When the Infected One arrives at the terrifying McDo to order an Egg-burger, before he even gets a chance to jab his index in the direction of the overhead menu, the saleswoman has already whipped out a menu composed purely of food-item pictures. It looks like something for infants of foreigners, which is exactly what it is, except infants, Chinese-speaking ones, don’t need it. The Infected one puts his left index on one item, then the next, then the next, feeling immensely reduced in his capacity as a human being, a signifying animal if you will.
Refueled he is ready to do some serious visual shopping, the one you do when you have serious time on your hands, the one which allows you to give the commodities serious consideration according to aesthetic appeal, functionality, relevance within your hierarchy of needs and price. You visual shop and then the day after or the day after that, when everything has been filtered through your rational, analytical, mental consumption module, as well as been processed in dreams and subconscious imagery, then one ventures forth back into this or that shop and purchases the exactly correct item.
The Infected One has never once pretended to be Homo Economicus, he knows himself perfectly well to be Homo Ludens, the playful human being. The world comes at him, injects itself into his blood- and thought-stream and he just tries to have some FUN with it. The world to him is always an opportunity for play, sometimes a play, with well-defined roles, temporarily, then again dissolving into coincidental moments of happiness, sadness or creativity. If he were to take it too serious, he would die of heartbreak, just like everybody else would.
On the first floor or ground floor there is of course women, as almost anywhere on the planet, women’s cosmetics. The Infected One has never quite understood the logic of this, niche product being the first things on display but now that he thinks about it, it becomes a bit more evident. All these nicely made-up women are likely the visually best the shopping center has to offer the outside world, the most likely to catch the glimpse of somebody passing by on the outside. And then once the insect has been attracted or seduced by the optics, it is dazed and trapped by vast, intoxicating clouds of perfume that cause it loose its orientation vis-a-vis the sun and it’s day’s schedule and instead go an a mad hour-long commodity-pollen collecting spree, yesso. The Infected One smiles.
The number of sales agents is on a level with shops in the great U. S. Of A which means there are legions of sales people on stand-by, ready to help with their unspecified product expertise. The difference, the Infected One reflects, is this: the number of staff might be adequate to or even less than required by the amount of shopper-inflow. Then, on the upper-most floor, shopping for sporting goods, the Infected One, never himself the fleetest craft in the mental armada, slowly realizes something else. It feels just the minutest bit surreal: he has either grown a second shadow or… someone is shadowing him, snooping around behind him. At the corner of his vision there is the unmistakable, dark blur of another human figure. The Infected One makes a step forward, the shadow makes a step forward. He zigzags through the athletic apparel stacked rows, plucks up sneakers [seemingly shipped here from some factory in the distant future] to inspect them, trying to make sense of the hyper-advanced cushioning system and still perceives the pen-umbral presence lurking somewhere at the outskirts of what Westerns naively conceive of as their bubble of private space: still there, slinking, ready to help. The Infected One has waited all this time not because he dislikes dispelling the feeling of surreality but because he has been able to put two and two together so as to presume that simply turning around and “confronting” the sales person would be some unforgivable violation of Chinese shopping etiquette. Nevertheless, at last, he does.
“Ni hao. Hi there! Just looking around” he makes a fork of his index and middle finger, points this fork at his eyes stabbingly then back out at the vast array of displays, making a circling motion with his hand. The Infected One hopes this can not be misconstrued as “I will jab your eyes out and hurl them around the shop, just for fun if you keep following my ass, comprende?” Well, how infected can he be if he does not even have a phrase book with him? Then again, a phrase book in Mandarin is like a Complete Idiot’s Guide to Heart Surgery: when actually put to use most likely to cause more damage than good. But it is evident he understands what The Infected One is saying and responds with a smile, one that says “Ok my friend, I respect your right to roam about without being shadowed by my helpful presence, your right to do your ‘visual shopping’ and I respect it. But in case you do need some assistance after all, I will be right here, at your beck and call. Ok?” The Infected One is overwhelmed by how expressive these Chinese sales people’s eyes can be and becomes somewhat doubtful about the future of oral communication, briefly imagines a world where mouths only serve to eat, kiss and some certain other needs. This point later will be reinforced.