Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Sep 20 2002

I went downstairs to the sidewalk market this afte…

I went downstairs to the sidewalk market this afternoon after work to get a strap on my backpack repaired. The stitching’s pretty heavy-duty, so the seamstress next door couldn’t do it, instead directing me to the shoe repair stand next to one of the fruit stands on the first floor of the Chungking Mansions Taipei.

“I was just about to leave,” the woman at the stand said as I sat down on a stool to wait. “You’d have missed me if you came five minutes later.” A small girl was asleep in a stroller next to us. The stand was made up of one ancient-looking sewing machine and all kinds of laces and thread. As the shoe repairwoman began to work on my backpack, a thin girl in even thinner clothes that looked like they were stolen from her grade school-age sister walked up and demanded that the woman re-sole a shoe. “Can it wait until tomorrow?” the repairwoman said. “My family’s going on vacation in a few minutes.”

“No! I need it done nooooow,” the girl whined loudly, waking up the baby in the stroller, who looked around sleepily. The girl fished out a suprisingly gaudy bejeweled shoe with a nasty point and thrust it in the repairwoman’s face.

“Gah!” I blurted out involuntarily at the sight of the hideous piece of footwear. The broken sole was the least of that shoe’s problems. Even worse was the thought that somewhere out there was another one just like it.

The repairwoman didn’t flinch. Apparently she was used to such pedestrian horrors. “Ok, come back in a few minutes, ok?” But the girl was already off browsing fruit. The baby’s gaze wandered until it settled on me, and she blinked in slight confusion. I was wondering how much it would cost to repair a backpack strap, figuring in my head how much money I had on me when the repairwoman said, “Ok, it’s done.”

“How much?”

“NT$20.” Cheap. I wondered how she managed to make any money, but then again, her husband worked elsewhere, and she didn’t have to pay any rent as she operated on the sidewalk. The stalls themselves go for at least NT$60k a month, the guy at the plant shop told me. Apparently a family of seven had up until recently been living out of a jewelry shop the size of the average American laundry room, and that includes the one tiny bathroom.

I also learned from one of the workmen installing the orange piping that it is for water drainage purposes, dashing any hopes I had about smoke diversion. Maybe next time.

In other news, Steve sent me a bit of interesting information concerning surnames in the US:

“It comes as little surprise that the most common surname in the U.S. (as of the 1990 census) was Smith, claiming 1.006% of the population, followed by Johnson (.810%), Williams (.699%), Jones (.0621%), Brown (.621%), Davis (.480%), Miller (.424%), Wilson (.339%), Moore (.312%) and in 10th place, Taylor (.311%). Some Asian Americans may be surprised to learn that no exclusively Asian surname figures in the top 200 surnames though Lee — which could be Korean or Chinese but is more likely to be English — is number 24 and is attached to .220% of the population, just behind Lewis and ahead of Walker. The only other surnames with Asian constituents among the top 100 are Young at number 28 and Long at number 86.

A clearly Asian surname doesn’t surface until Nguyen at number 229 with .046% of the population. Fully 26.608% of the U.S. population have surnames more common than Nguyen, the most common Vietnamese surname. Korean Kim follows closely at number 233 with .045% of the population — about one in 2,100 people — but ahead of waspy Jennings at 274. Given the fact that among Koreans Lee is nearly as common as Kim, and that quite a few Chinese use that spelling, the Asian Lee well might have figured ahead of Kim and Nguyen.

The third most common Asian surname among the U.S. population is Tran, another Vietnamese name, at 476, claiming .024% of the U.S. population, well ahead of whitebread names like Horn (number 581), Conway (654), Nixon (661), Weiss (662) and Ellison (664). Then follow Chang (687), Chen (720), Chan (764), Yang (810), Le (975), Wang (1026), Lam (1217) and Ho (1275), just ahead of Greenwood (1276).

The first Indian name to appear is Singh at 1306, ahead of mainstays Bower (1383) and Nicholas (1384). It’s followed by Chung (1385), Lin (1448), Pham (1455), Ham (1617), Xiong (1731), Yu (1734), Chin (1746), Wu (1789), with .007% of the U.S. population, ahead of Kimble (1818) and Presley (1825). The top 2000 U.S. surnames are rounded out by Cho (1903), Lim (1958) and Chu (1962), which figures just ahead of Prescott (1965).

A major surprise is that Wong, often thought the most common Chinese surname, doesn’t even figure in the top 2000.”

Woohoo! #1448! Steve says he got this from “some obscure website”. Perfect.

posted by Poagao at 9:05 am  

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