Guest Author Joshua Samuel Brown: Please Leave Now

Another short story about life in Taiwan from Lonely Planet Author Joshua Samuel Brown. All smiles on this end, Josh. Thank-you!

Photo by Carrie Marshall
Photo by Carrie Marshall


If you’re a last minute grocery shopper in Taipei City, you may notice in certain supermarkets a song playing over the public address system. The song plays in a loop, from about 30 minutes before closing until whenever the last customer leaves. It is harmonious in every way, a lullaby almost, save for one thing; with every loop, the song gets louder. At 10:30, it’s at a pleasant enough volume. By a quarter-to, the decibels are getting noticeably less comfortable. It’s as if someone is trying to tell you something. Dally too long trying to decide between the silken and firm tofu at 10:58 and you may feel as if you’re being yelled at. In 28 minutes the message has gone from a subtle one to a piercing scream. But the lyrics, whispered or shouted, have not changed. It’s a prerecording of a melodiously sung and heartfelt thanks from the management to the patrons. The lyrics of the song contain a gentle reminder that management and staff have been on their feet all day, and builds up to a rising, thunderous crescendo with the song’s final operatic refrain:

“Wan aaaaaaaaaan! Wan aaaaaaaaaan! (Bai tuo-huo-huo! Ming! Tian! Jian!)

Goodnight! Goodnight! (We beg you!) See you tomorrow!”

This is the Taiwanese shopkeepers’ way of telling you politely to please leave now.

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6 thoughts on “Guest Author Joshua Samuel Brown: Please Leave Now

    MJ Klein

    (May 20, 2009 - 3:33 pm)

    that’s better than the throng of waitresses that scream “welcome” to you in Chinese when you enter certain restaurants.

      Carrie

      (May 21, 2009 - 10:12 am)

      MJ,
      I can do without any of it. I walk by a bank near work every morning and they sing to me every time.

    Stevo

    (May 21, 2009 - 2:19 am)

    Ah, in-store music. I’ve notice many of the big chain supermarkets in China keep the electronics / appliance sections very well air-conditioned. The areas of the store with less expensive merchandise are far warmer. Same sort of thing.

      Carrie

      (May 21, 2009 - 10:13 am)

      Hey Steve,
      What I love are the loudspeakers that are strategically placed throughout the store. Sometimes they’re hidden in the fruit section. The speakers are always set at top volume and play the same annoying message over and over again. I’m always tempted to pick one up and smash it.

    Expatriate Games

    (May 21, 2009 - 3:17 am)

    I am only just now realizing that a LZ department store plays something very similar, if not identical, when they are closing. Next time I’ll listen closely to make sure.

    I remember thinking, “What the heck is that music? “Is that getting louder?” and then, “Wow, somebody should fix that volume control!”

      Carrie

      (May 21, 2009 - 10:14 am)

      Michael,

      What? There’s no such thing as volume control in China and Taiwan. 🙂

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