There is a hair salon near my home. But it's not called a hair salon, it's name is the Plastic Center. The people who work there look unusual: They have holes in their ears, rings in their noses, and they all wear shiny black silk suits and snow white kungfu shoes.
I've never been inside the place as my understanding of hair-dos is still primitive. Actually, I'm afraid of being given a bill for an astronomical sum for a snip that doesn't really suit my conservative style.
After all, the hairdressers, or, artists, all seem to have hairstyles beyond my aesthetic horizon.
Thus every time I pass by the center, I just take a quick glance at the black suits moving about inside the big windows.
One morning, I happened to get up early and left home as most office workers do, and I was shocked by what I saw outside the Plastic Center.
The black suits were standing on the sidewalk, with their hands held tight behind. A man was giving a speech, in a manner that reminded me of a kungfu master trying to whip up his disciples' spirits.
I was really curious. How could these young people bear someone babbling on and on? I told my family about this. But they said it was not strange at all. Hairdressers do the same thing every morning. And they also practice calisthenics.
I couldn't believe my ears. So I got up early and walked in slow motion towards the hairdressers. It seemed like the clock had been turned back 20 years.
I heard a voice saying: "The First Group merits praise for good cleaning work. You gain a red flag. The Second Group, you must discipline yourself."
What kind of a boss is this man? How much energy must he be exerting to keep this group of young people under his iron fist?
What would they look like when they do the calisthenics? Could it be the Number Six Calisthenics that I had to go through every school day some 20 years ago?
I felt envious of the salon boss - how wonderful it must be to have staff obey orders, no matter how strange they must be. And while the young people practice calisthenics, the boss can relive his youth again.
But the boss' speech seemed to last forever and I didn't have enough time to hear the whole thing.
One leisurely morning, I sat down and listened from a nearby breakfast stand and asked for youtiao - deep fried twisted dough sticks.
Once the boss finished talking, the music started.
The music, all pop songs, was the same that I'd been hearing every day from the hair salon.
But the young people were doing calisthenics at least a decade old. Without any enthusiasm, their arms stretched toward passers-by, who screamed or laughed and hurried away.
(China Daily 01/08/2008 page20)