Last week was my grand uncle’s 85th birthday celebration, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would, partly because I got to see one of my favorite cousins again, but also partly because I met someone who was really excited to be talking to a writer. This started when I struck up a conversation with the girl next to me, who turned out to be the wife of a college friend (small world!). Her mother, who was accompanying her, joined in the conversation. When she found out I was a writer, she was all, “Oh, I admire writers! Tell me about how you write!” and stuff.
The reaction I’m used to getting from older Chinese people (especially if I’m related to them) is “Oh, so you’re a writer? How do you make money?” Then they’ll proceed to chat up my sister, who is a doctor, because, well, doctors are more useful (how many lives have I saved lately?) and because doctors have the potential to make pots of money.
Meeting an older Chinese person who will ignore the doctor in favor of the writer is nothing short of a miracle. I think God sat her and her daughter beside me to make a point. Two points. One is it always pays to make friends (the two were sort of being ignored before we got to the table) because you never know what surprises that might bring, and two, writing is a good thing.
Of course, Cloud Nine couldn’t last forever. As soon as we exited the hotel, we met a friend of my mom’s who asked her what her children did. “My eldest is a writer,” my mother said. Her friend gave me a blank look. “My other daughter is a doctor,” she continues. “Oh, how wonderful!” her friend says, and proceeds to praise my sister to high heaven. Ah, well. Back to earth.
Speaking of doctors, my sister was telling me about how people’s IQ’s go down once they realize that they’re in front of a doctor. Just a few days ago, she had a patient who rushed her child to the hospital. This very scared mother asked my sister, “Doc, bakit dumudugo labi ng anak ko? Kinakagat niya.” (Doc, why is my child’s lips bleeding? She’s biting it.) My sister wanted to scream “DUH!” Another incident was when a mother asked her, “Doc, bakit madilaw ihi ng anak ko?” (Doc, why is my kid’s pee yellow?). I’m so glad I’m not a doctor.