When prejudice is so ordinary, it is unexpected by
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Prompted By Prejudice

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The word “prejudice” derives from the Latin word “Praejudicim” which means “prior judgment”, or a preconceived opinion not based on actual experience. The following is an example of “post-judgment” based on actual experience.

The word “prejudice” derives from the Latin word “Praejudicim” which means “prior judgment”, or a preconceived opinion not based on actual experience. The following is an example of “post-judgment” based on actual experience.

During my professorship, I took students to professional academic conferences throughout the country.  One student, a Vietnamese named Van, accompanied me on many trips—to Utah, Wisconsin, and closer by, to Minneapolis.  Along the way, we spent nights in motels, attended evening opera, and engaged in frequent conversations about Vietnam, and America.  We also, of course, discussed my courses and Chinese.  After graduation, he traveled to Taiwan for future studies and adventure.

In 1988, I traveled to China as an importer of merchandise to America.  With my wife, I had established a trading company called Access Asia. My economic interests conflicted with my human rights politics to the point my American passport was briefly confiscated. So, at the end of the trip, I was extremely happy to leave for Taiwan.  Unfortunately, I had a stopover in Hong Kong required by China’s refusal to allow direct flights. I landed late at night.

Fortunately, Van knew I was coming to stay with him in his apartment for several weeks while I researched my book on Taiwan. With my heavy luggage packed with clothes, business materials, and documents I reached his apartment in a dark Taipei Street. His roommate answered my call to his address by telling me to walk up to the fifth floor without offering to help fetch my load.

He was not a welcoming host.  While waiting for Van to arrive from an errand, I sat in a chair watching the roommate play with some young males who were jumping on his shoulder and lap.

Van arrived, apologizing for his absence.  The roommate retired to his bedroom immediately.  He explained he was unavailable for the night.  But I could sleep in his room.  The bed was in the Japanese style—on the tatami (bamboo floor)—with a futon mattress and blanket.  I hardly had time to unpack before he left.  In the middle of the night, I felt a body next to me.  Van had returned.  He told me that he would have to sleep with me since his friends did not appear.

The next morning, we went to a Taiwanese breakfast restaurant for a leisurely Bubble Taiwan milk and fried rice.  Partway through our nibbling, Van asked if I was gay.  When I answered with a sweet “no”, he was visibly disappointed.  He told me that his roommate rented the apartment–nongays could not stay there.  Suddenly I understood the nature of play by the youngsters on the couch. Later, when I repacked to leave, I noticed several manuals on gay sex.

During my preparations to leave, I used Van’s phone to call a Taiwanese female friend who had also offered me a place to stay.  She was happy to have me stay and gave me her address.  Just as I was about to leave, the phone rang.  Sorrowfully, she told me that her brother would not allow her to stay with a male.  Since a taxi was waiting on the street below, I exited the apartment hefting my bags.

While in the car, I overheard a talk show host interviewing Linda, a foreign female friend well-known for her human rights commitments. While reporting on her activities, she told her audience to visit her office, providing them with the address and phone number.  I directed the taxi driver to the address in downtown Taipei. Hearing my plight, she arranged for me to stay with a female friend who was spending a few weeks in America. Upon her return, staying in her apartment was also culturally incompatible.

Out of sympathy and even a sense of humor, Linda invited me to stay with her.  However, this arrangement was soon sullied by rumors that we were having an affair.  After a week I left Taiwan to return to my wife, where I was safe to sleep, eat, and read.

I had learned a new prejudice that would sensitize me to my travels.  Basically, plan, have a place to stay, and do not publicly stay with either friends or strangers of the same or opposite sex.

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  1. i didn’t know I was reading a comic piece until I got to the final “punchline.” Well hidden! Well done!
    I am still a bit unclear about those young males bouncing around, I thought they were children. Perhaps I’m in need of tutelage in gale male foreplay.
    The most astonishing thing–that you heard a radio interview, literally while you were in a taxi, that gave you an address! Is that the quintessential moment of serendipity that one could ever experience?

  2. Richard, it seems you’ve had a lifetime of travels and adventures.
    Thanx for sharing them with us!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    What an interesting way to be introduced to customs and morés of another culture, Richard – not convenient for you, but a true learning experience.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Wow, quite a lesson in prejudices that I never thought about before.

  5. Dave Ventre says:

    Hotels can be expensive, but at least they are contractually committed to letting you stay!

    • Not necessarily if your child is black or in a mixed race marriage, or gay or transexual. And some make their environment unwelcoming by Trump symbols or personalities, or noisy clientele (e.g. when I stayed in an Austin hotel with a Texas A&M crowd). And particularly financially difficult if you stay too many dayslI like a morning breakfast with friends, open conversation, and seconds.
      Elite hotels such as the New Otani in Japan are fine, but only on my business consultant budgets. And I love speaking Japanese to anyone.

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