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Yesterday, in Taipei, there was an air raid practice.

Life seems to vanish from this bustling city, all in the blink of an eye.

It’s pretty impressive, I have to say.

At the appointed time, which all Taiwanese mysteriously know beforehand, everyone scuttles away like mice when a prowling cat is detected.

A friend’s friend captured it on video – have a look.

See what I mean?

A friend of mine stepped out of his office and snapped this photo:

IMG_7106.JPG_noexif.jpg

Pretty eerie, right?

Now, thankfully, my Taiwanese wife informed me of yesterday’s drill the night before.

However, this was not what she did last year.

I was visiting the bank; me, an alien in Taiwan, with very poor Mandarin skills.

I was just about to leave, when the security guard, a large pig-feet-eating kind of chap, stepped in front of me, with his palm outstretched and a stern crease on his brow.

Without taking his eyes off me, he pressed the red button beside him and the shutters began to come down.

You know when you scan through your most recent past for things you might have done wrong? Things that you might have overlooked? Things that, at the time, didn’t feel that bad, but maybe in a foreign culture they were really that bad…

“But… but… I’m… I haven’t… See?… Look… I haven’t got…”

Contrary to the smiling Englishman I was when I walked in, I was now a stuttering wreck.

“Sit,” said the security guard.

Interrogation.

Rubber gloves.

Torture.

Humiliation.

My mind was racing.

“But I only came in to transfer some money.”

“Sit.”

I sat.

I did the first thing a scared man always does – I sent my wife a text.

I'm stuck in the bank! The shutters came down. What the hell's going on?

I waited impatiently.

Oh, didn't I tell you? There's an air raid practice, just in case China bombs us.
Thanks, love. Thanks a bunch.
Then I heard the siren echoing through the streets.
A shadow towered over me. I looked up.
It was the security guard, but now he was smiling as if the thought of snapping on a rubber glove and poking around had never entered his head.
He held out a plastic cup.
“Tea?” he said.
“Yes, please. Thank you.”
And with that one cup of tea, as cold as it was, and without milk, I slowly returned to my old Englishman self.
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Blessings.
Gavin

 

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