Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jul 29 2002

A curious buzzing noise was coming from the direct…

A curious buzzing noise was coming from the direction of the elevators, just across the hall from my desk, just now. Since the elevator doesn’t stop on our floor, we all just ignored it. It came again, and again. And then, suddenly, who else but the Big Boss came tumbling out of the elevator.

She strode over to my cubicle-neighbor Wee and demanded his phone. I don’t know who she called, but I felt a bit sorry for them. “I was in the elevator and it just stopped and started shaking,” she told the person on the other end of the line. “I pressed the emergency button but nobody answered, so I forced the door open, on a floor it’s not even supposed to stop at!”

It was a bit of an awkward moment, and everyone appeared to be working on something, but you knew everyone was listening quite closely. The Big Boss hung up and then rushed out of the room, no doubt to raise Big Boss Hell somewhere.

Mindcrime came up on Saturday and went shopping for a bed with HG Janice. Janice is an accompliced bargainer, and she spent pretty much the entire afternoon haggling with a shopowner on Wenchang St., aka Furniture Street. Eventually she got one, while Mindcrime and I waited in a nearby Macdonald’s. I hadn’t eaten that day and decided to forget my series of vows to never eat anything from MacD’s again. I got a spicey chicken burger, but when I bit into it, yellowish grease poured out. There was no sign of any actual chicken. I should have checked the name -it was probably “Chiken” or something and under to legal obligation to contain anything my stomach might be able to process. I was so hungry I finished it anyway (I know, a stupid thing to do, and I added yet another vow to never eat anything in Macdonald’s again), and we went to Daichi to look at air conditioners. The reason Mindcrime’s new digs don’t have A/C is that it is Buddhist-owned, and they deemed that particular luxury somewhat less than necessary.

Later, after my friends had decided they’d had enough of haggling over furniture in Taipei and returned to Hsinchu, I took the MRT out to Zhonghe. I know what you’re thinking: Why do out to that cesspool? Well, the reason is that I had heard from some friends who had moved out there that rent was quite reasonable, and also that the area had improved a lot in the couple of years since I’d been there.

Not. My friends were either wrong or living in some other dimension. Post-MRT Zhonghe is just as chaotic yet drab as it ever was, and after walking around the streets for a while I knew that any reduction in rent would be a poor substitute for having to live there. As I was finishing my drink in the MRT station before going to take a train back to Taipei, I confirmed something I’d long suspected.

You see, in Taiwan it is almost inevitable that, when you visit the men’s restrooms in any public place, some old cleaning woman will be in there fussing around. I used to think it was coincidence, but it happened too many times for that. Now, as I sat on a ledge just outside the lobby of the station, I saw a line of cleaning women standing against the wall not far from the restrooms, which were empty. Then a trainload of people started to come up the escalators, and a portion of them made for the restrooms. The cleaning women, seeing this, made a beeline for the men’s room. Ah HA! I should have photographed the whole thing. I’m sure Next Magazine would be interested in such a scandal.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I told myself I needed to get out of Dodge. It was a beautiful, strong, hot day. I ran through the list of usual suspects in my head: Danshui, Beitou, Hsintien, etc., but I wanted to go somewhere I’d never been before. So I called up Maoman, who has recently moved up to a gated community of apartments in Xizhi. We arranged to meet up at United Mix, where we had brunch. Maoman knew literally everyone in the restaurant, and introduced me around. Then I followed him on my motorcycle up to the Nanjing/Jilong loop and out of the city. We passed through Neihu and the Public TV station out there, driving down some really nice curving streets lined with impossibly nice homes. I had no idea that area had developed so much. The last time I’d been out there was just after they had contructed the tunnel, and there hadn’t been any buildings around at all. Now there’s nice apartment buildings all over the place.

We continued up the mountain until we reached a checkpoint where a security officer checked Maoman’s ID. Then we rode a little bit more up to the actual complex, where another ID check awaited. I thought we had arrived, but we hadn’t, not yet. Instead we descended into a labrynthian network of underground parking lots and access roads that went on and on. We passed through a couple more checkpoints, descending another two or three levels before finally reaching Maoman’s alloted motorcycle parking space. I was thoroughly and completely lost, and I don’t get lost easily.

We took a series of elevators up to Maoman’s apartment, where his girlfriend Vanessa and her little brother Mark were waiting. The apartment is huge, brand new, and features fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. More people came by, other friends and neighbors with dogs. We went down to the green lawn in the center of the complex, which actually resembles a giant pinball machine, and tossed a dog-saliva-coated football around. Then we took a walk down by the lake. It was quite nice, yet a little disconcerting. I couldn’t get my mind around actually living like that. My friends are obviously in a much higher tax bracket, and some of the foreigners are the kind that want to keep their level of awareness that they are in Taiwan as low as possible. “I don’t like Chinese food,” one told me. “Well, to be fair, I’ve never actually had it.”

We changed into swimsuits and went swimming in the large, irregularly shaped pool. It was full of parents and kids that day, but it was still possible to swim a few strokes. The place also has a weightroom and sauna. As we soaked in the hot tub listening to executives talk about business deals as they played with their kids, I felt like I was on a cruise ship. It felt good, but I still couldn’t imagine actually living like that in a day-to-day fashion. And the commute! Just getting in and out of the complex required a compass and supplies, not to mention the large white ball bouncing around and asphyxiating random people who try to leave.

That night we rode down to a noisy Chinese restaurant and ate various dishes while being stared at by every single patron in the place. Perhaps they are used to foreigners in small doses only and feared that we could constitute a threat in larger numbers. The food was good, though. Then we rode back up to the Complex and watched TV while sipping oreo shakes Maoman made. They were good, too, but I think my stomach has grown unused to milk products, and I began to feel a bit queasy. We went for another swim before Maoman had to take Mark home to his parents in Sanchung, but I couldn’t really enjoy it despite the fact that I haven’t been swimming at night for many years. I suppose I should avoid drinking that much milk.

In other news, my high-school friend Shawn has scored a great job at PDI/Deamworks as a character technical director. Excellent work. Hopefully we will all be moving to bigger and better things soon. In a few minutes I myself will be having an interview for the part-time editing position. They seem fairly eager about me, so as long as I don’t do anything stupid, it should go well. I’m dressed for the part, or at least as far as I’m able to. I could be one of the vampires today, with black suit pants and dress-ish shoes, gray button-down and a tie in case I need one. The woman called me this morning and told me to speak as much English as possible with el Guapo. I think I can manage that.

posted by Poagao at 3:58 am  

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