My mom told me an interesting story this morning, something that she remembered last week with amusement and couldn’t help laughing out loud as she relayed it to me.
Shortly after she went to the university in the mid-1960’s, she was recruited into a group that was responsible for the campus daily broadcast during lunch hours. Since my mom grew up in Shanghai, her mandarin wasn’t really ‘standard’ enough to do broadcast, but the leader brushed it off and told her to do her best because they were really short-handed. One part of the group were broadcasters, mainly female, who spoke into a microphone and had their voices heard all over the campus; the other part were male operators, who were good with the equipment and ensured that it worked properly.
They worked in shifts to carry out the job – one broadcaster and one operator everyday. There were editors who provided materials for each broadcast – national and local news, quotes from the leaders, university events and announcements, excerpt from good articles, etc. It was an effective channel for students to get useful information as they were having lunch.
One day, my mom teamed up with a guy from her class as broadcaster and operator. The task was carried out smoothly and everything went well. Afterwards, they sat around and started chatting. Since both of them were from Shanghai, they spoke in Shanghai dialect and really felt the closeness shared by hometown fellows. They had a great time.
After twenty minutes, someone banged on the door and rushed in and demanded “what are you two doing?!”. They were in shock and said that they didn’t do anything bad, just had a chat. The interrupter explained that the whole campus had been listening in their chattering – apparently they forgot to turn off the machine. Since Shanghai dialect sounded like a foreign language in this northern university, people could only hear these two happy people enjoying their chat, without understanding the content. Well, they didn’t say anything anti-revolutionary or personal anyway.
Needless to say, they had to apologize afterwards. Since it was mainly his fault, he had to put in writing some rather harsh self-criticisms, something like a confession. For months they were the laughing stocks among their friends. They regretted their carelessness, but also appreciated that it could have been much worse.