Life in China: Don’t push the big red button

So… I’ve been trying to get out of posting this little story. I mean, you don’t really care to know EVERYTHING that happens to us on this little adventure, do you? Actually, I’m not really sure you care to know any of it, but I’m writing it down just the same. I was going to skim over this tidbit, but I realized… I just need to keep it real. Most of you already know what a dingbat I am anyway, and it’s probably unlikely you’ll even be surprised I’d do something like this.

Besides, LeftBrain is making me. He has literally asked me at least twice a day since it happened… “Have you posted it yet?” And so, begrudgingly, here is the story of the big red button…

Security in Shenyang
On Thursday morning, we met the realtor, Echo, at the apartment. She is Chinese, but speaks English ok and was appointed to answer questions and translate for us. When we arrived, a friend of the landlord was also there getting things ready, setting up the phone and internet, etc.

I went to the kitchen first to check out the appliances and make sure everything was in working order. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this apartment, like the first, had a little TV in the kitchen. Both times, the realtor seemed really excited to show us this. To be honest, the first time I was unimpressed. Who has time to watch TV in the middle of cooking anyway? Besides that, most of the channels are in Chinese and the screen is only 6 inches across. Tiny.

However, I knew from the first apartment that the TV wasn’t just a TV. It was also a security camera! So cool! I know it may not be that exciting to you. But I was impressed.

When I asked Echo about it, she mentioned that this one also had that capability, but she wasn’t quite sure how to work it. She pushed a few buttons and we never could quite figure it out. I got bored for the moment and moved on. When I got back out to the living/ dining area, I noticed another screen mounted on the wall next to the door. I was sure this was a camera too. And I was determined to figure out how to use this thing. Not that I ever think we’ll need it. I don’t. But still, I must know how it works. It’s just the way I am. No gadget can be left untouched.

Our China Apartment: Front DoorThere are 6 buttons on the panel. One of them has to work the camera, right? They are all labeled with Chinese characters, which I can’t read of course, so without rhyme or reason I just decided to push them all until the camera came on. Easy enough.

The very first button on the right has red writing, looks the most to me like it would be a power or “On” button. Wrong! As soon as I pushed it, it starts blinking red and a deafening alarm starts going off. I’m in total “Oh Crap” mode and start going down the line pushing every button on there to try and get it to stop. Well, Echo walks up beside me at that point and as I’m going back down the line of buttons, frantically trying to find a combination that would shut the thing up. I start to push the same red button again, and Echo stops me.

“Don’t push that one. It calls the police.”

Ummm, WHAT?!? Did you say police??

So, I really didn’t know much about China before we moved here (still don’t, as a matter of fact), but the one thing I do know, is you want to steer clear of the police. (That really goes in just about every country, I think.) And I’m pretty sure, you definitely don’t want to call them to you, with a flashing red light and a blaring siren loud enough to wake the dead, for NO REASON! At this point, I’m pretty much mortified. All the while trying to play it off like the siren just started going off by itself or the guy messing with the wiring set it off, and I was just “helping” by pushing buttons to try and shut it off.

About this time, I decide it’s high time to head outta there. My plan at this point is to slink into one of the bedrooms and get my pointer finger ready. I’m also racking my brain trying to piece together enough of the Mandarin I’ve learned to say “He did it!”

As it turns out, I had very little to worry about. The alarm continued to go off for over an hour with no sign of the police. The landlord’s friend did manage to reduce it to an intermittent blaring somehow. But it would only stay quiet for about 2 minutes before it would start again. I have to admit, about 45 minutes in, I’m over the panic and getting a little annoyed. What if there really was an emergency? What good is that stupid little thing, except to trick button-happy foreigners into bursting their ear drums?

Well, someone did eventually come and turn off the alarm. I was conveniently in another room at the time so I didn’t get to see them fix it. I’m not sure exactly how Echo explained the situation but it probably went something like: “That crazy white woman in there got all geeked out over the security camera. Apparently they don’t have those in Iva.” Yeah well, maybe not. But we have tractors. And cows. Where are your cows?

On the up side, I learned a couple of new Chinese characters that I’m not likely to ever forget. For your reference, when you come to China, don’t push buttons marked

(unless, of course, you mean to call the police.)

On a side note, none of the buttons actually turned on the security camera. We found out later, it comes on automatically when someone pushes the doorbell.

So how do you translate… ummm, oops?


6 thoughts on “Life in China: Don’t push the big red button

  1. Love it! Did you actually think “LeftBrain” was going to let you NOT post?! Hahahaha. Some lessons are just meant to be learned the hard way. I’ll send a picture of a cow so you won’t forget what they look like. :)

  2. This falls into one of those categories like: very funny…only because it happened to you, not me.

    And for the record, we do want to know every detail especially when it makes me smile.

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  5. I did the EXACT SAME THING when my husband and I moved into our apartment in South Korea. Seriously, my story is completely identical. Luckily for us, the alarm turned off when we entered the security code on the door (somehow). And the police didn’t show at our place up either.