Should Be in Jail
As I lagged behind nearing a busy street corner I noticed a ten-year old kid trying to put his hand into my friend’s purse. So I grabbed him and turned him around, and he immediately slumped to the sidewalk.
His handler, a man in his twenties, came up to me and I let go of the kid. Then I said (in Chinese), “This kid’s a thief, and if you’re watching over him, you’re a thief, too.” I said it loud, looking for support from bystanders, but, as usual, people just watched, interested, saying nothing and keeping a safe distance.
The handler took off his coat and gave it to a companion, and I thought, hmmm, how many thieves are we dealing with here? Then he turned to me and we stared at each other for a moment, him with a practiced look, me impassively. My impassivity had nothing to do with self-confidence or courage; I was just looking at him and thinking how stupid I was going to look trying to defend myself if he attacked me. Fortunately for me, he satisfied himself by assuming the classic Chinese “pointing finger”* gesture, then he gathered up the kid and walked away. No harm, no foul.
*Pointing the index finger at someone is an insult in China, and should not be confused with the other pointing gesture, one digit removed, that is common in the West.