Monday, October 20, 2014

New Yawk Today: on city etiquette & Chinese douchiness

So it's 10AM and I'm just waking up, listening to the city sounds outside. The traffic. The hum of people. I can hear someone's cell phone ring and one lady seems particularly loud. So loud, it almost seems like she's in my apartment. Wait a second, what the fuck? Through my half open door, I see that a Chinese woman has just stepped into my living room with a rolling suitcase.
"I'm looking for so-and-so," she says in Mandarin, looking around.
I hurriedly get up and emerge from my room.
"Oh!" she says in surprise, "Does so-and-so live here?"
"Who are you?" I demand, "How did you get the key?"
She beats a fast retreat as I chase her to the door.
"I don't have the key," she says and pantomimes sliding a card between the door and the lock. 
I look at her like she's insane. She sort of shrugs in response as she exits, like, how was I supposed to know this isn't so-and-so's apartment.  After she leaves, I double lock behind her.

Okay, so I'm a native New Yorker and I do take for granted some city etiquette that newbies might not know. Like, if your friend isn't home, you don't fucking break into their apartment.

But most newbies aren't really arrogant. Most of them are just clueless. If they take up all the sidewalk, it's not out of entitlement, but because they have no sense of space. If they don't meet your eyes, it's because they don't know how to deal with people, not because they feel a sense of superiority. If they get coffee at Dunkin' Donuts rather than the fantastic coffee shop next door, its from a knee-jerk sheeplike instinct, not because they're snubbing the locals. But this Chinese lady? Apparently, she thinks it's okay to just let yourself into someone else's apartment.

Which makes me think of this recent article, Douchebag: The White Racial Slur We've All Been Waiting For. Attempting to articulate the imbalance in race, gender and class that we've all been feeling, Michael Mark Cohen says, "The douchebag is someone — overwhelmingly white, rich, heterosexual males — who insist upon, nay, demand their white male privilege in every possible set and setting."

The lady that barged into my apartment is a Chinese version of the douchebag. I don't have a word for this, but all of us Taiwanese (and Hong Kongers too) are keenly aware of an arrogance in the Chinese mentality that is pretty damn douchy though they aren't aping white male privilege. Like that recent row about Chinese people who allow their kids to piss in the street. Okay, fine, I understand that there's a cultural thing there. I had differences with a Portuguese woman who also thought it was okay for her kid to piss on the street. But it takes a pushy Chinese version of a douchebag to publicly call for parents to bring kids to pee in the streets of Hong Kong. I wonder if there is a Chinese slang that would articulate this better.

Anyway, it's too much of a lovely sunny autumn day to keep thinking about douchebags. Maybe I should learn how to double lock my door. But then again, I've got this perverted insistence on trusting my fellow human, which probably needs a better word than stupid or naive.



  2. I'd have smashed her running dog head, personally. But I'm a bit of a red guard at heart.