Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Lucky numbers

Word from those who live and work here is that one cannot flow without a cell phone. This seems to be the case in general, and perhaps particularly if you are a teenager anywhere and time, but it was driven home that Shanghai is a city on the move…so you’d better get a wiggle on as the grandmere of our very own How2 used to say.

So went shopping with Rena, Liwen, Geoff, Stephen and myself @ a mid-level mall on Nanjing Road. Has been a historical tourist district off of People’s square but at this point it was looking rundown and tatty in a way that was neither here––bright designy new Shanghai––nor there––charming older Shanghai. Stuck in the middle, the ambivalence, or perhaps one might say the transitional, aspect of the zone was emblematic of the whole course of the day (soon come on Moganshan road contemporary art zone escapade).

So we are at the counter and I am asked to select the phone number that will go with said phone. There are at least three categories of price ranging from 100 RMB to 300 RMB. I ask, “What’s the difference within the numbers offered,” assuming that access, long distance, something about mobile IT would figure in here. No. the difference is that some numbers, those containing more 8s and 6s, are more auspicious than other, particularly those containing 4s. No kidding. The variable on price of the phone number was determined by some ratio between appearance of lucky numbers and the memorability of the number itself. And it was common enough for people to pay a premium for this god luck charm that it was built into the regular service. I myself went for a modest amount of good luck, opting for the 120 RMB number with three 8s and two 6s over the bare bones luck.

Liwen, who had translated the transaction for me and noted my look of incredulity when it came to the price variance on lucky numbers, had this to say. “Yes, it is true. It’s very old this tradition and it comes from Cantonese where the pronunciation of 8 is “fah,” which means “a lot of moneys” and the sound of 4 means “die.” It is a bad number. Six sounds like successful. Who pays attention to this? Modern young women like herself? No, no really, but people with money do. Also, she let me know astrology is currently all the rage in Hong Kong with the under thirty set.


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