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    Things I don’t get

    Cab drivers in Taipei don’t like taking you to an intersection. Ask for “Zhongxiao East Road where it crosses Dunhua South Road,” and you frequently get a blank look. “Which section?” the driver asks. (As in, “Do you mean the 300 block, or the 400 block, or what?”) Once I didn’t remember, and since I can write Chinese street names but can’t speak Chinese, I drew a little diagram: See? These two streets. They cross here. Take me to the intersection…any old corner will do by this point. I stabbed conclusively with the pen. No reaction. Finally, I remembered I wanted Section 4. Scrawled it down. The driver beamed. Oh, okay. Zhongxiao East Road Section 4. Why didn’t you just say so? Well, I gave you the intersecting street. We’re not talking about Moebius Avenue and Tesseract Boulevard–they’re two major arteries, and they only cross in one place!

    Another time I was in a speeding cab with a few guys who do, in fact, speak Chinese. They asked for the intersection of Something and Something. “Which section?” An exchange of looks among the passengers–did anyone remember? “Section 2!” the guy next to me said, in clear confident tones. Then he turned to the rest of us. “It probably isn’t Section 2, so when we get there, we’ll just ask him to keep going to the next section until we get to the right intersection.”

    I’ve lived in Japan for twelve years and am used to being baffled by cultural differences. I have to say, though, I’m stumped by this one. Maybe it’s because the cities I’m used to are New York (where the address numbers can’t be divined from the street numbers) and Tokyo (where half the streets don’t even have names), but most of the cabs I’ve been in in my lifetime refuse to move for you unless you pinpoint the intersection you’re going to. No one has been able to explain to me how Taipei ended up developing the other way, though I can see why passengers would use addresses more often, since the address-numbering system here is very intuitive.


    You can be openly gay and get the benefits (nothing to hide), or you can be closeted and get the benefits (acceptance into the mainstream at all levels). You cannot do both. Those who want to be vociferously gay and simultaneously demand that people accept and adore them for it are insufferable, but it’s people with the opposite problem who’ve been inflicting themselves on me lately, so they’re the ones I’m going to grouse about.

    You want to get married and have children? Good for you. It’s none of my business. Whether you really feel affection for your wife or just want your family elders to get off your case or think you’ll look more socially stable when it’s promotion time at work, I don’t care. However, sweetie, if you’re going to sit in a gay bar (run by someone who’s not afraid to show his face to the licensers and beer distributors and everyone else as the manager of a known gay bar), drinking whisky (served by guys who are not afraid to work at a known gay bar), talking to me (gay, for those who haven’t noticed), then do not expect sympathy when you launch into a monologue about how hard it is to lead a double life, how you hate sneaking around, how you feel lonely all the time, and how you’re really scared you’ll run into a colleague in the wrong place someday. What exactly is the reaction you’re expecting? We all make our trade-offs, and by definition, that means we’re not going to get some things we want. News flash: If you hide what you are, you’re going to feel like you’re hiding all the time. Part of taking grown-up responsibility for your own choices is accepting that and not taking every opportunity to whine about it. Sheesh.

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