Wal Mart story 3: thief with AIDS and the guy who stole chicken legs – 沃尔玛故事(三)艾滋病大盗及偷鸡腿的小伙 – English

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The husband and wife with aids were incredibly hard done by. After contracting AIDs they were discriminated against by society, couldn’t find work and no one had any association with them. I believe that if society looked after them, let them stand on their own feet, didn’t discriminate them and isolate them, didn’t make it impossible for them to earn their own living and didn’t make their lives pitiful, then they wouldn’t retaliate. Chen Shuizong and Ji Zhongxing are similar cases.

The first time I came into contact with them was when I was making a routine inspection of the shopping mall. My colleague, Zeng Zhiyong, who was lying low behind a pile of goods called out to me. After I went over, he pointed out a woman through a crack in the goods, whispering, “That’s the woman with AIDs. Watch her.” Looking over, all I could see was a woman dressed all in black carrying a basket and picking goods. She was small and thin, and looked normal. I looked back and saw that Zhiyong had disappeared without a trace. As I was still in my probationary period, I had to as much as possible obey arrangements made by senior staff members. Thereupon I tailed behind the woman, observing her behavior.

Following somebody is tiring. You have to constantly pay attention to keeping yourself concealed so the other person doesn’t become aware of you. Generally if the person notices you twice or more you will arouse their suspicions, which might make them abandon everything and flee. I long ago had heard about the past deeds of this woman and her husband. They were indeed troublemakers. They had been caught by plain clothed store detectives before, but after it as was understood who they were there was simply no means of dealing with them. The police basically didn’t care, the most they did was to smooth things over and dodge the issue. Nobody dared to approach these two genuinely dangerous characters. The fact that they has contracted AIDs wasn’t the danger, the danger was that they were also fierce and malicious, just like two prospective terrorists carrying explosives. As soon as you come to physical altercations with them, even simple shoving, it will bring you great deal of trouble. Your colleagues will fear you in their hearts, and keep you at a distance. Other workers in the mall will also be afraid of you. Company managers may request that you have a blood test and at the very least you will have to take some time off. In brief, there’s no doubt that it will cause you a big problem.

I know these things, and I also know that even if I caught her stealing things, the manager wouldn’t care. There’s simply nothing you can do. When you do something of which you are fully aware is meaningless, you lose your sense of purpose and feel senseless. I followed her secretly for a while, and then simply strolled over to her. She looked at me. I hinted a smile at her. My intention was to make her aware of the situation so she would back off and give up there. Who was to know that she would continue to rove around as before. I was just like a big tail dangling behind her. In the same manner as an elderly person, she was serene and took it easy. From time to time she would even turn her head and say a few words to me. I still had to be careful not to let her out of my line of sight when she turned a corner, so as not to give her an advantage. I observed this thief: her standards, her psychology, her calmness.

At that moment, Zhiyong hurried over and told me that I don’t need to follow her anymore. The manager said to leave her be, and that I should take a rest. Thereupon I went back to the rest room in the office. The World Bank also didn’t work that day. Overall I thought letting her go like this and giving her free reign to steal was inappropriate. However, since the order came from above, it wasn’t necessary for me to pursue it further. Come midday, this resulted in the discovery of the empty packaging of some household electrical appliances, worth a few hundred Renminbi, in an area not covered by security cameras. The woman had gone to a part of the clothing area that had no cameras. From the crime scene, it could be deduced that she had crouched down and used the clothes rack in front of her to block the view of others, while she tore open the packaging of the goods in her basket and destroyed their magnetic strips. Then she put the goods into her bag and calmly left the mall from the normal exit.

Looking at the crime scene, I said to Zhiyong that it was all because we let her go. The look on his face changed, and he said that I wasn’t responsible for it. Huh, what responsibility DO I have? After my mentor arrived, I told him about what had happened as I thought that we shouldn’t have dealt with it by turning a blind eye. Consequently, the next day Zhiyong looked at me in a slightly hostile way. He even urged me to seize any implicated persons. However, I knew that during my probationary period I wasn’t authorised to do so, as my mentor had sternly warned me that I must not intercept implicated persons. As soon as something happened not only would I probably be fired, even he would be affected. I felt that Zhiyong was causing me harm.

The impression the woman gave me was not one of a bad person. By this I mean to say that she wasn’t the kind of person who was prejudiced and malicious. I heard someone say before that if she gets caught at the security gate with goods that haven’t been paid for, she gives them up and walks away with her head bowed. It would seem that she still has some honour. Her husband, however, isn’t the same. If he sets off the alarm at the security gate he is sure to refuse a bag-check and start a violent conflict with the staff. The staff on duty by the security gate most likely don’t know who he is and so apprehend him. It would appear that apart from us no one else is aware of his true identity.

I think his surname is Yang, and he has a wart on his face. His wife’s appearance is relatively graceful in comparison. These two dress up, giving them an appearance that makes people think that they are ordinary citizens. I would guess they originally they had a stable income, with a harmonious family. Then the man slept around, and unaware that he had caught the virus infected his wife. Thereupon, they lost their jobs and were discriminated against by others, thus isolating them. When other people saw them they shunned them as if they had seen a ghost, causing them to lose their spirit. Then they became a couple of thieves. I remember seeing a Jim Carrey movie called “Fun with Dick and Jane”. It was about a young married couple who after they became bankrupt took to the streets and to make a living by looting people. In reality this couple were yet more pitiful. I don’t know what they endured in our society that changed their mentality, but it must have been quite cruel. Buried underneath the skin this couple was an air of deep sorrow. The difference was that the woman gave an impression of hopelessness, whereas the man’s facial expressions unconsciously exuded a hint of viciousness.

They had clashed with us plain clothed store detectives before. Nowadays however, if we saw them we would avoid them. Then we would secretly observe them. As long as they didn’t do anything too serious we would let matters drift. Generally, they would pick up everyday products, but the man would also pick-pocketed customers. Sometimes, as soon as they entered the shopping mall there would be a code blue announcement: “Could all customers please put their wallets in a safe place, and all staff return to their posts.” The man (we’ll temporarily call him Old Yang) had a lot of experience countering those tailing him. Often he would suddenly look back as he was turning a corner so that the store detective following him would be unable to move quickly enough to evade being discovered. Then Old Yang would turn to directly face the store detective and walk towards him, thus terrifying him and causing him to flee.

The first time I saw the man was at a time he came together with his wife, so my mentor tells me. There were three of us on duty including Zhiyong. Zhiyong and our colleague were following him but he spotted them. Old Yang then chased them, causing them to flee in disarray. The pursuit lasted more than an hour. On my way from the second to third floor, I happened to come across my mentor. He said that f*****g Old Zhang was playing tricks, pursuing the store detectives. Since I was a new face here he wouldn’t recognise me and so I should go and take a look. After he left I arrived at the third floor to search for that stupid guy, but discovered that they were in a scuffle with the staff on duty at the security gate. It turned out that they hadn’t destroy the magnetic tags of their stolen goods thoroughly enough, and so set the alarm off. After they were intercepted, they refused to have their bags inspected. Old Yang very rudely pushed back the petite female member of staff on duty. I quietly walked over to them, not saying a word. Ms.Yang turned her head and saw me with my head lowered. She then immediately turned around and went back into the shopping mall. I reckon she wanted to get rid of the stolen goods. I followed behind. She walked behind a pile of goods in the electrical goods area, took something out and put it on a box. By this I think she meant to indicate that she’s returned the item and so there’s no need to bother her anymore. I picked up the item and followed behind her, who was slowly making a move to the exit. Just as Old Yang was thinking of aggressively breaking away back into the store, he saw the item in my hand. He stared blankly for a moment, glanced at his wife, and then suddenly stared at me aggressively, his gaze meeting the serenity of mine. Within a second, the Yangs turned around and rushed towards the exit. I followed them but stopped at the security gate. The woman on duty asked me why I didn’t stop them. I told her that they had AIDs. This shocked her considerably. She angrily asked why I hadn’t told them about something as important as this. Unable to reply to this, I just repeatedly warned her to as much as possible not blurt this out everywhere so as to avoid a panic. Actually, at the time I didn’t have full authority from the company, so I wasn’t permitted to intercept implicated persons. But even if I had, I wouldn’t have done so.

Back at the office, after I had finished explaining what had happened, my mentor was very pleased. The others in charge also looked at me with encouragement. However, after a few days Old Yang took out his revenge on me.

I went on an inspection tour with my mentor in the mall that day, and as we were turning a corner, Old Yang suddenly jumped out with something in his hand, swinging it towards my face. While my mind raced and my vision dimmed, I only had one thought that seem to come from another world: “What if he makes contact? What if he makes contact? ” At that moment, I had an outer body experience. Everything became clear, and I showed a murderous face.

The thing about the murderous face is this: there have been a few times when I’ve gotten really angry in a dispute with a person, and I’ve felt the muscles in my face violently contorting. At this moment, the other person always gave up and backed off. There was even a time when someone asked me if I was going to devour him as he retreated. After these events I have looked earnestly in the mirror, trying to wipe the ferocious appearance from my face. The lower jaw of the guy in the mirror protrudes out in front of the upper, his lower lip pouting and his upper raised, his nose pursed like a dog’s. His eye’s are narrowed, his gaze resembling that of a crocodile’s. The face looks as if a vicious wolf’s and a demon’s have been combined. Indeed, it truly frightens people. It really has a blood-thirsty appearance. That is my facial expression when I’m about to completely destroy my opposition, that is the evil part of my spirit occupying my entire body when faced with a major threat.

I subconsciously used both arms to protect my head, my eyes rigidly glaring at him. After Old Yang saw the look on my face, he backed off, smiled and said what’s the matter, I was just kidding. At the time I couldn’t see anything else but him, I was only fixed on him. At that moment, my mentor’s words pierced through like a needle: “Don’t let him infuriate you.” Just like a ball leaking air, I relaxed in an instant. I put my arms down and smiled at Old Yang, and then turned and walked away with my mentor.

Both my mentor and the company have said before that to be a plain clothed store detective one must have a great ability to restrain oneself. One shouldn’t exceed the limits of self-defence. If one is unable to contain one’s rage, it’s very easy to do something you might regret, bringing unfavourable consequences to oneself and the company. If Walmart’s stores detectives are found to have hit people, no matter what the the actual facts are, it will be bound to make the news as it is a well known company that doesn’t like to bribe it’s way out. There are many people in the company who just wait for trouble to arrive.

When my mentor and I were making our way back, he maintained his distance from me. Gazing at me attentively he asked if Old Yang had made contact with me. He had a look that suggested he would have fled if I had said this to be true. I shook my head, OldYang had only pretended he would hit me. There wasn’t actually anything in his hands, and he didn’t come into contact with me. He was partly trying to sound things out and partly trying to be threatening. If he had angered me to the point of retaliation, it really would have caused me no end of trouble. Old Yang would without doubt have blackmailed Walmart, and I would have been caught up in trouble.

My mentor was really anxious, but he still didn’t know that I had shook hands before with a person who had AIDs. That was in Taiwan. Various groups were speaking on stage about their personal experience with AIDs, saying that it is only transmitted through bodily fluids. One guy reported that as long as you don’t have any wounds or ulcers in your mouth, nothing will happen if you kiss someone with AIDs. A person would have to drink a litre of saliva before there would be a sufficient amount of virus to infect them (I reckon there’s no one would would dare try this). After this guy finished his speech, he came off stage and hugged and shook hands with many people. I also shook hands with him when he walked by me. However, when made a gesture to hug, I gently shook my head. This wasn’t because I was afraid of him. It was because I only hug my friends or those I’m close to, and also because I didn’t really like him. This was due to what he said on stage: “I’m just like anyone else indulging in this sensual world of China, why am I the one discriminated against?” I thought that he hadn’t done anything splendid after all, and didn’t like the way he confidently spoke as if in the right.

The Yangs had come into contact with our store detective department many times before. Even when Old Deng had heart to heart conversations with Old Yang in the office it would be of no use. He would just continue as he did before. In the end the higher-ups said not to pursue things any further, taking a laissez-faire attitude. Old Yang really gave our department and the whole of Walmart a big headache, as there was nothing in the least we could do. We couldn’t use force and we couldn’t arrest him. Walmart has morality as it’s bottom line. It won’t turn to the criminal underworld as a means to get rid of him. Sometimes I think about keeping watch from a hidden place, putting a sack over him and beating him thoroughly with a steel bar. Of course, this is just an evil thought brought on by momentary rage. Since we are unable to deal with this, the police should. However, they don’t. When an arrest is ordered because Old Yang has been looting holding a knife, he goes and gives himself up. He is released after a day. Those that should handle things don’t. When we suffer a calamity, it’s just considered the same as most things which happen in society.

I’m not sure why, but writing up to here I’ve been constantly thinking about the speech of that guy with AIDs in Taiwan. After he had finished his speech, as he came off stage the entire audience was clapping. Many people went up to the front to shake hands and hug him. Perhaps this is the biggest difference between mainland China and Taiwan.

Apart from the Yangs, there was a couple of others implicated in stealing goods that gave me an even deeper lasting impression. Basically the amount of implicated persons I’ve arrested with my mentor numbers but few. This is a strange store, in others he is an all powerful master. Here he rarely has success. My mentor was transferred to this store to reinforce it, as this store’s loss rate (referring to the empty packaging of stolen goods discarded by criminals) is very high, yet very few implicated persons are captured. It’s not only my mentor, there have been countless others transferred here as reinforcement, but no one can solve this store’s problems. In the end it was actually me who discovered where the crux of the problem lay. However, this problem was deadly. Be patient, read to the end of this article and then you’ll know.

On that day, I was making an inspection tour of the store with my mentor as usual. There is a lot more to an inspection tour than meets the eye. They’re really not just a case of casually wondering around aimlessly, they require an all out effort. When making an inspection tour, one must spread one’s own perception further afield, encompassing all those within one’s vicinity. Of course, the vast majority of those that come into the mall do so to buy things or stroll around. However, there is certainly something different about those that come to steal things. So what is this something? From the look in these people’s eyes, their facial expression and even the way they walk, one can feel it. Amongst these people, a few that are about to steal are nervous, rather unlike the relaxed nature of others. No matter how they try to conceal it, an experienced store detective can still sense it immediately.

At that moment, a young man grabbed my mentor’s attention. He sent me over to find out what it was that he was holding, whether or not it was something from the store. He was standing between two rows of shelves. I pretended to be shopping, and walked in front of him. When he saw me he suddenly became nervous from head to foot. What was the meaning of this nervousness? This was the kind of reaction one gives when someone suddenly appears in front after one, harbouring an ulterior motive, has done something bad. I walked to the end of the aisle and after turning the corner met with my mentor. He saw that my gaze revealed we had hit on something. I never looked the young man straight in the eye, I just looked out the corner of my eye while passing him and saw that he was holding a box of cake. The packaging was already damaged, and he was still chewing.

We cruised around, following him throughout the store. After he put the half-eaten cake in the trash, we retrieved it from behind him. This was our evidence. We followed him for about an hour, finally cutting him off at the exit. I showed him the cake box in my hands and, unable to control my mouth, laughed directly at him, making an exhibition of myself. We took him to the office, where my mentor asked him what else he had stolen. This resulted in him taking out a roast chicken drumstick from his pocket.

According to procedure, we put this down in writing, and then took a picture of him holding the stolen goods. My mentor took the mickey a little, making him strike a pose holding the cake box and the chicken drumstick. I’m not the kind of person who likes to harm the dignity of others, even if faced with implicated persons. This is because I greatly value my own dignity, and I know the pain of being humiliated. Also, there were a lot of thieving ruffians in the environment in which I grew up, and I knew that their childhood surroundings didn’t give them much choice. However, they are still people, and still have dignity. So I told my mentor that I wouldn’t take away the self-respect of an other, not even an implicated person’s.

After, we let the noble man go and pay for the goods, but when he emptied his pockets, their wasn’t enough money even though the total only came to just over 20 Renminbi. He didn’t have a job, so naturally he didn’t have any money. I said that Amoy has a lot of job opportunities, you can easily get a job to make a living, so why are you doing this? In the end, I gave him a few Renminbi so he could take the bus back, since he he lived far off. From start to finish I was very polite with him, treating him as if he were the same as me. After all, he had only committed a minor offence.

After a few days he delivered that three Renminbi and fifty cents back to the office for me, which was passed on to me by a colleague. I wonder how much courage it took for him to return to a place in which he had been previously humiliated.

Source : my1510

About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact julien@marcopoloproject.org