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First Impressions Are Made with Super Glue

By Dr. Antonio Graceffo

 

 
After being on the road for four months, wrestling around Asia, I returned to China the day before I was scheduled to start my new job, teaching China economy at a French university in Shanghai. I was sporting a black eye from head butt I had taken in Malaysia. Before even continuing with this story, I should probably explain, this is the sort of tightrope one walks when he can’t decide, at age fifty, if he wants to pursue wrestling or economics as a career. I’m sure we have all been there.

There was nothing I could do about the black eye, but I wore slacks and a sweater to my meet-and-greet with the dean. When I arrived, however, I discovered that the university had a very strict dress code, requiring students and faculty to wear a suit and tie. While I enjoy making fun of how snooty French people talk and how poorly they fought in World War II, they intimidate me on a fashion level. These people could show up at a royal gala, twenty-minutes late, wearing a potato sack and look better than any other race wearing an Armani suit.

To be fair, however, when French people wear a potato sack, it is generally a very expensive, limited edition, designer potato sack. Even more, scientists have discovered that there is some sort of chemical reaction that occurs in your body when you eat a steady diet of incredible bread, exotic cheeses, and the best wines, which causes you to have a perfect body to model clothing. When French people put on a potato sack, it hangs off of them like the finest silk. They also tend to accessorize, by wearing a long scarf, even in the dead of summer, giving them the careless look of Where’s Waldo’s richer cousin or billionaire playboy Howard Hughes, after a solo crossing of the Atlantic.

Regrettably, I had left most of my clothes in storage back in Suzhou, where I had been working before taking my long trip. Luckily, I had had the foresight to leave one suit, tie, and dress shirt waiting for me in Shanghai in case I had to look for a job when I got back to China. But then I realized my dress shoes were still in Suzhou.

Taking stock of what I had in two checked baggage and a carry on, my options were brown hiking shoes, red wrestling shoes, or black and white stripped sneakers. The hiking boots were the wrong color. The wrestling shoes made me look fat. Given the choices, I decided that the sneakers would be the lesser of evils. As a bonus, I figured the French would look at how shabbily the American was dressed and have their superiority confirmed. I like spreading joy everywhere I go.

The sneakers were cheap, Cambodian Nikys, with the soles flapping off. So, on the way back to the hotel, I picked up some super glue to repair them. But the screwed up Chinese super glue applicator didn’t work. No matter how I squeezed, shook or chewed on the bottle, I couldn’t get any glue to come out. In the end, I finally had to just remove the lid, turn the bottle over and dump the glue on the shoes. Of course, it ran everywhere, except for the places where I needed it to go. I don’t know if you have ever had super glue on your skin, but in addition to being sticky, it burns. And of course the pain caused me to drop the bottle on the hotel floor. I flew to the bathroom to wash the glue off my hands but…it was super glue, non-water-soluble. The water at least calmed the burning, but my fingers still had crusty burn marks like overcooked chicken.

I went back and tried to pick the bottle up off the floor, having forgotten the lesson I learned seconds before, that super glue burns. When I came back from cooling my hands under the water faucet the second time, I used a napkin to pick up the glue bottle. By this time, glue had leaked on to the floor, leaving shiny, permanent droplets. I set down the bottle, now wrapped in a napkin, on the coffee table, while I used a second napkin to sort of smear glue on the bottom of the shoe and reattach the sole. The rubber was all melted and bubbly. As it fused together, it grabbed hold of the napkin. What I wound up with in the end was like those horrible photos of Hiroshima, with people and cars fused into the rubble of buildings. The shoe rubber had melted into an amorphous blob, with chunks of paper sticking out.

I went to throw the glue bottle away, so that it would never harm anyone again, but both it and the napkin were stuck to the hotel table. While the shoes dried, I used my camera tripod as a lever to pry the bottle off the table. Then I used a bottle cap to scrape as much paper and gunk off of the surface as possible, without damaging the wood. When all that was left was a translucent, but permanent scar, I turned back to the shoes.

I tried the shoes on and paper was sticking out all around the edges like a doyly. I trimmed it as best I could, but the super glue had given the paper cosmic powers which defied even the best of scissors.   

It was bad enough to have to show up to my first day of work wearing a suit and sneakers, but now I had white flags signaling everyone to look at my feet. If twenty years of teaching had taught me anything, it was that the solution to every one of life’s problems was somewhere in my pencil case. Digging past the pens, mechanical pencils, batteries, knives, stain remover, and motion sickness pills, I grabbed a black marker and began painting the paper, rendering it invisible…to someone with extremely poor eyesight, who was very far away.

It was good to know that I would be getting off on the right foot at my new job, because first impressions are made with super glue.

About the Author

Antonio Graceffo PhD China-MBA, works as an economics researcher and university professor in China. He holds a PhD from Shanghai University of Sport where he wrote his dissertation “A Cross Cultural Comparison of Chinese and Western Wrestling” in Chinese. He is the author of 8 books, including The Wrestler’s Dissertation, Warrior Odyssey and The Monk from Brooklyn. Currently, he is pursuing a second PhD in economics at School of Economics Shanghai University, specializing in US-China Trade, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and Trump-China economics. His China economic reports are featured regularly in The Foreign Policy Journal and published in Chinese at The Shanghai Institute of American Studies, a Chinese government think tank. 


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