I’ve always been unsure about the idea of visiting United States. Rightfully so, for my adrenaline was boosted to 200% during my first night in New York City. The soundtrack of this trip went from “Empire State Of Mind," by Alicia Keys, to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
I thought I could handle it, but, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There are many things in life, you never thought you could achieve, however, you can. You just need a bit more courage to try.
There are also things you thought you can handle, but actually not. When that happens, you really need to know yourself and be honest with yourself more.
For instance, a cheap hotel.
I walk up the stairs with my 28 kg (61.6 lbs) luggage. Step by step, I’m dragging my feet. What awaits me is a completely creepy dark scene.
I arrive at the top of the staircase, and all I see is a deep darkness consisting of different shades of black: night dark, pitch-black, the darkness that confuses you if your eyes are open or not.
“Turn left when you reach second floor, your room is there," is the text from the airbnb host that just came to my mind. I prepare myself with courage, nervously count to 5 in my head. (People in my country usually count to 3 just like you do, but here 3 second isn’t enough so I have to count to 5.) Then in dramatic slow-motion, I turn my head towards the left rear side. I couldn’t see anything in the black, even though there was a window on that side of the wall, because there were no lights from the streets to come into the room.
I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face and this raised hairs on the back of my neck. I want to light up the darkness with the flash light from my phone. But before I do, I take a deep breath, and push my suitcase slightly away in case I would ever need to run away from any danger.
Holding my nerve carefully, I slowly point the light from my phone towards the left-rear of the room. I see a blurry line of a door frame. And then, reluctantly , I pull my suitcase back and slide it to the front of my feet, as if it were a shield to protect me while walking toward the door.
" That should be my room." I thought. “Finally, everything will be OK."
The light keeps projecting from my cellphone, however, it vanishes in that deep, deep blackness. I stand by the door, holding my breath, intimidatingly pointing the light into the room, " What!? There are 2 men standing in the dark!"
" That should be my room." I thought. “Finally, everything will be OK."
The light keeps projecting from my cellphone, however, it vanishes in that deep, deep blackness. I stand by the door, holding my breath, intimidatingly pointing the light into the room, " What!? There are 2 men standing in the dark!" I gasped. It sends shivers down my spine. At this moment, I truly believe that the handle of the suitcase is what keeps me from falling.
" But wait, how come Americans are so short? " It dawns on me after 0.1 second that those were the plaster bust statues for sketching. " Fxxk, fxxk, fxxk, I can’t do this anymore… These? Here, and now? I can’t feel any romantic sense of the era of Renaissance" Only the feeling of someone compressing my heart till it’s about to explode.
心中默念 Seneca (斯多葛主義派哲學家) 的哲語：「大多數的時候，事情真的不像你想的這麼糟。」不要再自己嚇自己了，但我的手電筒還是哪裡都不敢照。緩步移進房間，順著牆面摸到開關，嗡嗡閃了兩下，燈亮了，呃，是只有20佤嗎？此時此刻，心好累，已經連髒話都罵不出來了。
然後，正當以為已經可仰天長笑，已無法再更糟糕時，我發現這房間有四道牆 (正常標配)、兩個門 (咦?)，一個是我剛剛走進來、已經鎖好的很薄的門，另一個門在房間深處、書桌的左方，只有門框… 干… 它連接到隔壁的小工作室，門框裡，放了一個胸部高度的長書架，上面放滿了書和其他舊物，完美卡住，我過不去，也移不開。
" We suffer more often in imagination than in reality. " Repeatedly, I say this quote from Seneca (a Stoic philosopher) to myself . “Stop scaring yourself," I try to convince myself. Still, I don’t dare to point the light toward anywhere else. With heavy steps, along the wall I find the light switch. “Zzeee," the light flashes before it is dim. " Mmm… That’s dark! Dimming?" Now I have reached the limit, it is too much that I even give up cursing.
In the very dim yellow lighting, I browse through the entire room. I think of the pictures on the Airbnb website: The book wall as in the picture? Yes. Oil paintings? Yes. Plaster bust statues? Yes. But, there are 2. And an antique desk with old books piled.
I walk to the desk and examine it. There are many old photos of a family. A little boy with sorrow in a photo catches my attention. I pick it up and try to see the boy’s face more carefully. This picture is so old that it’s all covered with dust and with yellowing edges. “Is he still alive? Oh my god. People in the photo, please don’t move. We are not playing Harry Potter." So dramatic? I know. With a wry smile and all the crazy thoughts, I scared the hell out of myself.
" It’s not that terrible. Don’t scare yourself." I repeat this again and again and walk to the door and lock it. This action bought me a few seconds of calmness. But, this is a very thin door.
This should be a very artistic Airbnb stay, but now I keep wondering, “Why is it so creepy?"
An entire wall of books? Creepy is the only word to describe it in that dim light. Renaissance plaster bust statues for sketching? Please don’t ever talk to me, statues. 2 oil paintings of men’s portraits with Rembrandt’s dark, heavy color tone? Gosh, those 4 sharp eyes. Please don’t stare at me.
Everything in this room just couldn’t feel more wrong, especially with this dark dim lighting.
And just when I think I can laugh at the situation because things couldn’t get worse, I look around the room, “At least it has 4 walls… and 2 doors. Wait, what?!" One was the door I came in through, which had already been locked properly even though it was a very thin door. This other one is located deep in the room, to the left of the dusty desk. To make things worse, it’s only a door frame, not an actual door!
" Fxxk, there is a HOLE in my room!" I wondered, “Is it an outlet, or an inlet?!" It linked to a small studio room. No door in the door frame, just a chest-high shelf filled with books and old stuff. The shelf is wedged in there preventing me from passing through. I can’t even move it away.
A second door but only the door frame. If there is someone in the studio, (s)he can’t get into my room, but (s)he can easily peek in and see everything here, desk, sofa, my bed, and me.
如果有人想從一牆之隔的工作室進來，他走不過來。但他只要身高超過 140 cm，他的頭就可以探進來，看到我房間裡面的一切，包含我與我的床在內。
If there is someone in that studio, (s)he can’t get into my room, but (s)he can easily peek in and see everything here: desk, sofa, and my bed. Yes. A panoramic view of my room. Me and my bed are included as well.
" Why don’t you lock the door of the studio room, the third door here, the one facing the stairs? Problem solved."
" Mmm, yes. But that third door in the studio room has also no door in the frame." I laughed, it’s like the last straw to breaks my sanity. This pushes me to the edge so much that my second personality is born to converse with myself.
OK, now I can laugh insanely because it just can’t be worse.
After I laughed at myself, I dropped my body into the bed as if all my energy has been sucked out. I stare at that dimming light bulb and at the wall of books standing at my right side, thinking " I am extremely exhausted. You know? " ‘Yes, I believe so. It has been almost 24 hours since the last time I lay in bed, right? ‘ It was supposed to be a smart move to pick the non-direct flight for a short stopover in Norway and to see Oslo city, but now I am accused of doing so by my second personality. ‘ Why didn’t you take the direct flight? ‘
“This is 10 times more terrifying than the night trying space cake in Amsterdam! “
‘ Why did you even decide to come to America? ‘ My second personality keeps replaying the memories of my european friends asking me what I want to see in America? Trump?
" It’s already 11 p.m. How about resting for few hours and leave when the sun is out? Then rebook a hotel." For the sake of money, I am trying to convince myself to stay. Close my eyes and fall asleep even though I don’t intend to do so. I’ll pretend I didn’t notice there are 3 door frames but only 1 of them has a door.
" Remember I saw a N.Y.P.D patrol car parking down the street. It should be Ok to stay here for an 8-hour sleep." Just before my second personality was about to give in, “A-choo, -choo, aaaa-chooooo!" I start to sneeze like there is no tomorrow. My nose is very sensitive to dusts and now it refuses to stay. Is it because of the bed? The bookshelf right next to me? Those piles of old books or the statues? It doesn’t matter anymore. At this point, the exposed skin on my arms start to itch.
Being 24-hour awake without showering, the walking dead on the street, Brooklyn person fatally shot at campus, no doors, darkness, horrible lighting, shivers from my neck down to the spine, after all these I was still able to convince myself to stay. But, a dusty room causes me to sneeze and itch? No, no, no. I want to leave now.
Note that, must know who I am.
Sometimes it’s ok to compromise, but if it’s too much compromising I end up spending way more energy and costs to get what I really wish for.
午夜十二點，在陰暗的房間掙扎了一個半小時後，我還是刷了卡，再叫了一台 uber，前往尊貴的曼哈頓島上的四星飯店 (便宜的都被訂光了，或者看起來比這裡更可怕。)
Now it’s 11:30 p.m. I have to pay more than $135USD for a 12-hour stay in Manhattan island, according to my search result. This price is AFTER the 40%-off midnight discount. " What? So expensive!" My heart sinks while my eyebrows raise. I just came from NORWAY! Also Sweden and Netherlands were my visits in the past weeks. These places are ranked top expensive countries. But even so, I am still very surprised by the cost of hotel in Manhattan.
12:00 a.m. Midnight it is. Struggling for 1.5 hours, I still booked a room in Manhattan and a ride via uber. I am ready to your highness, Central Manhattan, and the 4-star hotel. ( The rest of the choices are either more unaffordable, or look more creepy than where I am.)
" What should I do with this Airbnb room?"
‘ Wait till the day comes and come back. It should look much better when it’s bright.’ My second personality is trying to comfort me. But the fact is I’m never coming back.
" Such a waste of money! I paid already for 4 nights here!" I mumbled, complaining to my second personality.
‘ Next time you have to figure out the local costs of living. It’s much more efficient to do so beforehand, in order to avoid spending more time, energy and costs in foreign countries. And note that, you have to know who you are. What can or cannot be compromised.’
‘Sometimes it’s ok to compromise, but if it’s too much compromising, I end up spending way more energy and costs to get what I really wish for.’ My second personality forces me to write these into my brain. I must not make the same mistake again.
What a nigh full of drama!
5 minutes later my Uber has arrives. Guess what his name is? His name is also Anthony, same as the first driver who drove me from JFK airport and took a lot of money from me. But thankfully, this Anthony is a nice guy, warm, smily, funny. " Do you like New york so far?" he asks. With a bitter smile, I tell him everything happened tonight: The other Anthony – the villain, paying double for my first ride, the walking dead, the creepy dark room, and the 2 scary plaster men statues. Riding through the late night, giggling and chatting back and forth, I turn the page of the ugly beginning to my journey, and start to write the first beautiful page of my trip in USA.
The breathtaking night view of Manhattan finally reveals herself to me. It’s so stunning and beautiful that it brings the theme song, “Empire State Of Mind," back on track.
The night after, re-examine Taiwanese social values.
I wake up the next morning in a nice, comfortable suite (luckily I got upgraded.) I tried to recall what happened last night.
I am so mad at myself. Why did I accept the deal with the fake uber driver at the airport? I felt tricked when he said that price but I didn’t fight for myself. Neither did I try to bargain because I felt it might be impolite to do so. (What?) Ridiculously, I even said yes when he wanted to take selfies with me! What on earth has happened to me? I was taught to not to fight with others, but why? Who instilled this doctrine to me and to the rest of society? “Harmony is precious." Is it from Confucius? (Yes.)
Too tired to think properly? Yes.
Too happy and distracted by his compliments? Yes.
Did not even tried to fight for about the doubled price? Yes.
Too afraid of being dumped on the highway due to the horrible imagination about this country? Yes.
But, at the end of the day it is I that needs to fight for myself when my heart tells me something is wrong. I have to be brave and be not afraid to fight. (Remember to make sure that it will not get me killed, of course.)
( 碰到 uber 暖大叔、看到鑲金的曼哈頓夜景、被飯店升級到厲害的套房之後）
Last but not least, here is the video of me, happy smiling with angel’s wings.
(After meeting the warm uber driver, seeing the stunning night view of Manhattan, and being upgraded by the hotel.)