36 - The Lads’ Weekend

The girls decided that last weekend would be good to go explore Shanghai. When the boys heard this, they too thought this was a good idea and for the same reasons picked that same weekend. So bookings were made, separately, with different agendas. The girls targeted the Radisson, a deal of pampering, some tourism and a good deal of shopping. The boys had a different agenda, acting distinctly laddish and with talk full of innuendo for most the week (not living up to their age at all), booking a rooming house for not much money and having ideas of roaming around with a completely different sort of window shopping in mind.

Both groups had a fun weekend. The boys left at six on Friday and the girls at eight. The boys, I guess, slaked their thirst on arrival; the girls had a restrained equivalent in much nicer surroundings overlooking the city from the heights of their posh hotel.

Wandering the city on Saturday, they chanced upon each other in the vicinity of the tallest tower in the world. The girls went up and waved their cameras; the boys found out it was ¥150 and most declined, kicking themselves when they discovered a way of getting close to the top without acting as tourists (and too late to do it).

The fun began on the way home. One of the many frustrations with trains in China is that it is surprisingly difficult to buy a return ticket or any ticket much in advance of travelling. Ticket offices are often disconnected and distinctly remote from the station. For example, we have a ticket office more or less outside the school gate in Nanjing but the station is 8km away. I am not convinced tickets can always be bought at the station at all. Anyway, the boys found that their intended return train was full and they had a stark choice; wait till very much later on Sunday or set off as far as Suzhou (about halfway) and expect that a later train would have space on it by the time it got that far – a good bet. Having got themselves as far as the station by then, this was a no-brainer and off they set for Suzhou.

Suzhou is a pretty city, advertised as the Venice of China, so the lads¹ were looking forward to making good use of the four hours between trains. The station, as usual, is well outside of town but a reasonable taxi ride, so that the hire is cost-effective for a group. They have a wander round, seeing what there is. Eventually, having not quite ticked all the boxes on their list, they decide that this is the opportunity to fulfil² one of the greater ambitions that they have been teasing each other with all week, a massage.

So Larry, Curly & Moe³ get in one of the ubiquitous taxis and Larry, with good Mandarin, says to take them to a massage parlour. No problem. They arrive and Larry makes it clear (he thinks) that a massage is what they have come for – and he says he means the pressing of flesh not the nudge and wink variety. The lads are shown into a plush receiving room and food is brought, drink is brought and three delicious girls appear. None of the three ever told me how much the girls were—or were not—wearing; I guess just enough. Larry looks at Curly & Moe, who are suddenly feeling the gale equalling all the caution that had been thrown to the wind during the week... Larry carefully and repeatedly says this is not what they have come for – that this is the wrong room. Apparently, their massage room is being prepared upstairs. Worried, the lads don’t touch the food or drink (but it must have been tempting); they don’t say they didn’t touch the girls, being curiously silent on that topic. At some hidden signal the girls up and leave both the room and the boys, who are feeling vulnerable and not a little scared. More so in a moment or two, because the door re-opens to show not the returning girls, but a collection of well-dressed bruisers who start shouting (loud Chinese is not argument necessarily, but it is an excellent language for both being shouted and sounding aggressive) that the lads must pay loads-a-money for the services they have not used. A large sum is mentioned, almost four figures in sterling, and the threat is sufficient that the three lads are now quite concerned for their continuing good health. Money is not really a problem in the very short-term, although the sum being yelled at them is significantly more than they would have been carrying between them. Larry points out repeatedly that no service has been received, that what has been on offer is exactly what they were not asking for. A very tense state of affairs.

Unfortunately this is like the whore shouting “No, no”; the meaning is understood to be the opposite of what is said. So Larry finds himself negotiating a smaller fee amounting to an escape charge or a ransom. Some ¥700 exchanges hands. Ouch.

Out in the street, tense enough to need a massage, our three stooges recover their equilibrium on recognising their undamaged health. Pausing only to check at one of the neighbouring stores that Suzhou is not ‘a mafia town’ as Larry put it later, they called on the cops. Within ten minutes there is a single policeman in their company. Larry, whose Mandarin skills are having a workout tonight, wonders whether one policeman is enough to brave the inside of the massage parlour. The copper says this is not a problem and takes the three back inside. Lots more shouting ensues but the uniform works an unanticipated magic (except to the PC himself, presumably) and within 60 seconds, having had their pulses raised yet again, the three are back out in the street, wallets restored to their proper weight.

Emboldened by their escape, the guys recognise that their stress levels are such that they really need a massage, so they find another taxi driver and explain that they want a massage, being very particular in describing the sort of massage they wish to experience. The taxi-driver says he understands and off they go, relieved.

Guess where he takes them? Too easy, isn’t it? Panicked “drive on!” noises from all three as they recognise the frontage, now without the shining knight (if blue serge can shine).

So back to the station (railway variety), where they while away the hours to the next train, eventually getting home quite some time after the girls, whose trip was smooth and uneventful, much as they had planned it, including a delicious three or four hours on Sunday in M&S. Shopping in China is largely unrestricted: Sunday trading might not open until ten but the shops will stay open until the next ten occurs.

The escapade complete, one realises that medically the lads have had a very similar experience to the one originally anticipated; the variety and range of the emotions, the range that the heart-rate and the blood pressure reached was probably about the same as the service everyone believes they had in mind. It is funny that, whatever they say, no-one really believes them.

That the story is told is itself telling. A little less laughter and more sympathy, please.

                                                                                                                 DJS 20081126
This is easily the most popular story.

1 The lads and girls in this tale are all staff, not under 20.

2 fulfil has two letters L, not three.

3 Larry, Curly and Moe were the three Stooges (before my time, 1925). Wikipedia tells me ‘Moe, Larry & Curly’ but I think my order reads better. 1959-69 was a very popular time for them in the US on tv.

4 I suppose he could have been within, but the guys thought not.

Top Image: My picture, of Shanghai.

© David Scoins 2017