Last night I had the uncomfortable experience of reinforcing some negative stereotypes about lăowài. I’ve been hurt by these stereotypes in the past, and I hate to perpetuate them. Back when I’d only been living in Táibĕi for three months, I was kicked out of my apartment with very little notice because my landlady’s cousin was moving to the city to go to college and she didn’t want her to receive any unwholesome “lăowài” influences. Barely speaking any Chinese, and with little time to find a place to live, I was out on the street looking for “for rent” signs. That sucked.
Anyway, I went over to Mike’s place with Martin last night. Mike picked up some awesome calzones and salads from Alleycats. Then, we played ping-pong in the activity room in the basement of Mike’s apartment. We played “winner stays”, and for nearly four straight hours Mike and I took turns being abused by Martin who is inexplicably a freakishly good ponger. How such an absent minded guy could systematically destroy me in a game that’s so unforgiving of momentary lapses in attention is beyond me… but he did.
At about 2AM, we stopped and Martin and I resumed an earlier game of chess. All was fine, until some security guard came in and told us to get out of the activity room. Apparently, our four hours of ping-pong disturbed no one, but playing chess at that hour was inexcusable. The guard said that nobody was allowed to use the room after 10pm. Mike, being pissed about paying so much money in rent at such a nice apartment and being denied use of the facilities, decided to play the “English card”. That means just smiling and talking in English until the guy leaves. It didn’t work. The guy started getting more and more irritated, and Martin and I felt a bit guilty since we were five hours past the admittedly stupid closing time. We got up and took off, at which point the guard left. Unfortunately, Martin left his salad in the ping-pong room. Doh! We tried going back in a different entrance to get it, and set off an alarm. Doh! With the alarm ringing, our eyes darted back and forth between the already irate security guard coming back to the activity room and the half-eaten salad we had so graciously left for him to clean up. Running out of time and options, we made a run for it!
Sorry, Mike. That guy’s probably going to hate lăowài forever, now. And you still live there.