out my favorite pair of earbuds and said, in my poor Chinese, "Here, you might need these earphones. Go ahead, take them." 

When I looked at the woman, I was surprised. I'm embarrassed to say that I figured it would be some "country bumpkin" from the remote provinces who didn't understand the basics of civilized behavior in a train.  But this was a woman of wealth in a beautiful dress, with nice jewelry, decked out with a large laptop computer, loudly talking into her iPhone as I approached. She had to talk loud because the volume of the movie she was playing was already quite high. 

She quickly realized why I was offering earbuds and smiled back, saying that she had her own. To make she she understood, I repeated the offer. I think she got the message, and the volume went way down after that. I could only hear an occasional slaying after that. Much better. 

Ah, the refining influence of wealth. Doesn't always work that way, I guess. Should have realized that somebody with a high-volume computer wouldn't be from the regions of high poverty. The train was heading to Wenzhou, famed city of China's wealthiest people, it is said, legendary for their real estate prowess and abundant wealth. 

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