Friday, November 26, 2010

Diary of a Mad Woman in Search for a MUJI Plunger

My toilet was suddenly clogged the other day, so I went out to the street in search for a plunger. 5 minutes away from home, I found a hole-in-the-wall supply store and asked for one. The couple in the store - squeezing their words out with some difficulty as both had toothpicks playing around in their mouths (a result of just finishing an early supper perhaps) - picked one up right from the floor and handed it to me.

"Umm ... Do you have another one?" I hesitated to take it from the husband. The wooden stick that held the rubber cup at the bottom seemed cracked and dirty.

"What's wrong with this one?" He asked.

"Well, it just seems a bit dirty ..." I said.

"Dirty?! Lady, this is a plunger. A plunger, ok? For the toilet bowl. What do you need a 'clean' one for?" The wife immediately cut in.

Not funny, I thought. So I justified my reasons as follows - "Well, I was just wondering if you have cleaner one. I know it's for the toilet bowl. But at least at the moment when I buy it, I want it to be new and clean ..." I answered, with my voice getting lower and lower with each sentence uttered.

I know how ridiculous of a person they thought I was, as they looked at me in such great puzzlement written all over their faces. They were pretty much speechless.

In order not to disappoint them further, I escaped from the scene by coming up with a lame excuse - "Alright, I guess I can take it. But first I need to go to the market nearby. I'll come by later to pick it up," I said, leaving the scene knowing that if I can somehow find another one elsewhere, I would not be going back.

5 minutes later, I walked into the nearby "wet market" (as it's apparently how the foreigners in town call it) and again looked for a plunger.

On the second floor, at the corner farther away from the entrance, I found a grocery store with all sorts of household supplies spreading all over the place. I popped the same question again.

This time, just like last time, the guy picked up a plunger right from the floor and handed it to me (he didn't have a toothpick in his mouth; instead, he had a lit-up cigarette). Again, just like last time, I hesitated to take it from him, but I got smarter - I decided not to ask him for a new one, for I could see all the plungers that he had right there, all on the floor.

Only that this time, the floor looked more dusty and black than the previous one.

Knowing that my plunger search would apparently go no further (unless I wanted to waste 12 RMB on cabbing to the nearest Carrefour), I decided to let go of my hygienic standards and only remained picky about not having a cracked wooden stick. Still, as I was fussing through choosing the "best" plunger among the only 3 that he had, giving reasons such as I'd like one with a non-cracked stick, the guy looked at me funny and said the same thing:

"Lady, this is for the toilet. What do you expect?"

What do I expect?

Do you really wanna know?

I decided not to scream the above 2 sentences back at him and just remained quiet. Because in my mind, I know that to really tell him what I expect can take up a whole hour as I can start with the plunger issue to the clogged toilet issue to why the floor seems so blackened and dirty and sticky and stinky yet no one seems to have bothered to give it a scrub. Oh yeah, and there's "please don't speak to your customer or do business with your customer with a toothpick/lit-up cigarette hanging out of your mouth" type of issue.

In the meantime, there was a mental picture slowly emerging in my mind:

MUJI. Yes, the nice and sparkly clean MUJI stores in Tokyo. And a mental picture of myself shopping for a plunger - yes, even a plunger! a nice, clean, shiny, designer-looking plunger - in any MUJI stores in Tokyo, where polite and enthusiastic staff who are willing to help you in any way they can is a simple MUST.

But I uttered no words and let out a deep sigh only. I paid my 10 RMB for my dirty (though supposedly new) and half-cracked plunger (on its wooden stick) and walked out of the wet market. And on the way back, I purposely avoided walking on the side of the street where the first supply store is located.

To them, I may be the lunatic.

But then, it's not like the rest of the villagers ever thought the mad man was a sane one.


PS: The funny thing is, I didn't even know that the thing that I was frantically looking for is called the "plunger" as I don't even know how to call it in Chinese/Japanese. If back in Taiwan, I'd just say, "那個通馬桶的東西". Or perhaps the reason why I haven't really learned the proper English/Chinese/Japanese name for this thing is because, so far in my life, I've never had to use one or buy one.

梅ちゃん at 9:36:00 PM



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