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Hearing The Call: A Mystery Made for Half of the Chinese Population

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Part I
Stay at the right hotel in China, and you’re likely to get a phone call you’ll never forget—The Call.

The Call is often personalized. If you’re foreign-looking, The Call will often come in English—broken English, but English.

The Call is often self-censored. If you bring a female guest, you probably won’t get The Call. (Although I was lucky enough to get The Call when my sister traveled with my in China.)

The Call often comes in rounds, giant sweeps of the hotel, but it may also come tailored to your arrival. Around 10PM at night, you may hear the phone ring in the room across the hall, followed by the room next door, after which you’ll soon get The Call in your fair turn. At other times, The Call will come right after you’ve checked into your room, underscoring the personal touch.

The Call is one, at most two, sentences long, and it always some version of the following:

Ni hao, ni xuyao anmo ma?”

“Hello, you want massage?”

If the caller is persistent and thinks the offer of an in-room massage is not obvious enough, The Call will continue with:

Ni yao nvhai’r peipei ma?”

“Want a girl to accompany-accompany you?”

All of this I knew about The Call, but a mystery about these calls lingered in my mind—a question that only the Chongqing Hotel of Horrors and a healthy dose of delegation would resolve.