I was in Taichung, Taiwan on a busy Friday night eating and drinking with a few locals. I suddenly felt the urge to take a piss as you normally do after a few beers weigh heavily on your bladder.
Having recently arrived for the weekend in Taichung and visiting this local establishment for the first time, I was unfamiliar with the location of the restroom. I enjoyed trying new local restaurants and usually stayed clear of the foreign hangouts. Taichung has its fair share of foreigners, but they tend to stick to their bars and the majority doesn’t stay around long enough to learn the language. I firmly believe that if you’re here in Taiwan, you might as well learn the language and practice as much as possible. And mingling with the locals in their hangouts was the best way for me to improve my language skills.
I had been living in Taiwan for six years and got by decently on the strength of my Mandarin skills. So I confidently approached a red-faced old man who was wandering around the restaurant and asked in Mandarin, “Excuse me, where’s the ‘wash hands’ room?’”
He looked drunkenly at me, then down at his watch and casually replied that it was 8 o’clock.
Excerpt from “Taichung Kungfu,” a short story in Hillel Groovatti’s new book of short fiction entitled Totally Losing Face and Other Stories.