Wednesday, June 02, 2010

712 Sam, So So, Milk, Nellie

712 Sam, So So, Milk, Nellie

The previous post, 711, is the final thought on the Taiwan trip. This was written earlier.

(Taipei) -- Anyone here who deals with the tourists has an English name. A reliable source says many of them will use any English word with a sound they like. Hence, says the source, we have people named "Milk" and "So-so" or Nellie or Daisy or Sam. Sam is the young guy who owns the 7-11 right downstairs. He must be all of 28 or 30 and he works a zillion hours a week in his little store.

Sam does not speak a word of English, or at least he didn't at the start of this trip. Now, he can say "hello." Your correspondent came over here with maybe a dozen words in Mandarin, and the count may be up to 14 or 15 by now. So Sam's not doing badly. No matter. Young Sam is something we don't have as much of in the US anymore. He's a merchant. He knows what his customers want and he gives it to them. Beer, wine, liquor, candy, laundry detergent, thousand year old eggs, newspapers, paper and plastic cups, dish washing liquid, phone cards, Milk from cows, soy beans, almonds. Eighty varieties of tea. Cigarettes (way cheap.) Microwaveable burgers and sandwiches and salads (awful!), what ever.

There is no charge for the microwaving. But if you want your stuff in a plastic bag, there's a $1.00 NT charge -- about four cents, USD. Sam likes it when the Americans arrive. They all want bags. That's a profit center. This trend already has made its way to the States. But not as thoroughly as it has here. They don't have nearly as much land to fill. This guy works hard for the money. He's in at the crack of dawn, he's out... very late. If we all worked like this guy, we'd be dead. Here -- to repeat a phrase more than is proper -- the furious energy of Chinatown carries him along.

The translators are reluctant to question Sam closely. They don't want to seem nosey. Very Chinese, but not great for reporting. So, young Sam will remain only an outline for us. But please remember that the last major great merchant in the United States, Sam Walton, built an empire. Maybe this Sam will, too. And with any luck, he'll treat his employees better than Mr. Walton.

We have not met So-so or Milk. Nellie Wong (aw' c'mon!) was a fellow student in the grad school days. But these are the kinds of monikers that are used here now. Brother in law Tien Chi calls himself Tony, sometimes. Does this work in reverse? Right now, Uncle Kung the Younger (now about 80,) is trying to figure out a Chinese name for your correspondent. Uncle Kung the Older (age 90) doesn't want to have anything to say in the matter.

Shrapnel:

--There are Apple "i" Stores all over the place here. But you still can't buy an iPad. The gizmo went on sale in Japan and in Australia this weekend and stores were mobbed, but Taiwan will have to wait.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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