It seems like everywhere you go in China, the walls are covered with stencils or hand-drawn numbers. They’re done hastily, with whatever paint is on hand, the numbers often dripping down the wall. These are cell phone numbers of day laborers: plumbers, tile workers, cabinet makers, window hangers, electricians. The crude advertisements usually appear in the stairway leading up to your apartment after you (or someone else in your building) hire someone to fix any of the many problems in your apartment. From Hohhot to Sanya, Harbin to Lanzhou, Beijing to Nanjing, these numbers scrawled on walls are the one constant in all Chinese cities, large and small. They’re also a ubiquitous reminder that in China, everyone can be a capitalist.
By the way, if you want to call one of these numbers, be sure to dial +86 first.