i finally did the thing

i finally did the thing

the thing that i have been low-key worried about for more than a decade

because driving here is dangerous and sometimes terrifying, and because when i get scared i get angry, and when i get angry i lose my temper

and when i am riding a scooter or a bicycle, my temper tantrum involves swearing and distributing “the bird”

yesterday i was riding my bike to school. i was actually feeling pretty good because i’d had a good writing session, i had a nice lunch waiting for me, and i’d gone to the bank and got some stuff done. and here i was about to be well early…

the light was green at the end of the alley so i started pumping my legs because i didn’t want to wait for the red. and i was just hitting the intersection–yeehaw!–when this fucker honked at me. the car behind honked at me and was trying to squeeze out of this narrow alley ahead of me.

i was already feeling like man i better hustle to make this light but i also better be prepared to stop in case it turns red cause i don’t want to be in the middle of the intersection when these cars start moving. so i was already on high-alert, already hustling, and this fucker honks at me. 

where was i supposed to go? all i can do is keep pedaling, and now i feel like i am pedaling for my life because a car is chasing me.

there’s no where to go. that’s driving in taiwan. there’s no bicycle or scooter lanes, or if there are, cars park in them. cars double park. caretakers push old people in wheelchairs alongside the double parked cars. grandmothers on 50cc scooters go slower than me on bicycle. pedestrians dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge their way down the roads because the sidewalks are blocked with parked cars and scooters. there’s no where to go when someone honks.

so i flicked her off. i held up the middle finger of my left hand and took the turn wide because this cunt was making a left, too. this dick was trying to mow me down just to make the light.

and then she turned into my school. it’s just right there. i had finally done what i had been afraid i might do: i flicked off a parent from my school.

i was still so scared and mad though that my first thought was “i am willing to get fired for this.” and “if i go down, i’m going down hard.” so i rolled into the lot right behind her and took it slow, glaring at her the whole time.

i imagined the stupid meeting the administrators would organize, where i would sit and sip tea and pretend to be ashamed of myself and recite a statement prepared for me by my boss and have to listen to them talk about me in chinese like i wasn’t there or couldn’t understand, about how foreigners have a different culture and aren’t used to the driving in taiwan and miss rae is oh so sorry and then they’d dismiss me and everyone would leave with very plastic smiles and giggles and lots of nodding like little bows.

i would literally rather be fired.

i rolled to the back of the school where i keep my bike and got my stuff without hesitating. i was going to own this, and if i had to go down, i wasn’t going to apologize for being furious that somebody else was driving dangerously.

but when i came into the courtyard, there was just a little boy was making his lone way to class. i asked him if his mom drove the gray car and he said yes…

when i got to the table where the other foreign teachers were eating lunch, my hands were still shaking.

i waited for her to come in. i waited for her to call, for my manager to call me into the office. but nothing happened.

best case scenario: she was so oblivious that she didn’t notice that i gave her the middle finger and pulled into the school behind her. this wouldn’t surprise me at all because that’s literally why driving here is so dangerous–people are oblivious.

bestest case scenario: she was so embarrassed that she almost ran over a teacher at her son’s school that she doesn’t want to show her face. she went home to think about what she had done and decided she needs to chill when she’s driving, that sitting at a red light is less of a hassle than manslaughter charges.

insofar as she was a member of my school community, of course i did not want to give her the bird. but insofar as she was a rude and dangerous driver who in that instant valued my safety less than the prospect of having to sit through a 75-second red light, fuck her.

adjusting to life in taiwan

you take off your shoes before you go in the house? now that’s just smart.

you eat food with two sticks instead of a fork and knife? lemme try that!

you put this fish tank here because it’ll attract money to your business? that’s cool. i like fish! shoot, i like money, too!

you take your tea with a little liquor? how cheeky! but i’ll give it a shot.

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you let the old people start eating first before you take any food? that’s mighty decent of you.

you give kids red envelopes of money during the lunar new year? that’s interesting. tell me more!

you want me to come over your house and grill some skewers and take pictures of each other with pomelo rinds on our heads? sign me up, ya crazy animal!

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you can’t whistle at night cause it will attract ghosts? i guess that’s like how we don’t open umbrellas in the house back home.

you wanna rent a room, get drunk, and sing avril lavigne songs at each other? did you just read my mind?!

you don’t let kids drink cold water, but you hand them bottle rockets? hey, they’re your kids.

you hire pole dancers and strippers to perform on the street for big funerals and major holidays? let me get my camera.

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you hired a cleaning service to clean this place before we moved in, and they didn’t sweep the cat hair out from under the sofa because you can’t see under the sofa? you paid money for someone to half-clean this house?! did you just pay them half?!

you just park wherever? but this is double-parking and you’re blocking traffic behind- omg watch out for that guy doing a u-turn in the middle of- jesus h. christ!

would it not be simpler if every driver on the damn island starting turning BEHIND the people in the right lane instead of speeding up and cutting them off?! maybe there needs to be like a government campaign or something…



it’s a pasta and ramen kind of day

i am sitting here slurping on a bowl of creamy tom yum instant noodles that i made with too much water. i don’t normally eat instant noodles or food from 7-11, but tonight i did both because today sucked and i want it to choke it dead with carbohydrates.

i woke up early and went for a walk and that seemed like a promising beginning, but while i was walking i got stuck behind an old man slowly pedaling down the walking/bike path ahead of me. every few feet, he would hork a loogie to the right and then let sail a snot rocket to the left. one or two expectorations from an old dude in the morning is still fucking gross but within the realm of shit that happens, but this dude was a bicycling biohazard. i kept back and tried to avoid seeing whatever the fuck he was leaving in a trail behind him. he stopped his bicycle at the intersection and took a long drag of his cigarette and i realized he was killing himself and mindlessly spreading contagions like he’d decided the rest of us have nothing to live for. thanks, old dude.

that was fine.

i had trouble getting focused but i nailed out the last couple paragraphs of a short story that i started working on like two weeks ago and at least i have a rough draft now. i thought that would be enough joy to get me through the day, knowing i’ve finished yet another story, but no:

i went to this smoothie place at like i swear to god 12:15, it was not that late. maybe 12:20. there are a couple of tables, but just one couple at one table and that’s it. i walk in an order a smoothie and a wrap. to be clear, this is food that has to be assembled, not made, and this is basically the only food available at this place: coffee, smoothies, and three kinds of sandwiches.

i step back and look at my watch. as long as i am out of here by 12:40, i will definitely have time to bike to work. but i am certain that i will be out of there before 12:40 because that would be ridiculous. these people put lunch meat and slices of lettuce on bread for a living, they are professionals. at 12:35, the chick walks out from behind the counter and i jump up, ready to grab my stuff, and OMG SHE IS JUST BRINGING TWO FUCKING SMOOTHIES TO THESE OTHER PEOPLE. like i watched this chick cut up some strawberries, wash them all, rehome them in some tupperware, wash the plastic box they came in…and none of that was for me. i have been there twenty minutes, these people even longer. and the manager was over there interviewing a prospective employee at 12:30 AS YOU DO IN A RESTAURANT…i took a deep breath because obviously now that these smoothies are out of the way, these ridiculous fucking smoothies with fruit arranged on top like a goddamn carmen-miranda headpiece, this chick will be able to roll up some lunch meat in a tortilla and send me on my way. so i wait til 12:40 and i can’t really wait any longer, it’s gonna take me 15 minutes to get to work, and i peek over the counter AND THIS BITCH IS MAKING WAFFLES AND GRILLING CHICKEN.

i did not order waffles or chicken.

i told her i had to go, but like right now, sorry and thanks, tee-hee, and she shuffles the shuffle of the overworked and underpaid and pulls out a tupperware container with some meat in it and starts to put the beef on the grill like i have twenty more minutes to waste on her making bad life choices. finally the manager was done and also tuned in to what was happening and she saw a solution, how about i just take the chicken if i’m in such a rush?

if i had fucking wanted chicken…but fine, it’s actually too late for me to get food anywhere else at this point anyway. so there’s like US$7 which is actually pretty pricey for lunch in zhongli and like a solid 40 minutes of my life wasted getting somebody else’s overpriced lunch.

and then on the way to work, literally just riding my bicycle down the side of the road, a car passed me. i noticed she had her right turn signal on pretty much right when she turned. i slammed both my brakes, and when you do that on a bicycle, you stop dead, unless you slide for a second on your not-moving wheels, which is what i did. i was furious–i hadn’t been going slow at all and it wouldn’t have taken but a second for her to turn behind me instead of cut me off. i almost fell over the handlebars, and then the person behind me honked their horn. i was apoplectic and residually afraid for me life, so i screamed at that guy and waved my arms, “don’t fucking honk at me! it was that car!” and then that car was still there so i did what any professional elementary school teacher would do in public when she’s lost her fucking mind and i tore off down that road with the intention of i don’t know, ringing my bicycle bell at her a bunch of times and flipping her the bird.

lo and fucking behold, she’d stopped like just right there because some other jackass was doing a surprise u-turn. so she’d almost caused an accident because she had to make that right turn so fucking fast, and here she is waiting because it’s zhongli and nobody can drive and everyone double parks and the roads suck SO WHAT IS THE POINT. i got alongside her, i waved my right arm around and shouted, “you’re a real dick, you know that?” because that was what was in my heart of hearts at that moment. and then because the other car was still not pointed in the right direction i drifted past them both and then had to stop to make a left to get back on the road i was actually supposed to be on so i could go to work, since i was running late. she had to pass behind me, and when she did, i gave her the stinkiest of stink eyes, and willed the stench to stay with her the rest of the day.

of course by the time i got to school i felt bad for losing my cool–what if that had been a parent driving the car? awkward. but i also felt a teensy bit justified since she’d made me almost shit my pants.

i am afraid of ending up on youtube. i actually feel sorry for people some people who lose their shit and end up on youtube because sometimes unless they are racist or transphobic or what, i feel like i get it. there but for the grace go i…

and then i had to teach, within like an hour of me wanting to see some lady bounce her own head off her steering wheel. but that’s fine, i’m fine with the students. we made little posters and read a story about a pig named slim and it was fine. the “poo-poo” all over the floor of the boys’ bathroom was actually mud and the “blood” was actually blood, but it was just a nosebleed. all in all it was fine.

then i spent thirty minutes of my prep time looking for the shitfucking projector i was meant to use, and then thirty minutes of a forty-minute class looking for damn files on the usb because i knew that as soon as class was over, any other teacher there was going to show me where the files were and say something passive-aggressive about my being an idiot. only nobody could find the files after class and then we found the last person who had used the usb labelled “reading adventures” and found out that satan had compelled her to remove the “reading adventures” files from that usb and put whatever the hell she wanted on it.


i went to the dentist after work to try and find my health insurance card and the receptionist asked me about a dozen questions and told me to wait a minute and i kept explaining to her that i only wanted to know if i’d forgotten my health card and she kept saying it would take a minute to find out…then she finally came from the back with a file with my name on it and said you just want to know to know if we have your health card? and i said yes, and she said of course we don’t, if we did, we would call you. and since that wasn’t the dumbest thing that happened today i just accepted it.

and then the vietnamese place was closed and i could have gone to the night market but people, and i thought about going to madotz for hot pot but people, so i got pasta carbonara at 7-11 and the lady said “nihao” to me and didn’t grab anything out of my hands so that was pretty much the best part of my day so far, except for actually finishing the first draft of that story.

but i don’t have my health card so i can’t go to the doctor (without paying US$15 instead of US$3 for a doctor’s visit) so this cold is just gonna hang out here. unlike the old man, i will not force anything out of my body, i will just sit here with leaks sprouting in my eyes and nose.

at least i am not in texas. nor do i have children. and there’s still one more episode of game of thrones and a new episode of insecure.

and loads more ramen.