I stopped at the supermarket on the way home last night to get cream cheese for my breakfast bagel.
Whenever I’m in a supermarket or convenience store, I’m going to get snacks. Last night it was a packaged cheese assortment and box of sesame crackers, among other things.
Got home and Nana informed me there was, in fact, a whole unopened package of cream cheese in the fridge.
Had dinner, etc.
After Nana went to bed, I opened up the cheese assortment. Ate the whole thing, as well as the entire box of crackers. Libations to match.
Woke up at 4 a.m. in my chair, moved to the bed. Got up on the very last snooze alarm and raced to get ready to work. Did get a bagel and coffee in.
Stomach is lousy as a result of the cheese assortment.
- Lesson learned:
- Make sure we have enough ice.
For more than two decades I’ve been faced on a daily basis with the assumption that a visibly foreign person can’t understand Japanese. That’s only begun to change in the past handful of years, and now — in Tokyo at least — quite frequently people don’t seem surprised that I can understand them and speak with them. (I still get that “日本語上手ですね” reaction which shows they’re a bit surprised. And yes, I always answer, “まだまだ。。。”)
Just in the past two days, I’ve had an amusing variety of reactions. When I was cycling on Saturday I stopped at a convenience store for some carbo loading. I always make sure to respond to the cashier’s greeting so they know I speak Japanese. Sometimes this saves the time taken up by clerks trying to remember whatever they’re supposed to say in English (and is a lot less frustrating to me).
In this case, the clerk spoke to me in Japanese but combined that with large flourishes and gestures. “Would you like me to heat this up for you?” Gesturing to the cheeseburger and to the microwave. She kept it up for the whole transaction. “Do you want that in separate bags?” Lady, I get it already. I was nearly laughing by the time I left the store. (She really wasn’t sure when I told her I didn’t want to try for the lottery prize, though. It’s usually more trouble than it’s worth: a can of milk tea or a cup of yogurt if I win.)
The second instance came on Sunday, when a traffic cop wasn’t happy with the way I crossed an intersection on my bike via the crosswalk. I was wearing a UV-cut mask and bandana, so she may not have known I was a gaijin when she called me out. But as soon as she spoke to me I took the mask off (in part hoping to put her off). But she just kept speaking to me in Japanese (without broad hand gestures) as if taking it for granted I could understand her. While I was a bit annoyed with her for giving me a lecture (there really was no safety issue with what I’d done), I found it refreshing that she assumed I could understand her (which I could). I thanked her for pointing out the error of my ways, and again when she told me to be careful.
The final instance was a couple of hours later, while I was enjoying a lunch of Nana’s world-famous onigiri while sitting on a park bench in Yokohama. An older woman (checks mirror: yes, she was older) asked if I minded if she sat on the same bench. “Please, go ahead.” I got the standard reaction of surprise I speak Japanese, followed by, “I guess you’ve been here a long time.” She stayed and chatted with me for about five minutes. But if my answers diverged in substance from her questions, she didn’t seem to follow me. For example:
- I guess you’ve been here for a long time.
- Guy Jean:
- Yes, in fact I’ve been here since the start of the Heisei era.
- You know, Heisei … ?
- Yes, I’ve been here for a long time.
- I guessed it.
- You like onigiri, huh?
- Yes. They’re really good when I’m biking. Lots of energy. My partner made these fresh for me this morning.
- Yes, I love onigiri!
- I bet your wife’s Japanese, right? I knew it when I saw those onigiri!
Dear reader, I had specifically said 「パートナー」(partner) …