Thursday, December 13, 2018

Early 1980s Japan: In the Days When I was Invisible...

Years ago (like 30 ~  35 years ago) there were VERY few foreigners in Japan.... And the few that were here, couldn't speak Japanese all that well. Oh sure, there were a few who could speak Japanese, but they were on TV!

Back in those days, I'd take my wife or girlfriend to restaurants. Being a pig-headed foreigner I had taken it upon myself to teach the Japanese nation that some of us foreigners could speak Japanese! There were a few other foreigners back in the eighties who had the same mission...

Two thumbs up!...

I'd order in Japanese. Something simple like, "I'll have two beers please!" and the waitresses wouldn't look at me. REALLY. It used to drive me crazy. I'd say it very clearly and slowly so they could understand, but, they'd give me a sideways glance, I'd say, "Two beers, please!" and the waitress would slowly turn her head to my wife or girlfriend (it's complicated, OK?) as if to say, "What did he say?"

You, see, there weren't any foreigners here. And if there were, they didn't speak any Japanese. So the waiters and waitresses didn't know what to do! They had never seen a foreigner in "real life" so they didn't expect that you could speak even basic  Japanese. Really. 

I'd order and they would look startled at me and then look at my wife or girlfriend like, "What the heck did he say? I don't speak English!" This would make me mad. 

I mean, I even asked my partner if my pronunciation was good and they'd tell me it was fine! 

I insisted that when we went to restaurants, that my partner say nothing. Or say, "What are you looking at me for? He's the one talking to you?" 

But I digress... I'd say something like, "Wait! Stop! Can you see me? Can you see me? Am I here?...." My arms flailing away at my face and body, touching myself to make sure I was actually "there."

Then my girlfriend would say something like, "Yes, I can see you and hear you" (I trained them well).

Then I'd act and say something like "What a relief! I thought I was invisible again!" Then I'd order again..... 

The waitresses usually got used to it after 2 or 3 times. 

Anyway, that's the way it used to be back in the day! I'll bet it's still that way in the countryside!

...So I can gouge out my freaking eyes!


The jokes on me, though... You see, The Japanese don't throw fits in public, so when I'd be yelling, "Can you see me? Can you see me?" the waitresses would probably have been be thinking, "Wow! There was a foreigner today who was asking me if I could see them! It was so weird!" 

Really. True story. Happened MANY MANY times. 

Thanks to Stephen David Brooks.

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