Sun, 21 May 2000

An eerie tale of a sock-loving specter

BEIJING (JP): I have heard many ghost stories but I never had any idea that I would encounter a spirit, at least not in China.

It was dark when we arrived at our four-star hotel in Beijing. The long journey (a more than six-hour flight from Jakarta with three hours of transit time in Guangxou) had made us tired but we had to hurry for a dinner hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which had invited us to China.

After dinner, I took a hot shower and went to bed.

Everything was fine until the next day when I entered the bathroom to take a shower. There was a pair of used socks hanging from the shower curtain. I was aghast and my body shivered in fear.

I immediately called my colleague, a journalist from Kompas who was in the next room. She suggested that I ask the hotel management to have the socks removed and offered to share her room with me if I was still afraid.

A member of the housekeeping staff soon came to my room, but he failed to explain how the socks got there. I was relieved when he removed them. There was no ghost. A reckless housekeeping girl must have forgotten to take away the socks owned by the guest who previously stayed in my room. I am not superstitious. I wanted to take a shower in my own room. But as I was about to turn on the water tap, I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise. Okay, okay. I gave in. I hurriedly packed my things and moved to the room next door.

My friend said that perhaps I was so tired the previous night that I did not see the socks. But the towel was just right of the socks and I was not blind. I would have seen them if they were there that night.

When I related my experience to Mr. Liu, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he just laughed. He must have thought I was a coward.

The following day, as we were about to leave the hotel, however, Mr. Liu said: "Last night we checked out your room and there was a strong wind. It was not safe to stay there. The balcony door could not be locked." He did not say anything about the socks.

Apart of the spooky experience, I was relatively satisfied with the hotel service, even though there was a lack of English proficiency among the staff, especially the trainees.

To start a conversation, I asked a lady with a "trainee" badge on her shirt: "Are you a trainee?"

She smiled, pointed to the badge and shook her head: "Not my name..."

Well, at least, she was nice and friendly. And even if there is a ghost in that room, it's not a cruel ghost and I would still love to return to China one day. (sim)