My apartment appears to have been designed by a person who has never lived in an actual apartment, only seen glossy magazine photographs.
When I toured the place, I was especially impressed by the kitchen — large enough to actually cook in, unlike most Chinese kitchens. It was only after I moved in that I found out that what I had taken to be cabinets were in point of fact just fronts for the gas and water piping, and unusable for storage of any kind. The dish rack included wire loops for holding – according to the packaging still on it when I moved in – bottles of soy sauce and vinegar. The microwave whose placement looked entirely reasonable from across the room turned out to be like 7 feet off the ground.
There’s a humidifier in my living room, but it took me a while to figure that out, as the thing is made of blue glass, is on a pedestal, and looks not so much like a humidifier as a bidet for giants as designed by Louis Tiffany. You pour water – not tap water, unless you want aerosolized nasties filling your home – into the basin, plug the doohickey in, and then, against all logic, are treated to a light show: LEDs in the center of the basin start to flash and change colors, red to blue, then blue to green, then green to orange.
After a couple of minutes, cloudlets start to waft out of the basin, sinking to the ground lazily like clouds of smoke emitting from mad scientist beakers in a grade-Z horror movie. The overall effect, between the filligreed glass basin, the shining lights, and the ominous mist, is of an altar to the god of air humidity, and when the lights are out, and the humidifier is on, and the LEDs shining through the mist are set on red, that shit is spooky.
Best of all is the air-conditioning system.
It started to get a bit nippy in late October, two weeks before the central heating was slated to come on. So I went to my air-conditioner, a freestanding glossy black monolith made by Haier, as new and incompletely unwrapped as my soy sauce rack.
On one particularly cold morning, I went over, figuring that I’d set it on ‘heat’ until building heat came on, and started pushing buttons.
Lights came on and the AC chimed at me.
I picked up the AC remote, a sleek, slim piece of plastic that had no labels at all on it and attached magnetically to the side of the AC unit, and proceeded to look for something resembling ‘Heat.’ I pushed at something that looked likely, and the thing played a happy little tune, popped up the room temperature on the AC unit’s LCD display, and started blowing cold air at me. That wasn’t right.
There weren’t any labels on the AC unit, either, in English or Chinese, so I tried another button. The Haier played a new tune, and a pine tree came onscreen.
Another button. The pine tree started crying.
Another button. Another cheerful tune, and more LCD teardrops surrounded the pine tree.
Another button. A lightning bolt appeared behind the tree. That looked dangerous, so I pushed the last remaining button.
An orange snowflake filled half the screen, and the Haier played a happy little tune.
There are labels on my fridge for the buttons controlling fridge cabinet and freezer temperature. There’s another one that says 人工智慧/假日, “ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE / VACATION.” I’m not going to fuck with that one.