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Doing "Business" with Americans 與美國人做「生意」

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"Drive Way" of a House  街面上劃出的「車道(Drive Way)


 

You may or may not have seen this kind of "Drive Way" in relatively "busy" cities in the US. In these areas, many houses don''t have a garage; but only have some parking space for one or two cars outside, with a "Drive Way" marked on the street to let people know that nobody should park on the “drive way” to block the parking spots of the houses.

不知您是否見過美國一些相對比較擁擠的城市中的這種「車道(Drive Way)」,它其實不是真正意義上的車道,而只是在街面上劃出的一個範圍,以告知人們這裏不能停車,免得堵住停在居民樓外露天停車位上的車。

I am now living in exactly such a place. I was fortunately enough to have secured the only parking spot of a two-level house; whilst the tenants on the second floor were not as lucky. 

我目前就住在這樣的地方、一棟上下有兩層的房子裏,這棟小樓只有一個車位,而我幸運地擁有這唯一的車位。

One day I was suddenly approached by someone in the neighborhood. He said that he had a "complicated" matter to discuss with me. I asked what that was; he said, "Hm… I am wondering whether you could rent your parking spot to me." He said he ran a plumbing business in the local area, and needed a parking space for his relatively bigger van. 

I said, "I''m afraid not, as I also need to park my car; and the spot is only for one car. "

有一天突然有個人找我說,他想跟我說件「比較複雜」的事。我問他什麼事,他說:「嗯……這個……你能不能把車位租給我?」他是附近的一名管工,需要一個地方來停他的工具麪包車。

我說:「恐怕不行啊,我只有一個車位,我的車也得停啊。」

He said, "Look, as you have the parking spot, the drive way is also yours. How about I take your parking spot and you park on the drive way?"

I said, "It seems you need a resident permit to park on the street..."

He said, “I know, I know. You just need to go to such and such a place with your drive license and apply for one."

他說:「你看啊,這個車位是你的,那麼車位外面的車道(drive way)也是你的。你把車位租給我,把你自己的車停在車道上,如何?」

我說:「停在車道上就算停在街上了,得有居民停車證才行。」

他說:「我知道,我知道。你拿著駕照到某某地方申請一個就行了,很容易。」

He then gave me very detailed instructions as to where that place located; and offered to pay more than the market price. 

But I was still hesitating: "How often do you need to drive in and out? With my car blocking your way, how are you going to drive in & out?"

"Maybe I text you each time I need to drive in & out?"

然後他仔細告訴我到那個地方怎麼走,並願意以高於市場價格的價錢來租我的車位。

但我還是猶豫,問他:「你每天需要開進開出多少次?我的車擋在你的車道上,你怎麼開出開進呢?」

他說:「不然我每次需要開出開進時,給你發短信?」

I thought to myself, "Oh, no, that is no good.” But seeing that he seemed really desperate to have a parking space, I said, "Well, let me consider."

I did consider for two days. Then I figured maybe the only "doable" way was for me to give him a copy of my car key and let him move my car around whenever he needed. And the only problem was, “What if he drives my car away and never comes back..."

Then I shook my head and drove this doubt away (knowing that I had insurance anyway). I texted him by saying that I decided to accept his proposal; and that I would give him my car key for him to move my car when needed.

我想:「這也太麻煩了吧,算了吧。」不過我看他好像真的十分急切地需要一個車位,就跟他說:「讓我考慮考慮吧。」

我真的認真考慮了兩天,覺得唯一可行的辦法是,我給他一把車鈅匙,讓他自己去挪我的車,這樣我就不用煩了。

不過,唯一的問題是:萬一他把我的車開跑,從此再也不出現了怎麼辦?

不過我很快搖搖頭,驅走了這個想法(畢竟我的車也是有保險的)。我給他發信說我決定接受他的提議,會給他一把車鈅匙供他需要時挪我的車。

When I gave him my car key, he looked a little bit moved and said, "Thank you for your trust. I won''t let you down." He then gave me a check and paid for one month, without asking for a receipt. Neither of us bothered to talk about signing any agreement either.

當我把車鈅匙交到他手裏時,他好像有些感動,並說:「謝謝你的信任。我不會辜負你的。」然後他立刻就付了一個月的租金,也沒問我要發票。我們倆誰也沒提要不要簽個合同之類的事。

Two weeks later, he suddenly texted me and said that he had found a parking space nearer to his house; and that he wouldn''t need my parking spot any more. I thought to myself, "Shall I return half of his rent to him as he only used it for two weeks? or shall I not, as we already had a deal in which he agreed to pay month by month?"

I didn''t know the answer. But as he didn''t ask me to pay back half of his rent, this matter soon “dropped off” from my mind.

兩週後,他突然發短信說,他已經在離家更近的地方找到車位了,不需要我的地方了,他會把我的車鈅匙放到我的信箱裏還給我。

我心想:「那要不要退還給他兩週的租金呢?他畢竟只用了兩週?不過,我們是說好按月付的呀?他『早退』不是我的責任?」

我想來想去沒想明白。鑑於他也沒問我要,我就把此事放下了。

 

A note found in my mail box, seeking for a parking space. 這張尋車位小紙條,是在我信箱裏發現的。

 

 

Several days later, I suddenly thought to myself, since the parking space is so "hot”, why don''t I find another "tenant"?

I really put up an ad to the Internet, and got a response on the following day. This time it was a very young man in his twenties. I explained to him the "complicated" situation; and it didn''t bother him. He chose to park on the drive way as he needed to drive in and out very frequently, and agreed to give me his car key for me to move his car when needed.

He also immediately paid for one month, then disappeared completely for two weeks.

Two weeks later, he suddenly texted me by saying that he would arrive between 8:30 pm and 9:00 pm to park his car, and would give me his car key.

幾天後我突發奇想:咦,既然這裏一個小小的車道都這麼搶手,我何不再找一個「租戶」?

於是我真的放了個小广告在網上,第二天就接到回覆。這次來的是個只有二十多歲的小青年。我跟他解釋了我這裏的「複雜」情況,他卻毫不在意,並說由於他開出開進會非常頻繁,他更願意租用車道,同時把他的車鈅匙給我一把,讓我在需要時挪他的車。

「交易」很容易就這麼談成了,他當下就付了一個月的租金,然後就兩個星期再也沒露過臉。

兩週後,他突然給我發信說,他將於當晚八點半至九點之間把車開到我這裏來停著,同時會把車鈅匙也帶一把來。

When he arrived, he explained to me that he had been back to another state to move all his stuff to his new apartment, which was 10 blocks away; and now everything had been sorted out. He then gave me his car key and walked away.

For people who grew up in the US, perhaps all these are "business" as usual. But as someone who grew up in Mainland China, I found myself starting to ponder, "Why had he chosen to pay two weeks earlier than he actually needed the space? If he had asked me to hold it for him; and only start to pay when he actually parked here, I would have surely agreed."

晚上他來時,跟我解釋道,原來過去兩週他回外州去搬家了,今天剛搬完,把一切收拾妥當。說完,他把車鈅匙留給我就走了。

也許,對於在美國長大的人們來說,這一切都很「正常」,但我看著他胖胖的身影慢慢消失在路的那端時,卻忍不住想:「既然他知道自己要回去搬家,要兩週以後才用得上車位,當時爲何不向我說明呢?他那時如果要求我把車位給他留著,他從實際開始使用這天才開始付錢,我也會同意的。他爲何要白白多付兩週呢?」

Then it struck me that for Americans, they might have never "calculated" things this way. But for us Chinese, calculating and bargaining carefully have almost become our second nature, even for a very "uncalculating" person like me.

I remember that in my childhood, I was once lashed very harshly by my angry father with a feather duster made of rattan, because I refused to go to the market to buy vegetable. I was about 10 at that time, old enough to run errands for the family. So how dared I refuse? He just couldn''t work out, especially I was usually very obedient, not rebellious at all.

然後我突然意識到,也許,對於美國人來說,他們從來就沒有這樣去算計過;但對於在中國長大的我來說,雖然我覺得自己是個非常不愛算計的人,無意之中卻還是在算計。

我十歲左右時,曾被父親用藤條做的雞毛撣狠狠地抽打過一次,我的雙腿被打得滿是血痕,我一夏天都沒敢再穿裙子,怕被人看見傷痕知道我挨了打。

挨打的原因呢?因爲我拒絕到農貿市場去買菜。我平時一般都很聽話,父母老師叫幹啥就幹啥,從來不敢忤逆。可那天我死活就是不去,也不解釋爲什麼,把我父親氣壞了,對我一陣狠抽。

For example, I never refused to go shopping from a government run shop. Why did I refuse to go this time? Only myself knew the reason, but I never thought I could explain it to anybody, even to my parents: In a government-run shop, everything had a fixed price; and one just needed to pay the money and leave with whatever one had bought.

可是,他卻沒有發現,我從來都沒有拒絕過到國營商店去買東西。因爲國營商店什麼都是明碼標價,要什麼買了就走,非常容易、簡單。

However, in a farmers’ market, it was a totally different story. Everything had to be bargained.  If you asked, "How much is the carrot?" The seller would tell you 10 cents even if he only expected 5. You must then say, "How about 3 cents?" And you started bargaining from there back and forth until the purchase could actually be done.

可是農貿市場就完全是另一碼事了,什麼東西都需要討價還價。你問他:「羅卜怎麼賣?」他心裏明明只打算收五分錢一斤,但嘴上卻至少問你要一毛,然後你再問他:「兩分錢賣不賣?」然後雙方再經過一個漫長的、若干回合的討價還價,最終才能做成這五分錢的交易。

For me, the process of bargaining and playing mind games against each other was too painful, too long to endure. You needed to be an expert in psychology if you didn''t want to be taken advantage of. And I hated to be asked how much I spent on this and that after I returned home, only to be told that I hadn''t bargained hard enough. That was why finally I refused to go to the farmers’ market at all on that day, at the expense of being slashed so badly that I dared not wear skirt for the entire summer lest my classmates would see the bloody scars left on my legs by the slashes.

對我來說,這種過程太痛苦、太漫長。我小小的心靈從來都不明白,爲什麼賣家不能一次性直接說出他想要的價格?爲什麼居然會有人享受這討價還價的過程?我覺得在這種場合,必須要有非常強的心理素質,甚至要先要成爲一名心理學家,才不會被人佔了便宜。我還最討厭每次買完菜回到家中,都要一一彙報什麼東西是多少錢買的,然後被告知,這個那個我買太貴了……

在我孤獨的童年裏,我只深切地感受到了這種苦,然而卻只能悶悶地一個人苦著,我從未覺得這是一種可以描述、可以向他人訴說的苦……無法說,無人可說。今天寫這篇文章,才算是第一次讓這種苦「見了天日」。

With this kind of mindset and experiences, I had always thought that I had very little attachment to material interest or personal gains. Especially after I learned Falun Gong(also known as Falun Dafa), which requires its practitioners to let go of all sorts of attachments and to think about others first under any circumstances,  I had been trying hard to meet the standards.

因爲這些經歷,這些狀態,我向來認爲自己是個很不重利的人,特別是修煉法輪大法以來,我更是努力按照修煉人放棄世間一切執著的標準來要求自己。

However, after dealing with these two Americans recently, I saw where I was still lacking: even if I thought I would have been “generous” enough to spare two weeks’ rents for those two gentlemen, I was still calculating, even this calculating was for others. Compared with the Americans who don’t calculate at all, I still have a lot to learn!

And another thought was: If I had known that doing “business” with Americans was so easy, I might have tried to smuggle myself to the US when I was 10! If I had, I could have avoided being slashed.

然而,通過與這兩名美國人「做生意」,我才意識到,雖然我學了大法後,「理論」上知道不能求名求利,也不會與他人爭利;雖然我小時候寧願挨打也不願去菜市場與人討價還價,但是,在「算計大國」待過多年之後,「算計」於我來說,還是在不知不覺間成了習慣和自然——即使我不爲自己「算計」,我也在替他人「算計」。相較於根本就不算計的美國人來說,我仍然是在腦子裏做了若干「無用功」,境界上仍然是有差距的。

如果我早知道跟美國人做「生意」是如此簡單不必算計,說不定我十歲時就會萌生偷渡來美的想法,而不是要等到三十多歲,因修煉法輪功被關到勞教所裏後,才第一次認真考慮要來這裏尋求自由、躲避迫害。

如果真是那樣,我也許就不會挨那一頓好打了。

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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