A Little TIC

Dorothy Gale’s hushed and wide-eyed sensation — Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more — is something we refer to, in my house, as a “TIC moment”. When we are slapped silly by the knowledge that we’re not in Canada anymore, we’ve learned to shrug (or smile, or swear) and say, “This Is China!”

Our latest TIC gem happened on Sunday morning. (They often do. Even though Canada is an increasingly secular society, we still have shreds of attachment to the idea of Sunday as a day of rest. Not here!) Our son was in bed, half awake at about ten minutes to seven, when he heard knocking at his second-storey window. Like a good Canadian boy, he dreamily thought, “Why is there a woodpecker at my window?” And then the guy outside pounded again, so Sam opened his drapes.

Outside was a man suspended on thick, natural-fibre ropes from our apartment roof. We see them every day, scaling the exterior walls of our building with wood ladders and hemp and muscle-power to do the never-ending patchwork of the exterior bricks and concrete. He gestured. Sam opened the window, and asked what the heck he wanted in good local vernacular. He needed water for his cement-mix. (TIC! When two men came last spring to do some interior repair and painting, they not only asked us for a water bottle they cut open to hold their paint, but for wet cloths and elbow grease to clean up after them. Drop-cloths? Silly reader!) So, like good Chinese apartment dwellers at seven a.m. on a Sunday, Sam and his mother ran to get glasses of water. But the window screens here aren’t easily removed. Spiderman tilted his mixing bucket, nodded. My wife emptied the glass toward the window screen, and apparently some of it went into the mix. “Xie xie,” the wall-crawling repairman said.

Sam was later thanked for a second emptying of a water-glass out through the screen, and for a cloth that our new best friend needed to wipe off the concrete splashes on the window. Sam ran down and threw that one up to him. TIC. They’re out there again today, using a hand-drill and a long extension cord to chip away at decaying concrete. (Another TIC indicator: this apartment complex where we live, no doubt built at a feverish pace, as everything else is here, is no more than a dozen years old.*) The next thing you know, we’ll be asked to pay for repairs to the defective kitchen stove! Oh, wait, that’s right. We just were.

* Fact check: it opened in 2003. Wow.

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