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《没有“中国制造”的一年》第三章(七)

A Year without Made in China

(美)萨拉·邦乔妮 Sara Bongiorni   

胡宗锋  苦丁(译)

CHAPTER THREE Rise and China

第三章 中国崛起(七)

There are benefits to China-free living. It’s been weeks since I’ve felt the agony of stepping on a hard-edged Chinese toy in my bare feet, a sensation that I typically experience at least once a week while rushing through the living room.There is less clutter in the house, since after I gather old toys and clothes to drop in the Goodwill bin I don’t fill the place back up with new Chinese merchandise. I feel empowered when I discover that I am not completely locked out of the market for Easter fun. I buy Mexican eggs filled with confetti that come in a box covered in encouraging slogans, like “Say no to drugs” and “Say yes to education.”We have an Easter egg hunt with the Mexican eggs and some leftover Chinese plastic ones from the year before. Easter, the first Chinese holiday of the year, is a success.

没有中国制造的日子颇有益处。已经好几周了,我的光脚都没有踩到棱角坚硬的中国塑料玩具上的痛楚了,这种经历以前在我急匆匆穿过客厅时每周至少发生一次。自从我把旧玩具和旧衣服处理了以后,我也没有再添置新的中国产品,房间里也没有那么多杂物了。复活节时,当我发现自己并未被市场完全抛弃时就倍受鼓舞。我买了装着五彩纸屑的墨西哥彩蛋,彩蛋的盒子上还写着励志名言,诸如“远离毒品”“靠近教育”一类的话。我们用墨西哥彩蛋和去年剩的中国塑料蛋过了一个乐融融的复活节。复活节,今年第一个没有中国礼物的节日,挺成功的。

All the same, I face a new problem relating to the boycott: I can’t see at night when I’m working in my office. My old desk lamp died on me, and due to a shortage of lamps in our house I don’t have a spare to move from another room to take its place. So I sit in the dark on nights when I’m scrambling to meet a deadline and rely on the glow of the computer screen to illuminate my papers. I try a series of solutions, including intense focusing of my eyes and propping a flashlight on some books so that it casts its beam on my notes, but these remedies are unsatisfactory in the extreme. I need a lamp, and lamps are from China, or so I conclude after a couple of joyless afternoons of local shopping.

但我还是遇到了抵制的新难题:晚上在书房工作时我没法看。原来的台灯坏了,家里没有多余的,我也没法换上其它房间的。所以遇上晚上赶稿时我总是坐在黑暗里,靠电脑屏幕的光看东西。我试了很多办法,包括睁着眼睛使劲瞅,在旁边的书上竖上手电筒,但最终效果都非常令人沮丧。我需要一盏台灯,但台灯总是中国制造,这是我扫兴地跑了多家本地商店之后的结论。

Then a small miracle happens while I am idly flipping through catalogs one morning. I spy a nice-looking lamp with a reasonable price tag. Its description is missing the telltale word Imported, which I’ve learned is catalog-speak for Made in China. I dial the customer-service number and ask for the lamp’s country of origin.

一天早上我随意浏览导购目录时发生了小奇迹——我发现了一盏看上去不错而且不贵的台灯,不过它表明“进口”(对我来说就是“中国制造”)的标签不见了。我打电话给客服中心问它的原产地。

“USA,” the customer-service rep tells me.

I nearly drop the phone.

“I’ll take it,” I say.

“美国,”接线员告诉我。

我差点握不住电话。

“我要了!”

A lamp is not normally cause for celebration, but I jump from my office chair and race out the front door a few days later when a brown UPS truck lurches to a halt in front of our house. Back inside, I rip open the box and send Styrofoam popcorn shooting across the living room floor. But the next thing I see stops me cold. Inside the top of the box is a clear plastic bag containing a thin piece of curved metal. And on the outside of the bag, writ large in black capital letters, are the words Made in China. I sink a little. No, I sink a lot.

通常情况下一盏台灯绝对不值得庆祝一下什么的,但是几天后当送包裹的卡车在门前停下时我一下子从椅子上跳下来飞一样跑了出去,回到屋里,我打开包装,把垫在里面的塑料泡沫扔的到处都是。但接下来的发现泼了我一头凉水。盒子里的顶层放着一个小透明塑料袋,里边装着一个弯弯的金属薄片,塑料袋外面是黑体的大写:“中国制造”。我有点失落,不,是很失落。

I crouch down to examine the outside of the box. Made in USA,it proclaims.Well, not entirely, I think.With a heavy heart I crawl around on the living room floor collecting the pieces of Styrofoam so I can repack the box. On the return slip I write that I’m returning the lamp because it was not as described, since it was described as American. Then I push the box next to the front door so I can mail it back later in the week. I don’t have the stomach to return it right away.

我蹲下来仔细检查盒子外面,很清楚的写着“美国制造”。唉,我叹口气,不全是“美国造”。我情绪非常低沉,又在地板上四处捡塑料泡沫,以便给人家重新包起来。在退货单上我写到:“我退货因为它名不副实,标的是‘美国制造’”。然后把箱子推到门口,打算过几天再寄回去——我可没有心情立刻就寄。

A couple of days pass.The box remains in its spot by the door. It’s become a convenient place to throw unopened mail and children’s jackets. I tell myself I haven’t had the time to mail it off, but the truth is I’m wondering whether I should keep the thing. Maybe using Chinese parts is the only way the company that made the lamp—or most of the lamp anyway—can cut costs and stay afloat. Maybe without a few Chinese components here and there the place would go belly up all together, or ship over to China and set up business there, like everybody else is doing.

“Keep it,” says Kevin, who’s been listening impatiently to my soliloquy.

几天过去了,箱子还放在门口,这倒方便了堆放未拆封的邮件和孩子们的衣服。我一直说没有时间寄,其实我是在想该不该留下这盏灯。或许使用中国零件是台灯厂降低成本并赖以生存的惟一出路。 或许要不是各地的中国零件,他们早就“白肚朝天”撑不下去了,亦或是早就像很多人那样搬到中国去了。

“留下不就行了,”凯文对我的唠叨早就不耐烦了。

He can’t sway my decision, but I know who can. I track down the number of the Los Angeles lamp maker and call them to explain my predicament. The man at the lamp company is suspicious at first, but then he warms up and gives me a fast lesson in lamps. He tells me there were hundreds of American lamp makers just a decade or so ago, including 40 or more in Southern California alone.Today, he can think of only four or five in the entire country, he says.

他动摇不了我,但我知道有人可以。我顺藤摸瓜找到了洛杉矶台灯制造商的电话,请他们帮忙解释。电话那端的人起初还摸不着头脑,等他明白过来就给我恶补了一堂台灯课。他说,十几年前美国大概还有几百家台灯制造商,仅南加州就有40多家,但现在,据他所知全美国也只剩下四五家了。

“It’s almost 100 percent due to China,” he says.

His company has endured because a family, not expectant stockholders, owns it and because it specializes in big lamps that don’t fit well in cargo containers. He gives me a status report on the remaining U.S. lamp companies, noting that a high-end firm in Miami is “having its lunch eaten by the Chinese,” who are masters of cheap knockoffs. I ask him about the Chinese part in my lamp box.A consequence of so many factory closures is that you can no longer get American-made components, he says. Light switches are no longer made in the United States at all, for instance, he says.

“At a certain point you have to go overseas for parts,” he tells me.

“这几乎百分之百都是因为中国,”他说。

他的公司之所以能坚持下来是因为:一是公司的所有者不是期望发财的股东,而是自己的家庭;二是他们专门做集装箱没法装的大灯。他告诉了我一组现有美国台灯公司的数据,特别说到迈阿密一家制造廉价仿制品的高档公司,“他们公司的午餐费都让中国人吃掉了。”这么多公司关门大吉的后果是你再也买不到美国零件,他说,比如说美国早就不生产电灯开关了。

“从某种意义上讲,要买零件就得漂洋过海呢。”他说。

We hang up and I sit and think about lamps. Maybe it’s not an earth-shattering revelation, but it’s odd to think that there is no longer such thing as an American-made lamp, at least not strictly speaking.The lamp sitting in the box by the door is probably as American as a lamp can get these days, but, not unlike my daughter Sofie, it’s a mixed-heritage product, with China contributing essential parts. I get the same mournful feeling as when I realized American tennis shoes were a relic of the past. I feel something slipping away, but I’m not certain what it is.

我们通完电话后,我坐下来琢磨台灯的事。也许这不是什么震撼人心的新启示,但一想到再也没有美国制造的台灯——至少不严格地来说是这样——就让人觉得怪怪的。家门口箱子里的台灯很可能就是目前能找到的 “最美国”的台灯了。但台灯不像我女儿苏菲,苏菲是个遗传混血儿,根本的东西是中国的。当我意识到美国网球鞋也已是历史上的过往云烟时,我感到同样的悲哀。我知道有些东西正在从我们身边悄悄溜走,但又说不出到底是什么。

I keep the lamp. I decide Made in USA on the outside of the box trumps Made in China on the inside. It’s not an entirely satisfying decision. I wish I had a boycott rulebook to guide me, because one of the problems in making up rules on the fly is you’re never sure if you’re making a decision out of convenience or conviction. Either way, there’s no time to dwell on the lamp. Kevin is threatening rebellion after losing the replacement pair of sunglasses from his secretary. And he’s made an alarming announcement. He says he wants to buy an inflatable backyard swimming pool for the children. He didn’t just say he wanted to buy a pool for them, but that he will buy a pool for them, a statement that is ominous if you happen to know, as I do, where inflatable pools come from these days.

我留下了那盏台灯。我觉得包装外面的“美国制造”战胜了里面的“中国制造”,这不是个很完美的决定。我希望有一本指导我的抵制手册,因为盲目地制定规则的问题之一就是:你从不知晓自己做出的某个决定是为了方便还是出于信念。不管如何,没有时间再花在台灯上了。在弄丢主任送的太阳镜之后,凯文已经蠢蠢欲动要起义了,他还发出一个惊人的通告,说要给孩子们买一个充气泳池放在后院。他说的不是“想买”,而是“要买”。这可不是什么好事,如果你恰巧像我一样,知道这年头充气泳池是哪里制造的话。

(刊于《美文》2011年第三期)