Monday, April 23, 2007

The Special People's Club

The title has a double meaning, actually. I was trying to write a lengthy, serious post about sex-workers in Japan, but my words are tripping over themselves again, and my sentences are awkward and unwieldy. This has been a consistent problem since I started actually trying hard to be a good writer at some point during college. I can’t write, my brain isn’t functioning, and I kept trying to say things to Colin not long ago, but I was replacing key content words with nonsense. For example, “Did you cook it with movie?” or, “When is your notebook tonight?” I must have damaged my Brocha’s area somehow. I feel like a completely ineffectual human being right now.

The other meaning refers to who I am in this country regardless of my actual mental state. Once, ages ago, Colin and I were wandering the streets of Central Kashima looking for somewhere to eat, finding most places either closed because of a national holiday, or somewhat sketchy-looking. After bickering for a while, we finally settled on a place that was both open and looked promising in terms of ambience and potential deliciousness. A woman seated us at the bar and handed us a menu. As we opened it, we saw that it was written almost entirely in kanji (non-phonetic Chinese characters), which meant that we couldn’t read it. We picked up meanings here and there (this means fish, this means fried), but overall we couldn’t understand enough to order anything. After a few minutes, the waitress came over and asked if everything was okay.
“[We haven’t decided yet],” Colin said.
I butted it, “[We can’t really understand the menu].”
“[Ah, I see],” The waitress said, looking very concerned.
“[Do you have anything like katsudon, or curry, or champon?]” Colin tried.
The waitress latched onto katsudon, which is pork cutlet over rice, pretty much standard bar food. “[Katsudon? Hmmm…we don’t have any katsudon but, wait a moment, please!]”

Then she scurried off to the backroom where we saw her leafing through a phone book and making calls. We immediately thought, oh god, what have we gotten ourselves into? After a few minutes she came back out to tell us that the restaurant a little ways down the street has katsudon, and the woman there is waiting for us. She led us outside and pointed us to the left where we saw another woman waving at us a few doors down. Our initial reaction to this was that Japanese people are, overall, really excessively nice. After a while, I thought about the situation more, and came to a different conclusion. The reason the menu was written mostly in kanji is that the restaurant served almost exclusively fish, plus it was a medium-higher end seafood restaurant. We didn’t know these things when we walked in. We didn’t know these things when we requested standard bar food. Flip the situation to apply it to America. If you worked in a somewhat upscale seafood restaurant, and two mentally challenged people stomp in making a scene and demanding a hamburger, you might quietly make a few calls. You might even lead them to another restaurant. This is basically us. We are the equivalent to being mentally challenged, and we make a scene regardless of how much noise we make or how many things we knock over.

We’ve come a long way since asking for katsudon at medium-high end restaurants. But even as I become savvier, I’m still doomed to being culturally retarded.