Feel-good moments of the day

Yesterday, I went to the bedding store on the 3rd floor of Sunrise (the tallest building in Ikeda, at 5 stories tall plus a basement–the one with CaDen/Matsuya Denki in the basement, Daily Mart on the ground floor, and the Daiso ¥100 store on the 4th floor) and bought a new futon set so that whichever family member is sleeping in my apartment (as opposed to sleeping in Hannah’s apartment downstairs) has something to sleep on next week, and someone from the store very kindly gave me a ride to my apartment and carried the futons up the stairs for me. Today, I went back to the same store in search of thick bedsheets, because the futons were pretty big (actually, they’re big enough that I don’t think I can fit both sets into my oshiire, much less my kotatsubuton…this should be interesting when the weather gets warm again!).

One of the two saleswomen who waited on me yesterday found me today, and we chatted in a friendly way and joked about my (lack of) space situation as she showed me the comforters. Because there were a ton of them, and I’d nearly dozed off a couple of times while at the office (seriously, according to the thermometer, they’d kept it at 26 degrees Celsius inside (79 degrees Fahrenheit), while it was -1 outside (30 degrees Fahrenheit)), I was in a bit of a daze and wasn’t paying attention to my diction when I tried to tell the saleswoman that it was going to take me some time to decide. I ended up saying, “I’ll stay here for a while and decide, and then I’ll go over there–” *pointing at the area near the counter* “–and we’ll talk.”

She smiled and went to go straighten out some of the sheets on the end of the row instead, and it hit me that I had just said something pretty rude–the equivalent of, “Okay, so you go wait over there, and I’ll summon you when I’m ready.” So I apologized for being rude–she seemed surprised at my apology, but when I explained and said that she must be busy and that I didn’t want to take up so much of her time, she laughed, squeezed my arm endearingly, and then said (in Japanese), “My English isn’t so great, but…” (and then in hesitant English) “Please call me if you need anything.”

When I went to make my purchases, the gentleman who’d driven me to my apartment yesterday was behind the counter, and a minute later she came over as well. He ended up driving me to my apartment again, and on our way out of the store, she grabbed my arm again and invited me to please come back any time I wanted so she had a chance to practice her English with me. I realized that I forgot to get a spare set of sheets for my own set of futons, and the store’s running a promotion where any purchases made through today earn us a chance to win something free tomorrow (or today, rather, now that it’s Friday) from an array of merchandise up on the 5th floor–I’ll be sure to drop by again.

In the evening, I got an IM from Louise asking me if I’d checked out the news. Her town, Inawashiro, had been hit by a blizzard, and the buses and trains weren’t running. Considering that the buses and trains stopped here for just a couple of inches of snow, and considering that they’ve regularly had a couple of feet of snow up there, I don’t want to know exactly what “blizzard” means. Anyway, she was really worried because she was going to catch a train into Koriyama, the biggest city in her precture and a city which wasn’t really affected by the blizzard (huh, I somehow typed “hurricane” without realizing it), and she had to catch a shinkansen from Koriyama to Tokyo to catch her plane back to the US for the holidays. She said that a friend could maybe give her a ride, but she really didn’t know for sure, and taxis were so expensive…but in the end, she opted for a taxi.

And that’s where I came in. She’s learned a little bit of Japanese since coming here, but not nearly enough to converse, so she asked me if I could call her local taxi company and have them send a taxi to her place. I was more than happy to do so. I ended up calling twice–once I said that I was a friend of the Inawashiro English teacher, he immediately asked me if her name was Louise and her address was ___; his immediacy caught me off-guard (he even knew what time her train from Koriyama was, when I hadn’t even explicitly mentioned that she was catching another train from there–just that she wanted to be there by such-and-such time).

It took me a couple of minutes to make him realize that I wanted him to dispatch a taxi for 7:15, and not 7:45. During the first phone call, he kept saying, “Shichiji yonjuugofun” (shichi = 7, ji = hour, yonjuu = 40 (yon = 4, juu = 10), go = 5, fun = minute), and I kept saying, “No, juugofun,” only to have him come back with, “yonjuugofun,” in such a way that I wondered if he’d misheard me. It turned out, though, that he thought I’d misheard him; I finally had to say, “No, she wants her taxi a half-hour before that,” before he got it. He suggested that she walk down to the train station and grab one of the taxis in front, but she couldn’t with all her luggage, and she didn’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out how to explain to the driver that she wanted to stop by her apartment before heading to Koriyama, so I called the taxi company back and actually had one sent over to her place, and we argued over the time again, him insisting that 7:45 would be fine and 7:15 would put her there almost an hour early.

Maybe it’s an American mentality versus a Japanese one–we’re so used to arriving at airports 2 hours in advance for domestic flights and 3 hours in advance for international, while in Japan you only have to be at your gate 30 minutes before domestic departures and 1 hour before international ones. We like to leave plenty of time and don’t mind getting there early with time to spare, and they like to be more precise.

At any rate, though, she has a way to catch her shinkansen. She’s been looking forward to this trip for such a long time, and I do envy her because she’ll most likely be running into a lot of our friends from Georgia Tech who are also home for the holidays (I told her to let me know if they get together, because I definitely want to call and say hi to everyone). I almost wish I’d gone back to Atlanta instead of my family coming here, but while they’re here we’ll be exploring new places without depleting all of my vacation days. But at least I did my part to help her out–and it’s kind of cool that I was able to do it from something like 450 miles away.

When talking to my dad earlier, the subject of money came up, and I told him that people usually carry 3 or 4 man around with them, 1 man being 10,000 yen or roughly $90 USD. I forgot that Dad didn’t know that, so I told him, “No, I don’t drag around 3 or 4 guys with me everywhere,” to which he responded, “Why not?”

I bought a Christmas tree and ornaments and some lights today at the ¥100 store, finally; it’s hard to believe Christmas is just 2 days away! Now I have a tree on which to hang the adorable Santa ornaments that the people at the Hashikura Special Needs School made for us when we went caroling, as well as the three bell ornaments I bought from India.

My family and I will be together in Osaka in 2 days. According to Dad, I don’t think they’ve started packing yet. Better hurry!

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