Today I had a drippy caesar salad for lunch. I ate it with my headphones in, listening to a podcast where a few Beijing foreign correspondents analyzed the recent floods, but not before I got up from my chair to lust over the brownies behind the glass counter.
Since I didn't succumb to said brownies, I finished lunch and walked across the street to an import grocer where I pondered bars of dark chocolate (finally settling on the cheaper one), then briefly considered buying more instant coffee (decided against), picked up an apple, considered buying soy milk (decided against), picked up a pouch of pumpkin seeds and almonds and also bought a baking tray. After purchasing all of these things, I waited in line for my official receipt (gotta collect 'em for my taxes) and only after this a man approached me, "Do you speak English?"
I find that more frequently now when American strangers (and now a British one) approach me they ask this question, which is a bit silly because here I am, buying expensive groceries by myself, clearly to arrive at this juncture in the world, I probably had to learn English first, regardless of my country of origin. Still, I guess it's kind of nice in a politically correct, self-effacing way - as if we're far enough removed from British Imperialism and American super power that there might actually be unaccompanied white ladies shopping for fruit and nuts in central Beijing who don't speak English. Granted, while it might not be impossible to find said lady, it would be pretty, pretty hard.
Anyways, after an extremely long pause, this guy told me that he'd noticed me at lunch and only came over to the grocer to approach me, which could be kind of creepy, since he obviously waited until I decided on cheap chocolate, passed on instant coffee, picked up an apple, passed on soy milk, bought a baking tray, paid, got my fancy receipt AND THEN said hello. But I chose to feel flattered, he didn't seem like a bad sort, but then I've learned not to trust my first impressions.
It's strange to think about being watched in public and what people might surmise from one's shopping habits. I'm just glad he didn't catch me yesterday when I stopped at a convenience store on my way home and inhaled an entire sleeve of oreos.