Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 28 2007

Don’t stare at the gorilla

I'm looking at youI was walking around the community on the other side of the hill out back yesterday morning when a dark red sedan drove past me and parked at the end of the road. A large white man dressed in a black T-shirt and shorts and long gray hair got out and looked at me as he walked back around the car. In my typical gorilla fashion, I glanced at him and then quickly looked away as I walked on by. When I looked back to make sure he wasn’t following me with a machete, he was walking back to his car.

I do this with just about everybody, sometimes even with people I know. It’s also the subject of much anger and frustration in places like Forumosa.com, with many foreigners accusing other foreigners of “living in their own special little world” and acting uppity and forgetting their place, etc. Typically, those complaints are reserved for small towns where foreigners are few in number and meeting one another is rarer. In Taipei, foreigners are everywhere and it’s not such a big deal, or shouldn’t be. I have to admit that I look at people when I’m walking down the street. A glance here and there, be they foreign or domestic. A glance, and then I’ll look away. If I’m in a particularly good mood, I’ll nod, smile or even mutter something vague, but I don’t understand the expectation that such interaction is required because I happen to look more like said passerby than other people in the vicinity.

Such expectations are usually defended with claims of “share cultural background or experiences” etc., but that would assume that most of the foreigners I meet on the street have the same background as I do, which would be unfair and overgeneralizing. Also “It’s just a friendly and nice thing to do,” which is fine except for the fact that I’m not always a friendly and nice person. And even if I were, whomever I’m addressing might not be. One time, many years ago, I was walking down an alley behind Zhongxiao East Road when I came upon an older foreign man squinting at a map and looking around, appearing for all the world as lost as if he were in the middle of the Sahara. I walked up and asked him if he needed any help finding something.

The look he gave me nearly caused me to step back. “There’s nothing you could help me with,” he spat.

After that, I figured that I’d just wait to be asked for help before offering any on my own volition. In any case, if you see me on the street and I ignore you like the big dumb ape I am, don’t take it personally. Now, if I stare at you and start following you around, then you might want to be concerned, as a potential beating and/or request for a dinner and a movie might ensue.

posted by Poagao at 12:49 am  

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