Last night I had quite the experience. After class, I along with my fellow teachers/friends went to Wu Gong’s (the BBQ restaurant in my neighborhood that we usually frequent) and met some interesting characters. When we arrived at Wu Gong’s there was a group of people sitting at the next table next to ours and we could tell that they were already quite drunk.
As we sat down at our table one of them immediately came over to our table and sat down. This was not uncommon as people were always approaching us to have a drink with them because they saw it as a novelty to drink with foreigners. It was clear he was really drunk as you could smell the alcohol on his breath. He sat down next to me and showed me two empty bottles of scotch that he had already drunk. He proceeded to bang them together till one of them shattered all over the table. There was a woman who was sitting at this man’s table who spoke English so she translated what he was trying to say in his slurred speech.
She told us that he is a police officer (he made a gun with his fingers to indicate this) and that he is from Hong Kong and was in QHD visiting family. He bought beers for the table, indicating that we we should drink with him. Whenever we would try to take a sip he’d grab the cups out of our hands and down them himself. He then would down the whole bottle himself. He kept trying to pour us more beer but would always miss the cup and spill beer all over the table. All the while he kept on saying that he and I were “brothers”.
At this point my friend James had joined us and this drunk police officer started to touch James. He pulled James over and made him sit on his lap, as though he were Santa Claus and James was a little boy asking for a present. It got really awkward.
It was scary to think that if something were to have happened (like a fight breaking out), and James and I got into an altercation with him, we would be screwed. He was a cop; he was the local and his word would always carry more weight than ours. I could be in a Chinese prison cell right now meeting the Chinese equivalent of Bubba.
At one point this drunken police officer picked up his friend and they fell over right in the middle of the restaurant. Finally, after about 30-45 minutes of this drunken guy just yapping away at us, these random guys came over and convinced him to leave. He then proceeded to get into the drivers seat of his friends car because his friend was even drunker than he was and could barely keep his eyes open. At this point I was screaming that we couldn’t let him drive drunk, but Wu Gong said that in China everyone drives drunk.
As a thank you to these random guys who helped us get rid of the drunken police officer we bought them some beers. They took this as a sign that we wanted to drink with them so they came over to our table. They turned out to be in the army and they wanted to be our “brothers” too.
In China when you want to toast someone you say gambei, which means, “empty cup”. You down your cup of beer and then show the empty cup to the person your drinking with. Well these army boys were no wimps and they didn’t want to just gambei a small cup of beer, they wanted to gambei a whole bottle of beer (about half a liter). So I grudgingly downed a whole bottle of beer. I was about to call it a night when the army guys said that it is their custom to drink three times, which meant three bottles. For the second bottle the army guy downed it in a matter of seconds. It was impressive; it reminded me of my days in college. I was already pretty full from the first beer so one of the guys thought it would be easier if we drank out of soup bowls.
It took me a while to finish the beer but I did it. I threw up in my mouth a couple of times but I did it. There was no way I could do a third so we said thank you and called it a night.