Shrimping

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Tuesday, 3 May, 2016

Taipei, Taiwan

A pretty popular activity in Taiwan is indoor shrimp fishing. The set up is usually a giant room with pools running down the middle. The customer then pulls up a stool at poolside; cracks open a tinny, lights a fag and nestles their rod into the water hoping to catch the prey. When content, they will proceed to cook and eat their gathered collection of shrimp.

Now, I’ve never actually been arsed about fishing before, but it’s always nice to give another country’s hobbies and rituals a go. Well, to an extent. I mean, when I was in Tokyo I wasn’t exactly in a rush to eat tuna eyeballs or watch cartoon porn. Japan is really cool but so unbelievably weird.

We were placed at the beginner’s section of the pool. I’m not entirely sure how the different areas work though, because we were whacked smack bang in the middle of a pool that was rectangular shaped. I concluded that this must just be the area where the fat, stupid shrimp who didn’t pay attention in bait awareness class usually hangout.

Within two minutes, I felt something tugging at my bait. I was a natural! I’m certainly too good to be sitting in the middle of the riff-raff and amateurs, that’s for sure. Based on the expertise I was displaying, I could probably even teach them a thing or two at the professional end of the pool – I’ll ask for a transfer straight after I’m done with this shrimp, I thought.

So, I have a shrimp and I feel proud, but there was the simple issue of it still being in the water hanging to the end of my rod. What the heck was I supposed to do now? Yes, I need to pull it out of the pool, obviously. However, nobody ever really explained to me how. Do I ease it out? Do I yank it out? What?!

Either way, I needed to act quickly before the little guy was away with my bait, or worse still, before it tugged on my hook so vigorously that I end up in the pool. Unlikely, I know, but perhaps the shrimp had some extraordinary mussels supporting its pull. I couldn’t take any chances.

I pulled my rod out of the water with as much speed and strength as I could possibly muster, and to my amazement, the shrimp came out of the water with it. Only, the scene wasn’t quite as smooth as one would hope.

I jerked the rod so hard that the shrimp went flying over our heads; hit the ceiling, the wall and then fell onto a stacked up pile of chairs behind us. What a way to go! A death of that nature will surely make the shrimp news tomorrow.

After showcasing such an unorthodox, yet, far from subtle, fishing technique, I now had the attention of the entire room. Evidently, nobody had ever seen the ‘make your shrimp take a seat’ technique that I had just created and they were curious to see my next trick.

I decided to put my feet up and have a beer for a minute; a great performer should always build the audiences’ suspense.

I passed the rod to Monica, another first timer, as I basked in my glory. Her initial task would be to attach some new bait, you know, after my success story moments earlier. Putting on the bait actually requires more patience than you would imagine. You grab a small piece of prawn, which can easily tear, and then try to shove your hook through it – think needle and thread.

Monica gave all of her focus to that very task, thus, neglecting the fact that the rest of her string was wrapped around the neck of the man to her left – yep, she had somehow managed to place her very long string over the bloke’s head. Do you know the game, ‘hook-a-duck’, that’s usually played at a carnival or fun fair? Well it was similar to that, only with the potential of a lot more backlash.

How that happened, I don’t entirely know, I was too into my beer – but, one thing was certain, if the focus wasn’t on us after my antics, it certainly was now.

The man was aware of the mishap way before either of us were, but amazing said nothing. He was too polite to even say, “Hello. Sorry to bother you, but you appear to have wrapped your fishing rod around my neck as if I am a Scooby Doo villain. Any chance, you know, we can edit that?”

It wasn’t until I noticed, and then told Monica, that the string was moved – this was obviously followed by a lot of awkward apologies and smiles from us. Amazingly, he also seemed very embarrassed and apologetic – why? Did he feel like he should have positioned his neck better? Taiwanese people are just so nice.

Believe it or not, she actually did it again to the same bloke about thirty minutes later! Although, it rested on the back of his shoulders the second time rather than wrapping around him – just going to show that he did indeed learn from his previous errors, choosing to position his head at a much less hazardous angle.

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As it goes, my two minutes of pure beauty was actually a bit of a fluke and the fishing game didn’t quite come as naturally as I had previously hoped. This was partially because I had become so paranoid that I would throw a poor shrimp around the room like a kid with a bouncy ball again. Therefore, I started using a much less forceful, wimpy technique.

This usually allowed the prey to get away with a tasty snack and no comeuppance. Between us we caught a further six, which didn’t compare to the veterans, but that didn’t really matter – we were just there to have fun, besides, seven was more than enough to satisfy our bellies.

I must say, the brute strength technique I initially went with certainly seemed to come with a lot more pros than the wimpy way – not only was the success rate better, but that first shrimp was also much easier to put in my basket being dead.

It turns out that the shrimp remain alive if you don’t ricochet them around the room and they can be pretty wiggly buggers – making it somewhat tough to remove the hook and put them in the net.

I’ve seen many people squeal when they see a spider or cockroach moving around a room, and I’ve never really understood it before; but now I do! Apparently, I, too, shriek a little when a shrimp is dancing about close to my hand. So, spider wimps, I suddenly understand you!

All in all, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon – I caught some shrimp and Monica caught a person.

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