“Okay, so you the show should start around 8:00 AM. Make sure you are there on time. I will text you the address later.” That was about the first thing Naomi, a friend and Chinese English teacher (and girlfriend of Damion, my site-mate), said to me when she called sometime during Saturday.
“But, I told you that I can’t drive a manual car.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I thought that you understood that that meant I couldn’t do the show.” It’s a driving game show. That’s all I knew.
“Yeah, I sent your message to Amy directly. But she still wants you to do it.”
“But, I can’t drive. And I can’t speak Chinese, already….”
“It’s okay. There are 4 people in a car and one person wins 1,000 Yuan. So, all you need to do is try to hide your face. They don’t want a random person to come in their car and possibly win the money. So if you go, at least someone will win it and then they can treat everyone to a meal.”
“It’s okay. Just do it.”
I immediately went on the computer and ehow.com’ed “how to drive a manual transmission car.” It looked simple enough. I could do this.
The next morning, Sunday, I woke up at 6:30AM. I was supposed to get there at 8:45 AM, but I didn’t know what that meant. Maybe the show started then? Maybe that was an hour before it started? I didn’t know. But I decided that I would leave at 7:00 AM so as to get there early…I didn’t even really know where it was.
I took a bus to the train station, and then jumped on a motorcycle taxi. I showed him the address and he took off. I got there in about 30 seconds and paid him too much, mostly because, recently, I’ve been feeling bad about how little Chinese people get paid. So, I took a look around, and this is what I saw:
So what the hell is that? It’s a straight shot of driving though, whatever it is. So at least it was that. But…what was it? I walked up and down the road checking it out. It was about 8:00-8:15…so I was way early, but there were some people there. I called Amy, the girl who set me up on the show, and told her I had arrived. She was surprised that I was so early and said she would call the director. Let me clarify: Naomi, Damion’s girlfriend, talked to Amy and had be put on this show. I had never met Amy before. And Naomi and Damion both had class. So I was showing up to a Chinese (a language a barely speak) game show to drive a car (that I cannot drive) with people (who I had never met). Great.
The director then came over to me and brought me over to the tent where some contestants and the hosts were chilling. I had to sign a sheet, and the director kept yapping at me (in Chinese) asking me where Amy and the other people were. Of course, I didn’t know. But the next thing I knew, I was being allowed a test run of the course.
They put me in this white SUV and a man got in next to me. He would be my driving instructor. He told me to begin driving. I told him I didn’t know how to drive a stick, and he explained that I only had to use first gear. This was all achieved through a number of hand motions, as I don’t know the word for “stick shift” and “gear.”
I kept stalling out the car, and could barely get it to move. Luckily, I had watched that video online, and was at least able to start the car. Something I clearly would not have been able to achieve otherwise.
Finally, I got the car moving and was driving through the obstacles.
First was these big pad things that went up and down. I had to go under one, then wait for the next to go up, then go under, then wait, then go under. There were four of them. Second, was drive up a ramp, then go over these red bumps that caused the car to shake back and forth and make me feel like I was off-roading through a jungle. Third was drive through this big swinging balls. I had to swerve to avoid them. Last, was fly through this section of hanging balls that served absolutely no purpose. I, then, got out of the car, and had to run up steps. At the top of the steps, I stopped. There was a water pit. OF COURSE, how did I not realize this. All Chinese game shows love to have water pits. So yes, there was a water pit with tires over the middle. I would have to run across. Good thing I DIDN’T bring spare clothes. Finally, if I reached the end, I would have to beep the horn on a fake steering wheel that was set up on a little platform thing.
So, that was that. I knew what I was doing, but I clearly wasn’t prepared.
Amy and company still weren’t there when the show started. The show began with the four hosts rapping and dancing in a red convertible on stage.
Finally, a little after 9:00, Amy showed up with Simon and Darryl, the two British guys who would be participating, also.
“You didn’t bring other clothes?” Amy asked in disbelief.
Of course, I didn’t. All I knew was that it was a driving show. Nothing more. Thank you very much.
Then the driving began. The first few people were pretty slow, but they made it without getting wet. Then…it started to happen. Everyone started falling in. I watched Simon topple, head first, into the pit. Great. One of the two people whose extra clothes I could have borrowed had gone in.
Then I was standing on stage with Darryl. We were to be interviewed. It was interview first, drive second. I couldn’t have said more than 5 words, and of course, they were incomprehensible. Any Chinese that I thought I knew was gone as I stood there, with a camera and microphone in my face as I was about to head to my doom.
After the interview, we went back to waiting. The rules were as such: avoid obstacles. If you hit any, then you get a yellow card and seconds added on. But, I didn’t realize this at the time…if you get three yellow cards, then you get disqualified. However, I, also, still don’t know if a yellow card is per foul or per zone. Anyway, I decided that there was no need to avoid obstacles. People seemed to be wasting so much time. I would just drive straight through and take the penalties. I thought this, and then figured that I would chicken out. But, I, also, knew that if the car stalled out, I was screwed. So, driving quickly was my best bet.
I got in before Darryl and took a deep breath. A man go in next to me–not my instructor, who would have put me a little more at ease. I didn’t quite understand why there was a man with me, since he couldn’t speak English and the other contestants went alone, but whatever.
I took off fast. I went straight through the barriers and up the ramp.
“MAN YI DIAN” SLOWLY! the man was screaming next to me. But no. I had begun, and now I was finishing. Fast. I laughed hysterically as the man screamed. He clearly had lost control of this situation.
When I reached the steps, I realized that I didn’t know how to park the car. The man then began screaming at me again, but I didn’t know what to do. Finally, he parked it for me, and I jumped out.
I ran up the stairs and caught view of the clock. It was at about 30. I took a deep breath. The first place person finished at about 1 minute. But how to cross these tires? Oh there is one other thing that I forgot to mention. As I ran across the tires, chicks would be throwing giant medicine balls at me. And at the middle tire, there would be another medicine ball to provide an extra obstacle. Sweet.
I just went at it. Not too fast. But not too slow. Balls started hitting me, but I don’t remember it all clearly. I kind of blacked-out. I think what happened was: I reached the middle tire and went to swat the ball, but in the process, I had to slow down and stumbled. Perhaps, a ball knocked me off balance. Anyway, I went down. Not in the water. But, I knew I was falling in. The tires were wobbling and I was shaking. But, I was still on them. And I could see the other side. Slowly, I got myself together and pulled myself to the following tires. Then…GROUND. I made it. I jumped up and sprinted towards the mounted steering wheel. Apparently, there is a little button to press. Well, I ignored that. I slammed where the horn should have been…hard. And the entire thing toppled over. I looked up, saw 53 seconds, and turned to the camera, “YEAH, WHAT UP NOW CHINA! YEAHHHHH!” and yelled a few things, obnoxiously.
Thenn, I came to my senses, and realized that I had just broken their set. “Dui bu qi! Dui bu qi! So sorry!” I said into the camera and microphone. I believe I was asked a few questions then, but I was really out of it. I guess I will know what really happened in 2 days, as that is when it is being aired. On the national holiday, on China’s birthday, on the day when everyone and their moms are going to be at home watching TV. Great.
(I guess I had been penalized seconds for hitting the obstacles. And somehow I managed to only hit 2 or 3. And I only got 2 yellow cards…I think. I still don’t really know)
Next, I was escorted over to the red convertible. They kicked out the man sitting in it, and I got to chill there. Oh, but wait. Before that, I would stand on stage, with four girls in pink dresses, and dance for the camera. This last about 45 seconds. 35 seconds longer than I expected, and then I got to jump in the car. But not before making a joke, “Nimen gei wo ma?” You are giving me??? Soooo funny, I know.
While I sat in the car, different people would come up to me and interview me in Chinese. I tried. I really did. But still, this was all a blur.
People kept going, and people kept failing. One man apparently came really close to beating me, I think he did or he tied me. But then he was disqualified. And they were on to the final contestant–the man who got 2nd overall last year. Great. So, the guy was smiling and being interviewed, and one of the hosts came over to me. He asked me to taunt the other guy in English right before he began.
“I’m number 1. You are nothing. I am the champion. Come on!” Something like that, I said. And I actually felt bad doing it, as the guy smiled and me and had no idea what I was saying. He probably thought I was wishing him good luck as he waved at me friendly.
The guy fell in. I had won. 1,000 Yuan. Or well, 800 Yuan since it was taxed.
“There are 4 people in one car and the winner takes home 1,000.” I remembered Naomi telling me this. Well, it was nothing like that at all. 15 people. Not 4. Water pit? Thanks for that heads up.
Anyway, I won. So I walked over to the stage to accept my prize.
The 2nd place guy got a bottle of engine oil. Awesome.
I was handed a huge, fake, cardboard red check that had 1,000 RMB written on it. Oh, and I accepted the award as YMCA blared over the speakers and we danced on the camera. Thank you very much.
Back at the tent, I was given 1,000 RMB. Amy convinced them that since I was a foreigner, I wasn’t to be taxed. So I got 1,000 instead of 800. Then, we left for lunch.
We ate lunch at the loudest place in the world, as it was some baby’s 100-day-old birthday because that is apparently something they celebrate. Here are some pics from the banquet. Oh, andddd, the director called Amy during lunch and begged her to ask me to give back the 200 RMB. They found out that they were wrong and instead of accepting their fault, they asked me to give it back. Oh well.
So, what’s next? I am in the finals. There will be 24 finalists. Then after round 1 of the finals, it gets cut down to 12. In the final, final round, the top 3 people will get brand new cars. What does this mean? If I can finish in the top 50 percent in the first round, then I have a 25 percent chance of winning a brand new car. And well, I won by day by 15 seconds, and I haven’t heard of anyone beating my time yet. Soooo, I think as long as I don’t get disqualified, I’m liking my odds. I don’t know though. Who even knows. Maybe it will be completely different. I’m sure they will change it somehow. And I’m also sure that there is no way I should win a driving show when I don’t even know how to park the car. But hey, this is China…so anything can happen.
PS the cars are not that nice. It is not the red convertible. Oh well. That’s just for show. Whatever.