An ego boost at reception

And a new and uncomfortable directness for interpersonal compliments…

Top-down view of a tree snapped in half, with the top-half removed.
Post-typhoon, half a tree. Photo: Zhen-Kang.

Last week, immediately before Typhoon Doksuri hit Kaohsiung (a tree snapped in half outside my building, but my neighborhood was otherwise OK), I went downstairs to collect a pre-typhoon grocery delivery.

As I walked back inside, the building manager beckoned me to reception, where she was standing with the security guard.

“Zhen-Kang, talk!” she said.

I might’ve looked puzzled.

“Talk English!”

So I said something like “How are you today?”

And she said, in English…

“We think you are very handsome!”

I felt shocked and awkward, and—not gonna lie—appreciative of the ego boost.

I replied (in bad Chinese) “I am not, but thanks!” (“Wǒ bú shì, kěshì xièxie!”)

She repeated “We think you are very handsome!”

So I repeated “I am not, but thanks!”

Then, to exit this awkward cycle of affirmation and modest denial, I quickly asked the security guard (in Chinese), “do you speak English?”

She replied (in English), “yes, a little.”

…At which point the elevator arrived, so I said (in Chinese) “That’s great! See you later!”

And made a run for it.