Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's Mailbag

Chill with the cabbies

Dear Johnny,

Sadly, the Taipei mayor found no better way to end his week recently than to take on one of Taipei's great traditions: the semi-toothed, betel-nut chewing, barefoot taxi driver whose English -- and for that matter, Mandarin -- is as good as the Mayor's Romanian (presumably he favors the English speaking ones: military retiree, baseball cap and clean-cut vest).

Last year I moved to Huayuan Hsincheng all the way from California, where the taxi drivers are either Sikh or Bangladeshi.

They all think they speak English but the truth of the matter is that I never understood them and was worried I'd hurt their feelings by asking "Say what?" one too many times.

You know what I used to do? Show them a map. I tried it in Taipei, too. Works like a charm.

Turns out that even the most ruffian-like, freshly retired bloke out of Taitung can actually make sense of a map.

Mr. Mayor, if you want Taipei City to be more foreigner-friendly, I have three suggestions:

(1) unify the English renditions of your street names;

(2) issue an updated street map (including Taipei County if possible) because the one in current use seems to date from the days of Koxinga (鄭成功); and

(3) drivers should only use front speakers and mute backseat speakers. This seems to be a skill long lost in the mists of time. I can take a bit of unwarranted taxi wandering, but not with A-mei (張惠妹) drilling into my occiput.

On second thoughts, leave everything as it is. It's a great city with warm and genuine people. If street names confuse tourists, then let those tourists take a taxi, show the antique map to the driver, chill out by listening to A-mei, and go with the flow.

They'll eventually get somewhere, sometime.

Radu Tomescu

Sindian, Taipei County

Johnny replies: Few people seem willing to admit that the taxi drivers in Taipei aren't all that bad. I've met some real angels as well as the occasional jerk.

As for the problem of no consistency with street names, well, it ain't gonna get any better than it is now, seeing as the Taipei City Government has settled on "Ma Ying-jeou Pinyin 2.0."

Maybe we could just take the English signs down altogether. That would encourage foreign pedestrians and drivers to communicate more meaningfully with my beloved compatriots. I've always advocated bringing people closer together.

Corrupt from brain to butt

Dear Johnny,

Reading your sermon sometimes makes me sick. You write about Taiwan as if you have never been here.

Why do you not write to Taiwanese? We foreigners do not need to be educated.

There are 23 million on this island and everyone is selfish and corrupt from the very top to the bottom.

Don't tell foreign visitors or residents how good Taiwan is. We know, otherwise we would not stay.


Johnny replies: I think you might be confused, Detlef. Do take advantage of our universal health coverage to stock up on some pills. And if you're going to accuse every single Taiwanese of being on the take, the least you could do is offer me a bribe to run your letter.

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