By Joe Gui / Culture Shock, at The Wild East
I got in a fight last weekend at the Jianguo Flower Market in Taipei; well, I guess it was more of a scuffle.
It was about 6:30am and I was cycling through the Jinguo Flower Market, the largest market of its kind in Taiwan. If you’ve got a green thumb, you’re gonna want a piece of this action. This place has an amazing selection of fruit trees, houseplants and flowers — all kinds of great stuff. Everyone should go check it out some weekend.
So I saw some snake gourd seeds and had to have them — they would be a gift for my Aboriginal friends in the mountains. At first I thought they were too expensive at 20nt/bag, but then saw it was 3 bags for 50nt — which is about US$1.50.
Unfortunately, the stall owner hadn’t yet arrived for some reason. So I put 100nt in the rack and took 5 bags (not even 6).
A Taiwanese middle-aged guy walked up to me and when I told him what I was doing, he said “no way” could I do that — ‘ 不行啦’, bùxíng-la!!
I said, “What do you mean, ‘no way’? They’re your neighbor, why don’t you help them sell stuff? You could give them the money, or just tell them that the money’s right there.”
“Bùxíng la!” He said, and was so obnoxious about the whole thing — like he owned the place — that I purposefully placed the money in the now-empty rack space as I collected my seeds.
He tried to force me to put the seeds back, and then to take them away from me. I refused to give them up or take back the money. Then he grabbed my bike when I tried to leave the place.
I told him I was gonna punch him in the face if he didn’t let go of my bicycle, and kept trying to wrest it free from him and leave the place. He refused to let go.
I didn’t pop him in the kisser. Instead I hit his hands on my handlebars, several times, as hard as I could.
But still he refused to let me go.
“This is my property, let go!” I shouted. The other vendors were just watching all this kerfuffle, saying and doing nothing.
Another Taiwanese middle-aged blowhard came over, a neighboring stall owner perhaps, who was drawn to participate in all the commotion.
He also told me, ““Bùxíng la!” No way can you do that, pay for the seeds and leave! Impossible, those are not the rules around here!
Why not? Everybody here knows I bought them! I felt I was in an eerily Kafkaesque situation.
Finally, winding up yelling at both of them, ‘Zhe shi bu shi nide shi’ –This is none of your business “這是不是你的事!”). Also, Leave me alone, I already paid for this, Let go of my bike, etc.
The first blowhard said to call the cops. I said, “Go ahead, call the cops,” and continued pulling away. By now, I’d hit his hands about 15-20 times. He finally let go, and I managed to ride away.
“Go fuck yourselves!” was my parting shot. Most likely they could understand that English expression. It was a hollow victory, however, since I was reeling with the shock of dealing with these nazi zombies.
In hindsight, it was amazing they’d go all Singapore on my ass over some bags of seeds. Sometimes I wonder if Taiwan’s going to hell in a handbasket. All these officious people who just follow all the rules. Even if the trains run on time, bureaucratically, at least, it’s getting to be a nightmare.
Plus, my hand was all swollen and purple for about a week — my only souvenir from my hell-like visit to the Jianguo Flower Market in Taipei — that and some luffa seeds that fortunately someone wanted in the end.
And, it was kind of funny, that in my haste to get away most of the bags were of the wrong kind of seeds. They were mostly luffa, which just gives you diarrhea. Well at least that is what my priest friend told me.