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So near, yet so feared: taking the floor

Cecilie Gamst Berg

 

I recently caught myself saying, "I was like …", instead of, "I said …". Arrrghhh! Noooo! I don't want to be dragged into yoof-speak. I refuse to call a group of women "you guys" and it puzzles me how a pair of socks, for example, can ever be "awesome".

Another word I've wondered about that's become ubiquitous recently is "random". The dictionary definition is "occurring without reason or pattern", or some such; but last weekend, during yet another trip to Shenzhen - that exhilarating paradise of "pelicures" and box sets of every Alfred Hitchcock movie for the price of a cup of coffee in Hong Kong - I finally realised how the kids are using it these days.

As usual we were staying in the Railway Station Hotel, a place I have mentioned before in this column; a lovely hotel, if a bit careworn.

As we ascended to our room, a young man with beautifully styled hair, in a white silk shirt and black trousers, joined us in the lift. He got out on the fifth floor, where there are no guest rooms.

Now, the fourth floor of the hotel has the best yum cha restaurant in Southern China and the third offers the best foot massage. But what's on the fifth? And why had I never wondered before, having stayed in said hotel about 53 times?

That night, on the way to get food and beer, curiosity got the better of us and we stopped on the fifth floor. Wonder of wonders, we found an enormous dance studio, complete with shops displaying the most extravagant - some might say outlandish - costumes, in glaring yellow and fuchsia, and with more rhinestones than a North Korean general has medals.

Ceiling-to-floor mirrors lined the studio; impossibly slim people stood around looking elegant; and a young pencil-thin man showed a plump middle-aged lady how to dance to The Ballroom Blitz. All over the walls were photos of beautiful young people, many of them Westerners, all in costume and clutching trophies - and each other - in triumph.

"This is totally random!" my friend E exclaimed. It was. This spectacle had been under our noses for so long - many years in fact - so how come we'd only just discovered it? Totally random. Or was it?

Later that night, as I tried and failed to get to sleep in my sixth-floor bed, right above the dance studio, I remembered that I'd only ever stayed on the eighth floor before. We had chosen the sixth floor because the receptionist said the rooms were better. She may have been right - if you like to go to sleep with 9,000 decibel salsa rhythms thudding in your ears.

Oh, China! No matter how well you think you know the place, there's always something random to surprise you. And it usually happens to be noisy.

 

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