OBE is an acronym – a military acronym which means “Overcome by Events.” It is used to describe a situation in which nothing has gone correctly, and there is no salvaging a plan.

Today I was OBE. Interestingly enough, I also found the point at which I walk out of a situation. I’ve never walked away from something – it took ten hours and an IKEA.

Note: The original draft of this post was a lot longer. I’m editing it down to highlight why today was rough.
The plan was as follows: Get up early, get to IKEA and set up delivery of goods, get perfume at Sephora, go buy bracelet at Tibetan district, maybe hit up JinLi or one of the monasteries and relax. If it’s too late, I’ll take a taxi back. At one point during my horrible day today – when Vega realized he left his umbrella at IKEA and had me watch his backpack for twenty-odd minutes in a mall – I can only think that this was supposed to be a fun, quick trip. IKEA was supposed to be, at most, maybe half of my day. Pick out some cool things for my room and move on. It was not supposed to be a maddening full day of Hell.

But it was – IKEA was not a fun experience. There were so many people, constantly moving and stopping. I don’t speak Swedish or Chinese, so nothing made sense. The workers were not really interested in helping me, and Vega was so…I’ll say polite…that he just kept agreeing to do what they said, which was mostly go find someone else. This was when he showed up at the end to help me buy my list – I let him go relax while I walked around because he was so clearly bored. In short, what was supposed to take maybe two hours took closer to five, and ate up the entire day. I got my first case of anxiety ever, and I blame the music – they kept “Let it Snow!” and “Let it Go!” playing on repeat.

I got the perfume at Sephora – nonrefundable I’m told. Brilliant.

On the metro, I’m in line to get on the train. It’s going to be packed – it always is at the junction at Tianfu Square. It’s the only stop where Lines 1 and 2 of the metro meet. Exiting passengers go out the middle, entering passengers enter on the sides. I’m in line – there’s a guard trying to keep people from getting too close to the doors. As the people start exiting, something goes wrong – no, not wrong. I’m told this is just how China is. A second line forms next to our “official” line, and they start cutting people off and shoving through the exiting passengers. The guard stops our line, and I’m not allowed on the train. Vega is. I’m staring at my angry, pudgy face in the glass of the tunnel, fuming. I tell myself it could be worse – the footage of Ukraine on the TV makes me guilty for feeling so put out.

On the second train, I’m shoved hard into the doors, as I think someone fell over in the jostling.

There’s no line for the WenJiang bus – a blessing! The driver takes a strangely circuitous route to avoid traffic. The was no line for the bus because all the buses have stopped running in Wenjiang for the day. Vega apologizes again and suggests we get a taxi. The first taxi we see doesn’t know the IBIS hotel. I say I have the address, but Vega wants a taxi that knows the hotel.

That’s when I walk away.

I’ve had enough – I spent hours in a store in utter confusion, I got cut out of my subway line, there are no buses, I’ve been dealing with unhelpful people. I haven’t eaten since breakfast. I will not walk around in circles trying to find a specific taxi, and I will not hear one more word.

So I tell Vega it would be easier if he found himself a taxi to the school, I will be “just fine” walking. Because English is not his native language, I don’t think he can hear my tone change. But I can – I recognize what’s going on. I am being hyper-chipper, which means I am just about to snap. He’s not comfortable with me walking, but I don’t care. And before I say anything cruel or sarcastic (I’ve been biting down cruel, sarcastic, mean-spirited things all day – if I start, I won’t stop), I’m off. I sort of know where I’m going. It might be a mile and a half or so to the hotel.

I think it can’t get any worse – but it can.

In my angry walking, I step wrong or hit a weird spot in the sidewalk. My heel decides to remind me of every nerve ending in my foot. It hurts, bad, but I can still walk, and now I’m really angry walking. I’m stewing and I like it. I like how hurtful I’m being to the world in my head, squashing the nice voice that tells me to chill and just roll with the punches. The only thing that voice can get through is to tell me if I scowl more people will stare. I try not to scowl.

I know I have to head south, but there are no intersections for a good long while. I’m worried about my foot and don’t realize that I’ve started to cross the first intersection I find just when the light turns green. I dodge cars (mindful of moody foot) and keep walking.

A man hits me with a flyer – I won’t take it, so he jabs my arm with the pointed end as I pass. I don’t know how I kept a calm exterior – I murdered him in my brain.

At last, I see my landmark – the Gloria something Hotel, with its shark fin top. WenJiang Park – I know where I am! In the park over a hundred Chinese people are dancing some sort of soft Zumba to a techno beat. It’s twilight, but I will make it.

I stop at the HongQi chain to get a milk tea once I get close to my hotel, to calm myself. I reach for the tea, and somehow upend the price tag shelf. I’m holding this plastic shelf thing in my hand, staring at it like it’s an alien. I fix the shelf and rest my forehead against the door for a slow exhalation. My hotel is a block away.

I make it to my room. My room, which was not cleaned today.



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