Everything counts in small amounts

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Obvious Foreigner Story

I have the quintessential obvious foreigner story. (I know there are a lot of details to fill in between the weather post and arriving in Taipei. I'll get to that later. But, on to more interesting things first.) So, Jiyeoun and I have arrived in Taipei. We checked into our hotel at 8:30 p.m., local time. So we have a few hours to kill before going to bed, lest we be accused of being geezers. And, no one wants that. So, we headed off to Ximending, the Korean equivalent of Myoungdong, or the American equivalent of... well... there is no equivalent really. We didn't want to got shopping. So we wondered around looking for a place to drink. You know, inexpensive, time consuming, and easy: drinking. We wondered around Ximening, which is the cool shopping district the United States never had, looking for a place to drink. Amazingly, there is none, or nothing obvious at least. It seems Taiwanese keep their drinking and shopping strictly separate unlike the Koreans, who mix the two happily. So we're wondering around the shopping district, bobbing our heads left and right trying to take it all in, looking for a place to get our drink on, when this woman calls us from across the street. I don't know what she was saying. It was all in Mandrain. But, I assume it was something like: "Hey sucker. I'm looking for someone to screw and you look like the perfect target. Come over here and let me screw you. That's right, that's right, over here. SUCKER!" So us, being the new virgin suckers we were, decided that the evil woman's den is the only place we can have a beer. We walk in and look at the menu. Jiyeoun, with her decent Mandarin, considering she's only studied over the phone in Korea, says we want a beer. "Beer," the woman says in Mandarin -- even I can understand what she's saying at this point -- "Sure we have two kinds of beer: Corona and Taiwanese Beer." (Okay, don't ask me why the two choices are a cheap Mexican beer and a random, unnamed "Taiwanese beer." I mean first of all Corona's not good enough to be the representative for all foreign beers and second of all why is the domestic beer simply called Taiwanese beer? Presumably there's more than one domestic beer. Shouldn't they distinguish between the two? Maybe not since we're such obvious foreign suckers. I guess evil woman assumes that we wouldn't know the difference even if she told us. She's right. We don't know the difference now. But, if she told us the name of the beer, we'd eventually learn to tell the difference...) So we tell her: "Taiwanese beer please." She says, doesn't ask, "Large." This is what goes through my head: "What did she just say? How much. I think she said how much." I tell Jiyeoun in English, "She said how much." Evil woman says, "Large." Jiyeoun says, "She's saying large." Me: "Large?" Jiyeoun: "Yeah, large." Me: "Okay, so large." Jiyeoun, "Yeah, large please." Evil woman, "Two large?" Me: "Okay two large." Evil woman, "Two large." So we got two large beers. Oh my god. It turns out large was four-beers worth. It was 1,500 cc. Or, in American two half gallons of beer. A gallon of beer between the two of us and Jiyeoun doesn't drink beer. Who is going to drink a gallon of beer? Maybe a group of four guys starting a night on the town. But, not some milk-white American guy and his over-eager, Mandarin-speaking wife. Evil woman saw us coming and suckered us into buying a gallon of beer. The funny thing is that for all her chiselering the gallon of beer only cost us $15 USD, which was kind of funny to me. This woman went through all this trouble to extort an extra five bucks from us. I don't even understand how it's worth it on her end. She doesn't own the place. She just works there. But, she still took to time and effort to cheat us out of five measly dollars. It's strange. Is it for pride? Or, does she really need the money? It's got to be something else I don't yet understand...


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