Friday, May 20, 2005

Japanese Old Ladies

Japanese old ladies are the bane of my life.

There, I've said it. I've tried so hard to be pleasant and turn the other cheek when I'm run into, barged aside, stared and grumbled at, whispered about and needlessly harrassed with bicycle bells, but no more! This is the post where I get it all off my chest...

(Aspiring Japanese Old Ladies: you will need a generic old ladies hat, white gloves and an umbrella to protect you from the evil, evil sun, and if possible a grown up subservient son to drag around and point out useless stuff to)

As a high school teacher, I know stress... walking into a room and trying to teach 35 tired, hormone-fuelled kids who just want to sleep is never easy. Nor is having to follow the rigmarole of school beauraucracy when there is a problem, when a far simpler and quicker solution seems obvious. Getting up at 5.45am every morning and riding a packed commuter train is also a bit of a downer. Yet by far the most stressful part of my day is after work, when I stop at the fruit shop on my way to my apartment. For this particular fruit shop is arguably the cheapest one in the area, and therefore it's a magnet for...


How to be a Japanese Old Lady Shopping for Food:

Stand hunched over a box of fruit. Poke at the produce. Pick some of them up. Squeeze them. Weigh them. Hold them up to the light. Grumble and point. Put them back and repeat for 10 minutes. Grumble if anyone comes near you with the intention of taking some of the fruit.

Another important thing to remember is to walk as slowly as possible in the shop, and pay absolutely no attention to the people around you who are sidestepping frantically as you randomly swing your basket around.

Once you have your fruit, then it's time to head to the counter, where you then become one of the...


How to be a Japanese Old Lady in a Shop Queue

Push in front of anyone in front of you, especially if they are foreigners. If you can't push in, stand as close as possible to whoever is in front of you and nudge them in the back. Ideally you should put your goods on the counter as soon as possible, and whilst the person in front is paying, hold your money out and sigh impatiently. Be aware that those in front of you, when faced with such behaviour, may feel inclined to take as much time as possible, and imitate your habit of paying very slowly with a mixture of cash and coins (which will be given to the shop clerk individually), scrutinize the receipt and and stare at the change in the palm of their hand.

Of course, this money doesn't grow on trees, so you will no doubt have previously gone to the ATM and been one of the...


How to be a Japanese Old Lady at the ATM

First push in at the front of the queue. Now run to the ATM as if it is going to run away if you don't and start ferreting through your handbag. Take out the first of your bank books and put it in the slot. Now ferret for the matching card, and take long enough so that the book is ejected and you have to start again. When you have both in the machine, stare at the screen and stab at the buttons randomly, causing both book and card to be ejected. Now repeat the above for your remaining books and cards, being sure to take as long as you can to really piss off the tall, busy foreigner standing behind you.

Once you're done, turn around and barge past the other people as if they are the ones who have caused the hold up, and head to the train station, for you are about to become one of the...


How to be a Japanese Old Lady that uses the train

Walk up the stairs nimbly but diagonally, with no regard for people behind you. Make a beeline for the ticket machines and once again be sure to push in front of those who were there first. Take an age finding coins in your bag, and stare and point at the destination map. Make such a hash of everything that an official pops his head out of the hatch in front of you and shows you how to put money in a slot. Now apologise profusely to him, but not to the crowd of people behind you who have now missed their train.
Now head for the ticket gate, and when you get there, stop.

And do nothing.

Now look at your ticket. Look at the gate, and the slot where your ticket goes. Pay no attention to the same crowd of people behind you. After a while, another official will appear and put the ticket in the slot for you. Once again, apologise profusely to him and pretend that the irate mob behind you aren't there.

Once on the platform, pay no regard to the people that have been queueing for some time. Sit on a plastic bench, and when the train starts to arrive, stand up and push past everyone and barge your way onto the train. If you sit down and notice that you are sitting anywhere near a foreigner, stare, grumble and go and find another seat, preferably with another old lady so you can spend the whole journey talking about absolutely nothing in loud, repetitive voices. At every station stop, point and stare and query whether this is your stop. When your stop comes, stand up and push past everyone as the door opens. For extra kudos, get to the top of the stairs and suddenly stop and begin ridiculous stretches and bends, causing havoc behind you. Now do your diagonal thing down the stairs and play out the little ticket gate farce once more.

Holding flowers horizontally whilst walking down a busy street is another trademark, as is the continual mentioning that the weather is hot or cold. I must confess to knowing a few really nice Japanese Old Ladies, but there seems to be a hard-core that seem bent on making my life an absolute fucking misery... oh well, my bath is ready. Peace everyone...


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