Sic Transit Olympus

My digital tape recorder was made in China. Apparently it came home to Beijing to die. This was most inconvenient, for there is much spit collecting to do at an Olympic Games. Spit collecting is the collection of quotes—or more accurately clichés and excuses—in a scrum situation. I first heard this term, not surprisingly, while reporting from Parliament Hill in Ottawa. It is not an uplifting exercise for either reporters, or the reported, but it is part of the game.

My theory is that a tape recorder can only take so much spit before it craps out. And here, being a Canadian reporter, there have been a painful number of excuses.

Obituary: Olympus, WS100, suddenly, while traveling in its beloved China. Internment, a wastebasket, Media Village Two, Beijing. Expressions of sympathy can by sent to Ken MacQueen who had to relearn the use of pen and ink.

Last night was spent searching for a new Olympus. How hard can it be, right, they’re made in China? It took a taxi ride halfway across the city, to an electronics market, which was closing for the night. The only stall was womaned by a barracuda. She didn’t have my brand in stock but she worked the phone and one magically appeared 10 minutes later, price $1,300 Yuan, which is something north of $200. Now, it’s not my money, I intend to put this on my expenses, boss, but, really, that seemed a bit rich. Bargaining ensued. “This is made in China, very expensive,” she said. “I have cheaper ones, made in Japan.” My, how times have changed. Anyway, twice, I stormed for the exit (thinking you stupid jerk, you are walking away from the only working Olympus in Beijing). Twice I was called back. End result, an Olympus WS-210s! Jet black 850 Yuan, a beaut. Expect a better quality of excuses in future issues of Maclean’s.

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