It has been a long three weeks. My daily English language newspapers dried up as the holiday season began. First the China Daily disappeared from the newsstands. Then the Global Times, and finally even Shenzhen Daily. Two of the three papers continued to publish online editions, so I knew they didn’t go out of business. I assume their disappearance had something to do with the holidays. Maybe breaks in the distribution chains developed as people took off to go home for Spring Festival.

Today the holidays are over. Everyone is back to work. I found myself anxious to hit the street for my newspapers, almost like a child waiting for Christmas morning. I usually go out around 12:30-13:00. Today I went out at 12:00.

I enjoy buying all three newspapers every day. They can be viewed for free online, but it’s worth the 4 RMB daily cost to hold them in my hands or carry them under my arm. Maybe I’m old school, but I find reading words printed on paper with ink is much more enjoyable than reading electrons on a screen.

I like taking my papers to a park or a café where they can be spread out on a table, and spend and hour or so reading them with a cup of coffee or a beer. I enjoy getting newsprint on my fingers. It gives me pleasure to make an occasional note in a margin, or even tear out an article that interests me for some reason or another. I like saying a few words to people around me. I enjoy explaining a picture or a phrase to a beginning English student or a curious passer-by.

There is a woman who runs a news kiosk from whom I’ve been buying my papers for years. Her stand is in my old neighborhood, about a 45 minute walk from where I now live. She doesn’t keep any English language papers on display. There are too few foreigners in the neighborhood to make it a worthwhile use of her limited exhibit space. Instead she keeps them behind the counter, neatly folded, and ready for my arrival.

All of the things I describe above make up my daily act of reading. To me, it’s a very enjoyable experience. So it was with a song in my heart and a smile on my face that I hit the street this afternoon.

There are five news vendors between my house and the lady’s kiosk I like to patronize. To be safe I stopped at each one for my papers. By the time I got to my favorite vendor, I had found a Shenzhen Daily and the Global Times, but no China Daily. Inexplicably she didn’t have a China Daily either. Almost sadly, I made my way to the park to read what I had.

My newspaper experience today was better than nothing, but not exactly what I anticipated or wanted. It reminded me of the time my 16 year old girlfriend called me to come to her house because her parents were away. I was there in minutes. Soon we were naked and having sex, but before we had finished, her parents drove up. We jumped up, quickly got dressed, opened a school book, and pretended to be studying.

The sex that afternoon was better than nothing, but the act wasn’t complete. It was good but not satisfying. It wasn’t right. It was an example of what is known in Latin as coitus interruptus. I felt as though my newspaper experience today was similar. Two papers were better than nothing, but not having the much anticipated and desired third newspaper gave me a case of what might be called readus interruptus. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.