The silk factory in Beijing was impressive, if for nothing else than the way in which it pointed out what an American I really am.
Our local guide, Maggie, was having a much easier time than her usual days. Instead of 20-30 people under her care, she had only my sister and I. Even at our worst, herding us around the city was a walk in the park compared to her usual toil. For those three days, she probably felt like she was getting paid to take a vacation.
Enter the silk factory and showroom. Imagine if you will, one of the smaller Walmart locations, filled with nothing but racks and shelves of tastefully displayed silk finery. To this day I still have never seen anything quite like it.
The service from the staff was outstanding, if a bit on the smothering side of the line. Being as it was the middle of the day, this massive showroom had, besides my sister, myself and our guide, maybe two to three other shoppers. The entire time I perused the stock, there were two young Chinese women tasked with following me around. Any time I would pause in even the most minute fashion, one of them would snatch up whatever item caught my eye, holding it up for me to inspect. It wasn't so much that they were pushing me to buy as it was making sure that I only had to extend the most minute amount of energy in my endeavors. Despite knowing why they were doing this, it didn't make it one bit less annoying. Leave me alone so I can shop in peace, please.
Since silk isn't something I've worn since that unfortunate time in the mid-90s when it was in fashion, the clothing wasn't really of much interest to me. I didn't know my girlfriend's (at the time; now wife) size and I wasn't about to buy anything for her as returns were not going to be possible without another very long plane ride.
Realizing this, our guide directed me to the bedding section. I had just purchased a new bed a year or so prior, my first adult furniture purchase, and the old, cheap and shabby comforter I had been using was in serious need of replacement. A silk comforter from China would make a fantastic accent for my bedroom; yes, it would.
Finding a pattern I liked wasn't much trouble and I spied a likely candidate fairly quickly. As I pulled the queen sized version off the shelf (my shadows had stopped following me long ago as they had given up on me as a hopeless case), our guide took it from my hands, correcting me that I had clearly not read the sign correctly as I picked the wrong size one up.
Confused, I asked looked again at the shelf, re-read the tag and confirmed to her that I had picked up the correct one. She again told me I had not because there is no way a single guy in his late 20s who was not married and had no children could have a bed that large, all to himself.
The look of shock on her face when I assured her that I not only could, but did, was a moment where I was reminded yet again that I really did live a privileged life here in the US. My house, which I lived in by myself, was likely larger than the apartment that she shared (and paid for) with her retired parents.
Maggie and I got along well in those few days, but I still think she was in a perpetual state of shock the entire time, at how ridiculous it was for me to have a bed of that size all to myself.
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