As the train screeches out the noise that alerts passengers that the doors will soon be closing, American Woman notices in her peripheral vision a shape moving toward her with urgency. Without turning her head, she knows what's coming.
American Woman: (to herself) Shit, not another one!
She buries her nose in her book, but it's already too late. A twitchy Taiwanese guy pushes past some nearby women to get closer to her.
Twitchy Taiwanese Guy: (loudly) Welcome to Taiwan!
The other passengers in the immediate area all turn their heads to see the commotion. American Woman, ever too polite to purposely ignore people, looks up from her book and nods silently before attempting to go back to her reading.Twitchy Taiwanese Guy doesn't take the hint.
Twitchy Taiwanese Guy: You have a book! What are you reading?
He bends his body forward to get a look at the cover of her book. After looking for several seconds, he straightens up, still not noticing that she doesn't wish to be bothered. American Woman notices that people are still watching, not looking away as they normally would have by this time. The spectacle is amusing to them.
Twitchy Taiwanese Guy: Brand New Friend. Brand New Friend. No friends in Taipei. No friends here.
American Woman begins to get the sense that Rain Man is alive and well in Taipei. She's smiling by now, not in the friendly way, but in the uncomfortable sort of way that comes out when she's stuck in a ridiculous situation. She continues to stay as focused on her book as possible, but in reality has not read a word since the last stop, and in any case has lost her place on the page.
Twitchy Taiwanese Guy: People don't read on the MRT. It's... no reading... people don't read on the train. See? (He points to the other passengers.) People don't read. It hurts your eyes. It's too dark. It's light in New York but it's dark in Taiwan. The time is different. No friends here. Only... (He lifts the bag he is carrying to show it's from NET, then lifts a brown scooter helmet up high.) I go to Taipei Main Station. My bike is there. I have a bike. And I ride it. And I will go to college. I will ride my bike.
Twitchy Taiwanese Guy continues muttering something American Woman can't understand. She is unable to control her natural reaction, which is to raise her eyebrows to indicate that she didn't hear. She mentally smacks her forehead for letting herself become engaged in this still one-sided conversation. Furthermore, she can't believe that people are still watching. They normally would have lost interest by now, looking away uncomfortably, but seem to be enjoying the show this time.
Twitchy Taiwanese Guy: I speak English. I speak your native language. But Mandarin. Do you know? (American Woman doesn't reply.) Mandarin. M-A-N-D-A-R-I-N. Vocabulary. It's ok. I'm speaking English. Is it? (He cranes his neck to check the name of the next station.) I go to Taipei Main Station. Where you going? Where is the ticket?
American Woman: (Unable to ignore non-rhetorical questions addressed to her.) I'm staying on the train.
She looks at a woman standing in her vicinity, hoping for at least a subtle indication that the woman feels her pain. The woman looks away uncomfortably, finally fulfilling American Woman's expectations about Taiwanese bystanders on the MRT. Twitchy Taiwanese Guy mutters something again, pulling out his wallet and leafing through it as the train approaches Taipei Main Station. American Woman instinctively glances at the contents, just to make sure he's not some foreigner trying to mess with her, and sees his MRT card is a concession card. He's no longer looking at her, but continues talking as he files out of the train.
Twitchy Taiwanese Guy: Brand New Friend... People don't read...
HAHAHA... Finally someone was able to describe my daily feeling during commuting on the MRT.