Sat, Jul 18, 2009 - Page 8 News List

JOHNNY NEIHU'S NEWS WATCH: Struggling to stay above the pee-line

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

I’ve always cringed when looking into the bubbling vats of frying oil at fast food joints. Now I know there was cause for real concern.

Comes the news from Taipei County (where else?) this week that the local health department found arsenic in the frying oil at two McDonald’s restaurants in Tucheng (土城) in a June 21 test — in amounts up to 10 times the legal limit.

Unhappy Meal, anyone?

For those not familiar with arsenic, it was one of the primary methods of suicide back in the 19th century before they invented charcoal inhalation and jumping off roofs.

Madame Bovary famously offed herself with a helping of the powdery poison at the finale of the literary classic of the same name (oops, spoiled the ending — no matter, it’s a boring read).

McDonald’s immediately leaped into denial mode — not surprising for anyone familiar with the fast food giant’s vast, intimidating McPR machine. Our very own Taipei Times reported:

“The company’s statement insisted that its food and oil were safe. … ‘The Department of Health’s (DOH) latest tests on 183 samples of edible oil showed that our oil is safe and meets national standards,’ the statement read.”

Even without the Filet-o-Toxins special, it’s not surprising that dousing your food for a minute or two in a vat of boiling oil isn’t McGreat for the old McLife Expectancy.

(And that’s true no matter how many park line-dances you do. Kudos, by the way, to the World Games opening ceremony producers for including hundreds of shequ mama — community moms — in an extended dance routine. Stroke of genius, that.)

Speaking of things hard on the metabolism, I recently ventured — against my better judgment — into that circle of hell known as a water park. The specific park will stay unnamed; suffice it to say they’re all pretty much alike.

My exiled gal Cathy Pacific’s gal-pal and fellow former trolley dolly, Ariel Lingus, called me up to pull some guanxi.

She was taking her two tykes for some water fun and needed some help chaperoning them (her man skipped out on her five years ago to shack up with a 21-year-old Singaporean from a budget Asian airline).

Entering the locker rooms and shower area, I immediately knew I’d made a big mistake.

There before me, hundreds of screaming brats in various stages of undress swarmed a floor covered in dirty sludge and flip-flop detritus. Over-the-hill fathers squeezed themselves into skin-tight spandex swimsuits, often mercifully half-covered by sagging Taiwan Beer paunches.

Women in equally revealing skin-tight garb — far too oblivious to be flashing cameltoe — were doing so. A lot of them.

Doing my best not to barf on a shrieking toddler next to me, we jammed our belongings into tiny lockers, showered off some — but not all — of our epidermal city grime, then headed for the pools.

It bills itself as a “water” park, but I’ll be damned if half of the liquid wasn’t kiddie pee. That’s how warm it felt, anyway. And forget “swimming” — the place was more crowded than the pig’s blood cake stall at the Gongguan Night Market.

Instead, we elbowed our way around, sloshing through luke-warm, knee-deep liquid, checking now and then to make sure Ariel Lingus’ tykes were still breathing and had their heads above the pee-line.

After a bit of this, we made for the water slide. Here, you wait in line for half an hour with a cranky, impatient horde of the middle class at play, then rocket down a water-slicked chute for about 30 seconds.

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