By Wayne Chan, Humorist
I’m currently in Taiwan right now, visiting with my family and my wife’s family.
It’s been a terrific trip so far, especially since we haven’t been able to visit for a few years due to the pandemic. The one downside that I nearly forgot about after all this time away immediately reared it’s ugly head the first time Maya and I went out to buy a few things.
I call it, “The dreaded follow up question.”.
OK, this calls for a little explanation of the backstory. I owe you that.
I speak some Chinese. I’m actually proud of it. But I don’t really read or write. I can’t blame my parents. My mom sent me, year after year, to Chinese school, and I went. The problem was, I went to Chinese school for completely different reasons. I didn’t go there to improve my Chinese language skills. I went there to be with my schoolmates, many of whom were cute, Chinese American girls.
So basically, the bulk of my Chinese language education was purposely learning Chinese phrases like “What are you doing after class?” or “You’re an Aquarius? So am I!”
The limited success of my Chinese language education meant that what I did learn mostly came from my parents. My mom spoke perfect English but I suspect she spoke to me in Chinese because deep down she knew that was the only way that I would pick ANYTHING up.
So, for the record, I perfectly understand Chinese phrases like “How many times have I told you to clean up your room?!?” or “No more TV until you finish your homework!”.
But back to my trip to Taiwan.
I needed to buy a hat. Specifically, a baseball cap.
Being the spring in Taiwan, I normally bring a baseball cap to keep the sun out of my eyes. So, on our first daily walk of our trip, we walked by an activewear store and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to buy my baseball cap.
Maya, who is from Taiwan and speaks perfect Chinese, went off shopping on her own. I didn’t see many hats in the area, but no problem – I knew what I wanted and most importantly, how to ask for it.
I walked up to a salesperson in one of the aisles and confidently asked, in Chinese, “Where do you sell all of your hats?”.
Here is where the dreaded follow-up questions start. The deeper I get into a back-and-forth about any particular topic, the less I will understand what we’re talking about. At some point in the conversation, we could be talking about “Cocker Spaniel field hockey competition” and I would never know the difference.
Here is just a snippet of my back-and-forth with the salesperson in Chinese, and how her responses sounded to me.
• Me: Where do you sell all of your hats?
• Salesperson: What style hat are you looking for? Are you looking for BLOOPITY BLOOP or POPPITY POP?
• Me: I’m sorry – what?
• Salesperson: Oh, it depends on what kind of hat you’re looking for. If you’re looking for KLAKITY KLACK, those are on the 2nd floor but the regular GOBBITY GOOK is here on the main floor. Maybe we should start on the first floor with the FLIPPITY FLOPS.
• Me: That would be fine.
It’s amazing what you’ll settle for when you don’t want to admit that you have no idea what is going on.
In the end, I did end up buying a hat. It wasn’t really the color or style I was looking for, but it would do. It’s a good thing that I could at least take a look at the hat before buying it, otherwise, I could’ve easily come home wearing a Bowler hat or a pink, floral sun chapeau.
I can imagine wearing one of those around when I get home and hearing my friend’s comments.
• Friend: Nice hat, Wayne!
• Me: Why don’t you shut your CLIPPITY CLAP!
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