Friday, January 01, 2010

Weirded out

Perhaps it's because my mind has not returned from days of hiking and onsen-ing in the mountains---and does not want to do so---or perhaps it's a hint of the year to come, but the first morning of the new decade was just a bit befuddling.

I was out "early" walking around the Okusawa and Ookayama areas of Tokyo. Early in Tokyo on a holiday means before 11AM, for very few folks leave home before 11 if they ain't at work. I use this to advantage as one can walk down a sidewalk---or street---without the achi-kochi, "You first, no you, no you, ok, let's both go and run into each other; "May I have some sidewalk too, please?"; "Thanks for stopping and apologizing after you hit me at 16 mph with your out-of-control mama-chari while you were texting, even if it is only because the police caught your idiot ass and threatened you with the pokey" fun and games of the normal day.

As it passed 1100, the streets began to get a bit too active. I decided to get something for lunch and go home.

I had hoped that the Tokyu supermarket would be open, but they weren't so I had to do the unhealthy and drop into the local McDs. The Ookayama McDs is a nice clean one, completely unlike the one in Denenchofu, so I figured I could eat something there and not worry about dying today from e-coli or the cooties. I'd worry about the heart attack later.

Having read a NYT article about hamburger and "pink slime" (although I believe McDs Japan uses Australian beef which might actually contain something recognizable as beef), I decided to get the healthy fish converted into a semi-toxic, deep-fried-in-10w40 Fish Fillet*.

As I waited for my order while watching the over-worked, under-staffed, grossly-underpaid folks rush to try to prepare what is puzzlingly called "fast-food," a couple of the silver generation** walked in.

And ordered a breakfast menu.

The harried young fellow trying to rush to take people's orders politely explained that breakfast ended at 1030AM, apparently surprising the couple who considered 1140 a good time for the morning meal.

"Oh, is that so?" said the lady. "What should we have then?" she asked her husband, who for some reason did not seem to want to talk an awful lot. "Coffee?" he replied with near total certainty.

"Coffee," the smiley lady said, ordering nothing for herself. The amazingly patient fellow at the register rang it up while asking "for here?" (tennai)***

"Huh?" asked smiley. "For here?" she laughingly corrected him (tennai). The guy-at-the-mercy-of-nutty-customers apologized and repeated "for here" exactly as he had said to begin with, so as not to argue.

"210 yen," he told the smiley-lady-cum-language-nazi. "Huh? Oh, two hundred and ten yen," she corrected him with a bit of a laugh. "I'm sorry, 210 yen" he again corrected himself for no reason other than to avoid calling a customer a goofball.

Then she looked over at me, smiling.

Uh-oh, I don't want to get involved in this. Why is she looking at me? What am I supposed to do in this situation? Should I smile back? If I did, would that make me her accomplice in insanity? Was I already insane anyway?

It was too early in the year to think about these sort of things, and besides, I am on vacation. I began to intently study the menu on the wall until she looked away.

A few minutes later, I got my "fast-food" "fish" sandwich, solidified-oil-with-potato-byproducts, and McDs premium fake coffee and went upstairs to enjoy it in a clean, nearly empty non-smoking room. Bizarre. But then again, I had noticed signs designating this McDs as a McDonald's Cafe, not a mere McDs.

(Come to think of it, they may have been from out of town and not been used to the Tokyo dialect. Never watched TV and such).

*A Fillet-o-Fish in English. The classic ultra artery-clogger of over a decade ago.

**Why folks of this generation are (were---it is considered a bit discriminatory today) called the silver generation also befuddles me. Silver hair is extraordinarily rare in Tokyo. Can't figure out why. Must be like the dry earwax unique to the natives of this land. I see 90-year olds with hair as solidly black as a 5-year old's.

***I know that this is not a literal translation.

Fiddled with at 1707 JST.

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