Translation: "This stuff is for children only." The sign next to the playground reads, just in case there can be any doubt, "Stay off the apparatus if you are over thirty kilograms."
I have repeatedly written about teenagers invading the playgrounds around my home in Wanhua (萬華), Taipei. Most evenings, they show up around eight and take over. They occupy the swings, throw parties in the tree houses and castles, toss garbage all over the place and do whatever else they can to piss the rest of us (meaning tax-paying adults) off. I'm going to meander a bit now to talk about something from the memory chest because I want to color in the dissatisfaction some of us have with what is going on. Then I'll tell you about something I saw tonight.
There are lots of parents in the playgrounds at around eight o'clock playing with their kids. Unfortunately, their young ones can only use the apparatus partially, if at all, because the teenagers already have the beat on them. Parents are also intimidated for some reason and are not ashamed to admit it. Instead of doing anything about this, they play catch on the inline skating rink, look for sticks and rocks to collect or gather up the flowers their children pluck from the bushes near the playgrounds they'd much rather be playing on. There are public signs that tell people the playgrounds are for those thirty kilograms or less -- lots of signs. The signs also read "no smoking" or "no loud and obnoxious behavior." The problem is this: the rules are not enforced.
I have had lots of run-ins with the hooligan wannabes, and they are well documented on this blog. The last time I had more than my fair share of grief was two years ago. When my daughter and I arrived at Youth Park (青年公年), across the street from our home in Wanhua (萬華), we discovered a rusty bicycle plopped in the middle of the playground. "Daddy!" said my daughter, "that is dangerous!" She had a point.
The bike was twisted up, with the front wheel turned underneath the frame. I imagined the rider jumping off it and letting it land where it may. It now lay directly in front of the swings, so I picked it up and set it off to the side of the playground. No sooner had I turned around to locate my daughter than a foul-mouthed male teenager was in my face. He wasn't much of a specimen -- I'm guessing around sixty to sixty-five kilograms of skin and bone -- but he was leader of his gang based on his verve:
"Hey, that's my bike!" he shouted. He decided to add "man" in English.
"Then what are you doing leaving it like this?" I asked. "I guarantee you a kid will get hurt before the evening is out." Instead of apologizing or having a single glance around at how his careless behavior was affecting his community, Joe Cool (I'll refer to him as JC from now on) asked:
"Do you want to fight?"
Did I want to fight? LOL. A fight with him would have lasted until I decided to stop dropping bombs, so I said,
"Uh, yeah. I do." After JC had slunk off, I had this thought: why would you challenge a guy you didn't want to fight?
Anyway, I need to get on to what happened tonight, so I'll wrap this up. About an hour later, when my three-year-old daughter and I were leaving, I heard JC getting tough again for his friends, trying to show he wasn't thick-skinned after all: "Fuck you!" he shouted after us. "Asshole!" Instead of making a left for home, we went right and walked about 20 feet to the local police station to file a complaint. Just before the cops escorted JC out of the park, he explained, "He's a foreigner. I just wanted to talk to him."
Since then, JC and I have kind of patched things up. Whenever we bump into each other, we let bygones be bygones. He's still making the other parents miserable. But when I repeatedly take the piss out of him for having nothing better to do than slide on park slides with his park-based posse or compete to see who can swing the highest, he takes it.
It is worth pointing out that I am getting to know JC fairly well now. He's bright, but his smarts probably won't take him far. Even though he's now seventeen, he still doesn't take school seriously. Obviously, his parents don't have the time of day for him. That's why he can spend evening after evening in the park. Having said that, all I ever wanted to do was go to the park and play with my kid.
Why the f^%k should I have ever had had to put up with this, or even waste a single sweat drop on these wanks?
Basically, JC represents the last run-in I've had with playground invaders. Since then, I have learned to ignore them in the same as I do a fly buzzing around the living room. I'll make a lazy swat if it gets around my ears, but that's about it. These last few weeks my wife and I have been running our daughter to 2-28 Park in the evenings because it is close to her preschool. Yesterday, our daughter wanted to play on the swings, but they were occupied by a couple of lovebird teenagers. My daughter asked them if she could swing. The girl-half simply ignored her while the guy smiled on. Neither budged. So I asked her: "Did you see the sign? It says you have be thirty kilograms or less to use the swings."
"Sorry," she said, getting off.
"If she were sorry," my wife later said, "why did she ignore Ahleena?"
But the story doesn't end there. A while later, we were at the swings again (picture below). Two girls from Taipei's First Girls' School (北一女) -- these are the best students in the country -- and a man were using the east swing when a cop showed up and pointed to the characters painted on the frame (picture above): "These are for children to use." The words had been about a couple of inches from their noses the whole time (don't tell me these kids and the man don't read). The officer took their IDs and booked them. Then he pointed at the Presidential Office and said: "That is where President Ma is. Have some respect." If he had simply pointed at the parents with kids on the playground and said, "These people have children. This apparatus is for them; you're too big for it / it can't take your weight, etc.," I'm sure that would have sufficed but, I admit, lacked the drama and righteousness. Tonight, on the very same swings, a similar incident took place. Only this time, a cop took a picture of the offender with his cell phone as well. Her figure was accentuated by the mini-skirt and low-cut top she had on.
I asked tonight's hero, Officer Lin, about when the cops'd get around to clearing out the riff raff at Wanhua's Youth Park but was informed I shouldn't worry about it so much.
These parallel bars in Taipei's 2-28 Park were broken by people much too heavy to be swinging on them swinging on them.
Translation: "They're broken."
Swing set where the two Taipei's First Girls' School (北一女) and man were booked.