Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Damn, You. Whistle Nazi.

The Whistle Nazi is this Chinese dude, probably mid-thirties, big beer barrel drinking chest and sturdy tree trunk legs, who has appointed himself head of the noise patrol Gestapo over the helpless children of the elementary school cafeteria where my daughter Xian is now a first grader and where I, equally helpless and more haplessly, find myself eating lunch every day.
Back home this guy would probably coach a death sport, storming around the cafeteria blowing his shiny silver whistle in sharp staccato bursts.
Zip! Zip! Zip!
Right in old Mrs. Chang, the school secretary’s ear, causing the grey-haired woman to scream and pass out.
Zip! Zip! Zip!
Across the massive cafeteria he scares the snot out of me, and I drop my tray of soggy spinach and mystery meat.
Ahhhh. Damn you, Whistle Nazi!
As fate would have it, he’s a math and engineering teacher. I loathe math!
What in the world do third graders need an engineering teacher for? They should be running around in forests building tree houses and jumping from rope swings into rivers.
Yet he’s here every day, and despite the children barely coming up to his waist, he just keeps blowing his whistle and screaming, "Shut up, children! You are too loud. Stop Talking. Shut UP!"
Zip! Zip! Zip!
“Or I’ll feed you to the ovens!”
He terrifies the kids. He torments the foreign teachers. He is running totally amuck. Amuck, I tell you. Who does this guy think he is? Well, I’ll tell you. He thinks he’s the Whistle Nazi, of the master whistle race.
To make matters worse, the Whistle Nazi has not neck. I mean, what the hell is wrong with people who have no necks? It’s Asia, I get it. This place can be a freak show. Cleft palates. Noseless lepers. Midgets with tails. I don’t mind most of it. Take hunchbacks for example. Some of my best friends are Quasimodoes. I can see how during the Cultural Revolution that good posture wasn’t a top priority, okay? But the Whistle Nazi’s head just sits on his shoulders like a giant unmovable melon. He’s this freakishly deformed ogre that towers over children and no one is brave enough to scare him away with pitchforks and torches.
Disgustingly, the female Chinese teachers adore him.
“Oh, he is so strong and authoritative. Just listen to his powerful whistle blasts.”
“Yes, he is so majestic as he strides past the napkin dispensers and garbage bins. Oh, here he comes, is my pancake foundation okay?”
As an American writer in Asia, I get a lot of letters, usually from creepy American guys still living in their parent’s basements and trading Yu-Gi-Yo cards on-line. Guys with screen names like Chocolatethunder69 or RiceFeeVa2000. They ask: “Isn’t Asia like a candy store for hot females?” Or, “How do you stand being surrounded by so many fine Chinese women?”
Well, I’ll tell you, because it’s not what you think. Most Chinese women drive me batty.
This is what it is like to be around a Chinese women. It is an all-out onslaught on your privacy. Almost every conversation I’ve had with a single Taiwanese or Chinese women begins like this:
Hi
Hi
How are you?
How are you?
So… Do you want a serious relationship with me? What about a girlfriend? I think you are an American, you must have a girlfriend? Why not? It is easy for you I think? What about your job? What is your annual salary? I am a third year university student majoring in engineering. When I graduate, I want a career, will you support me? What about children. I want a family. Will you expect me to raise your children? Also my parents are getting older. They will want to meet you. My father is especially excited to teach you many things. They are from the countryside so they cannot speak English. I will check your pronunciation of their names…
This is basically the first thirty seconds of a first date with a Chinese woman after you sit down in the restaurant.
Fun, huh?
Nowhere is this point illustrated better than with the front door of our junior high school. Here in Asia, I find myself uttering the phrase, “You would logically think…” but it just doesn’t apply. For some unknown reason, the front doors to our school, the only doors in the building leading in or outside, are barred and locked. (Okay, I do know the reason, we were audited by the labor bureau about six months ago, and the school wants to keep out the rift-raft. The Whistle Nazi self-appointed himself as door monitor…) But that means to exit the school, each student, teacher, or admin has to walk over 400 meters out of our way, over the bridge connecting the junior high and elementary schools, through the courtyard playground, past the 100 or so children playing dodgeball with one ball, around the perfectly formatted lines of gym classes doing foot and ankle tai-chi stretches, to the guard station, knock on the door, wait for the sleepy man to fall out of his chair, put his glasses on, rub the 1,000 year-old dust from his eyes while he stares at you blankly and buzzes you out the metal gate.
Sigh.
So, in an act of total defiance, I have started to sneak out the front door.
This got me caught on surveillance.
This got me noticed by the superiors.
This put the Whistle Nazi on my tracks.
This got him laying in wait for me one morning as I snuck out to grab a Snickers bar at 7-11.
This led to him leaping out behind the tetherball pole and blowing his whistle at me like some lunatic jail escapee.
This led to me making a break for it.
This led to him chasing me down the street on a motor scooter screeching his whistle.
This got me tackled by a group of indigenous construction workers mixing cement out a second floor window. All of which had peculiar facial tics concealed by tribal tattoos.
This led to a gaggle of old grandmothers in MC Hammer pants doing yoga hip stretches in the park to come to my defense.
This led to their eventual questioning of me laying face down in a pile of wet cement, painful lip grimaces, plumber’s crack, and shrieking whistle hysterics.
“What you doing? You so handsome? You American? Why you running so fast? You going to meet your girlfriend now? What’s a nice boy like you doing all alone?”
I had no other alternative after that. It was me or him. I was going to take the Whistle Nazi down. It was go time. So I started to mess with him, bringing my own whistle into the cafeteria the very next day, sitting nonchalantly with the other teachers, varying my position, waiting to strike.
And just like every day, the Whistle Nazi also took his position in the middle of the cafeteria, towering over the little black heads slurping down rice and smacking their lips on fishsticks, and when the hum of student voices reached a moderate buzz.
Zip! Zip! Zip! He filled the cafeteria with Blitzkrieg terror as little children dove their frightened faces under metal trays for cover.
Pause ten seconds.
“Chirp.”
The Whistle Nazi dropped into a defensive stance.
Pause another ten seconds.
“Chirp.”
The Whistle Nazi turned on a dime and squinted over the dark heads of the entire elementary school.
“Chirp.”
The Whistle Nazi grabbed two third graders cowering in the soup line. “Who did that? Was that you?”
I eek out another chirp from beside the metal spoon rack as the Whistle Nazi tackled two pig-tailed and freckled fourth graders. “You there. Halt! Show me your papers…”
“Chirp.”
It was like waving a red cape in front of a bull. The Whistle Nazi was incensed. He began lunging at students. Knocking over metal rice bowls. Spilling metal water cups. Slipping on metal chopsticks and falling over backwards into a pile of stacked metal trays. Screaming and shouting and cursing and attempting to stand and slipping on a slippery slug-trail of discarded cabbage, falling face first into the food dumping pail of fish guts and sea-oyster gruel.
“Chirp.”
I made my way up the stairs, out the front door of the school, and over to 7-11 for a well-deserved Snickers.
The next day when I got to the cafeteria mayhem ensued. Hundreds of children, standing on tables, leaping from benches, running in circles totally amuck, and all blowing whistles. Orange plastic whistles, silver metal shining whistles, and long tubular slide whistles that go up and down. There were even a couple of kids with harmonicas and kazoos.
Kazoos?
The Whistle Nazi was beside himself. Hurrying here and there trying to confiscate every single noise maker he could get his hands on, blowing his whistle, screeching it, but to no avail. The revolution had begun.
The following day a flier appeared in my mailbox:
“All students entering the cafeteria will be searched. Any student carrying any kind of illegal paraphernalia noise maker will have them confiscated and be escorted immediately to the main office where they will receive a serious punishment and black mark on their permanent record. Signed, the school authority for a quiet and orderly lunchroom."
It was only a matter of time now.
I was called in later that day. As I entered the main office, most of the staff had already gone home for the night. Yet there, sitting behind desks were the school principle, the dreaded head of discipline or “The Jagwan,” and of course, the Whistle Nazi himself, sneering at me from behind a white bandage wrapped around his bulbous and enormous melon-sized head balancing miraculously like a bowling ball on his shoulders.
It was confirmed on school surveillance. I was the vile instigator of the cafeteria whistle revolt. I was not to be punished. No, punishment was not in store for me. They assumed I was only a mere pawn. A disposable player in a larger scheme to somehow discredit the school or merely an agent of chaos bent on destroying school stability.
But who sent me?
The Labor Bureau?
Perhaps the American media trying to infiltrate perfect Taiwan testing scores?
Nonetheless, I was to relinquish my whistle at once and never cause any trouble again.
I did so without remorse and with complete insouciance.
Afterward, I ventured upstairs to collect my bag but while standing in the office, all the lights in the building were turned out. I was completely in the dark. Racing downstairs to the front of the school, there was no one to be seen, only lights on the street, a few passing cars, and fading figures of the last staff members walking away.
I began banging on the glass.
Here.
Wait.
You locked me inside. Frantically, I started pulling on the doors locked tightly shut. If only I had something in my pocket, some high pitched signally device.
But nothing.
It was then I heard it. Shuffling behind me. Faint. Slow. Muffled. I turned around to see creeping silhouettes. Half human in the shadows. Dragging feet. Hands reaching out to me. Grinning in rows of brown teeth. There was nowhere to run. I was completely sealed in. It was my worst nightmare. Mops in buckets. Push brooms sliding across the floors.
It was the all-night team of Chinese cleaning ladies. It was too late. They were already upon me.
Say… you American teacher, right? What you doing here hiding in the school? You don’t have girlfriend to go home too? What about wife? You looking for a serious relationship? I think for you, so easy. Come, I have daughter? She very nice. Good student. If you marry her, will you support me? I no have to work no more? Come on, you spend night here. We let you go in the morning. What you thinking?
Damn you, Whistle Nazi. Damn you.

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