I know I’ve told this story before but indulge me. One of my first assignments when I went to work for Action magazine was to harangue the paper’s Asian customers for their ad money. This was not an easy or enjoyable task. The girls didn’t know me. And they sure didn’t want to pay their bills. As such, they didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat when I arrived.
The cold shoulder treatment lasted for literally a year or two until one day, the girls showed me a long haired wig which I donned and then broke into a heavy metal swagger to gales of laughter. That broke the ice and thereafter, their eyes met mine when I stopped by. I was in the club.
I mention this today because in my new life as volunteer, I find many of the people I serve are little Asian ladies who like the girls who gave me their ad money, aren’t prone to acknowledging my existence. They live in Chinatown, speak no English, and for all intents and purposes shield themselves from any American culture with a surprising vigilance. But when it comes to lining up at every pantry they can find near their neighborhood, they do find themselves – for better or worse – mixing with Americans.
I don’t have a lot of patience for pushy little Chinese ladies – of which there is no shortage on the pantry beat. And I let them know it in no uncertain terms. Probably something that doesn’t make me especially popular with their crew. But I’m fair, friendly and competent – a reality with which I wasn’t sure they appreciated until yesterday when I strolled into the Meatloaf Kitchen to do my Saturday thing. As I passed by those seated, two little Chinese ladies lit up and waved at me. Bango! Once again I’d broken a tough-to-enter Asian clique.
For what reason I can’t tell you, at least half of the steady volunteers are likewise of Asian descent. They generally are of the age 25 to 40 demographic, accomplished with good jobs, good-looking specimens of humanity, and as stereotyping has it, smart and very efficient workers.
While we were cleaning up, a new Asian guy jabbed me in the ass with a mop by mistake. After he apologized profusely for something that really didn’t hurt at all, one of the other Asian volunteers (a twenty-something male) told him “Don’t worry about Billy. He’s a tough old guy.” A somewhat dubious sign of inclusion but still – in the club once again.
Seemingly, my new world is about as far removed from my old one as it could possibly be. But still, there are parallels. And yesterday made me harken back to the mad Koreans and how cold they were until one day, they weren’t cold anymore. By the end of the 20 years in the adult ad business, I became the darling of the Asian crew for all the right reasons. I was dependable, hard-working, efficient, friendly, knowledgeable and most of all, didn’t need to fuck the girls.
Whatever…the point is that yesterday, those pushy, cold little Chinese ladies suddenly turned human. And I got a kick out of it. Membership in yet another Asian club. Imagine!