I haven’t written about how Japan is weird for a while. My experience last week was one of the better ones.
I’d just finished doing my taxes, an ordeal that no human should be subjected to in any country in any language. I’d expected to be done around mid-morning. But the line– which curved and twisted like a demented Disney ride– was moving at the pace of undead livestock. It took me till just after 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
When I was finally done, I went to Starbucks to sit with a warm cuppa and unwind.
There’s this one place that’s on the way to work. My old workplace, actually. My new one is much further away. I used to go there once a week on the way to work, just to sit and read for 30 minutes before hitting the heavy bag of life. They know me. They remember my order. They’re just good people. I got my drink and sat down in one of the arm chairs. Don’t ask me why, but all the hard chairs were full, and 3 of the 6 armchairs were empty (this is weird in itself, but not what I’m writing about).
I sat down in my comfy chair and promptly fell right asleep .
I was really tired.
I only slept for 15 minutes, call it a power nap. I was out like a light, but when I woke up I was refreshed and happy. I read a couple of Kurt Vonnegut short stories in Welcome to the Monkeyhouse (completely unrelated to this story, I am NOT making any parallels, remember this is a good comparison). I drank my English Breakfast tea (not my usual), and got up to go about an hour after arriving.
Nothing unusual here, right? Until 30 minutes later when I got home. As I was putting away my keys and such, I reached into my back pocket to get my wallet when I noticed that my wallet was in fact, missing. “Oh $6!#” I said, mentally retraced my steps and realized that it was 99% likely that I left it at Starbucks on route 14.
I ran downstairs, got the car from the garage, sped over (not really speeding, I was driving briskly), and ran into the Starbucks to find the baristas behind the counter making little square shapes with their hands and saying saifu? Saifu, in case you were wondering, is the word for wallet in Japanese. They brought it out and handed it to me saying they were so happy that I could be reunited with my little flap of leather.
Which reminds me of an interesting story about Chinese. The word for wallet in Chinese is pibao. It means leather (or skin) wrap. The word for foreskin is baopi, or the same two characters, only reversed. Once, in 1990, when I was living in Taiwan, I made the mistake of going to a store and trying to buy a foreskin. They were very nice to me while they not so much chuckled as guffawed at my not-so-insignificant gaff.
So, meanwhile back in Japan, my little flap of leather in hand (so to speak), I said thank you and left. I didn’t even check the contents. And this is the weird part. In any other part of the world, I would have checked the contents immediately. In Japan, however, I didn’t even think about it. I had all my IDs, a bank card, credit card, Costco card (me precious), and about two hundred dollars.
Yes, two hundred dollars.
I finally checked it when I got home. And it was all still there, all two hundred. Nobody had touched it. They probably didn’t even look inside.
Now this is both weird and wonderful. People don’t steal your stuff, even when you leave your little skin flap in the comfy chair.