Some thing I really like about Taipei
Faith, chance, and convenience store women (and men)
Sometimes it is the small personal things that you never forget about a city. Almost a month after leaving Taipei I still think about the 7-Eleven girls. Well, women really. Two friends who worked the counter from 6 am til early afternoon, selling pre-packaged sandwiches, juices and milks of every variety, coffee, and other necessities.
7-Elevens are ubiquitous in Taipei. There’s almost one on every block, and they are very different from those in the US1. They are clean, have dining rooms (or a few stools and a window counter), and are places to hang out. Especially for the groups who want to hang out the most — the elderly and teens — united in their desire to get out of the house, without spending a lot.
“When I first started here, there was a detailed manual that taught me how to be a store worker, and I still don’t have a clue how to be a normal person outside that manual.”
Both the women, and the man who worked on the weekends, had the air of misfits, people who don’t fit easily into being a “normal person,” but still try to become a useful, and invisible, “cog.”
“I am one of those cogs, going round and round. I have become a functioning part of the world, rotating in the time of day called morning.”
I didn’t read Convenience Store Woman until last week, so my thoughts about them weren’t influenced by the book, but I realize now they fit perfectly with its empathetic framework.
I immediately liked both of the women. On my first morning, stupefied from travel, I blankly drunk my latte and watched them working with a diligence, care, and competence that touched me. That I saw a lot of similarities to my kids, despite the language and cultural differences, helped endear me to them. Their quirkiness beneath their uniform. Their awkward and mechanical way of dealing with people, in the manner of someone who it doesn’t come naturally to, but who still does it with a kindness instead of anger or frustration.