It is 4am in Beijing as I type. For good and sufficient reason*, I had to be at a radio studio downtown from 2:30 to 3:30am. When that session was over I went out on the street to find a cab. It is so, umm, crisp in Beijing that I went out with knit cap pulled down practically to my eyebrows, muffler wrapped from my neck up to bottom of my eyes, plus assorted huge overcoats, gloves, thermal underwear, etc. Speak to me not of the joys of winter.
Find a taxi; climb into the front seat, the comradely thing to do in Australia and China alike. Pull off my knit cap and undo the muffler. Driver turns to me, starts to chuckle, and gives a little salute.
No, this is not the Obama-honoring salute I encountered so recently in (balmy) Indonesia. No, not at all. Zongtong Bushi! "President Bush!" Hardee har har. As mentioned previously, to most citizens of China I am apparently indistinguishable from Xiao Bushi, "Little Bush." I do not reply, "Chairman Mao!" or "President Hu!"
Instead I collect myself and make a pun: Wo bushi Bushi! I'm not Bush! It does no good. He salutes again as I get out of the cab.
Somehow I hope this is good for the soul.
* Taping of Fresh Air interview, presumably for broadcast on Tuesday.
UPDATE: Via Tim Dorsett, a reminder that he more likely was saying Bushi zongtong, Bushi zongtong, Bushi zongtong than the opposite word order. But when he said them over and over, I could hear it either way!