Wednesday, June 16, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things…

I've lived in Taiwan quite a while now and there are very few "things" I either terribly miss here from "the motherland" or, if I do miss them, can't procure them with a little effort. One "thing" I miss, though, for example, is being able to eat at Five Guys Burgers. Another thing I miss––as of today––is Lysol! I have a long and very affectionate past with Lysol. In high school it became an essential cleaning cure-all, almost magical in its ease and efficacy, and its utility for me has lasted throughout my bachelorhood. (It helped, of course, that Lysol is lots of fun for a teenage male, nearly every one of which is a pyromaniac at heart.) Whether it's freshening up the bathroom or destinkifying my shoes, or sanitizing a would-be mildewy poncho (or scooter seat compartment, for that matter), Lysol is a true friend in need.

Unfortunately, however, it's not always so easy to come by here. I don't know why. It seems like the kind of produce the Taiwanese wold love: it's simple, effective, and fairly cheap. (It's alcohol perfume! What could be better!) I've lived in five different parts of Taichung city in the past (nearly) seven years, so it's a kind of unconscious ritual for me to discover a nearby shop that sells Lysol. Obviously, I could just go to a giant shopping center like Carrefoure or RT Mart, but I have an aversion to shopping made neurotic when compounded by large crowds of consumerist sheeple. In this respect I think I'm very Taiwanese, at least a certain kind of Taiwanese: I want a small shop that I can enter and leave in a few minutes with the humble items I need. No frills, no snack samples, no wholesale volume: just mom-and-pop dependability. So I set out this afternoon cheerful with the prospect of getting a fresh can of Lysol for cleaning my bamboo sleeping pad.

Things took a dark turn, however, when I found that two of my most dependable daily-needs stores no longer sell Lysol! And, as I've found is rather typical for store clerks here, no one has a clue where I should go to get it. It's as if Lysol has become a res non gratia. I made do and bought a can of shoe deodorizer, a bottle of ethyl alcohol, and a bottle of mildew remover, which I intend to mix into a quasi-Lysol solution for my domestic cleaning needs. But it's just not the same. Lysol, O Lysol, whither are thou in mine hour of need?

This really baffles me. Why is something so common in the USA, and something which I find so brilliantly useful, so unpopular in Taiwan that it's being officially removed from the inventory of stores which, by all accounts, should at least sell products similar to it? I don't know of any Taiwanese product competing for the "alcohol-based sanitizer spray" slot in the local economy, so what is it about Lysol and Lysolesque goods that, apparently, strike the Taiwanese as so useless?

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