Life Interrupted, and Free Eggs at the Bakery

I’ve returned to Japan.  While I’m very sad to be missing all my friends in Hawaii, I am happy to be returning to my two favorite boys and my home.

The trouble is that I feel I’ve been interrupted in building my life here.  I am struggling to remember the basics of Japanese, the proper bus numbers to take and I feel the same inherent fear of driving that I felt when I first arrived in Japan.

But I’m trying to jump right back in.  After my mere weeks of working, I feel re-inspired to work on the many projects I had going before I left my land of sushi and gibberish.  I am striving to unravel the mysteries of life in Japan.

Among the mysteries I’ve encountered since I’ve been home involves the bakery that is next door to my home.  When patronizing any establishment in this fine country, there is a bit of observation that takes place beforehand.  Jing must recon the place first.  After one has watched and learned the procedures, we test out our observations.

This type of recon isn’t always possible, like when I want to try something new and there is no one to observe.  In these cases I only realize how silly I looked after I walk away from the register.  Kate and I once bought a frozen bagel thinking it was made of ice cream.  It wasn’t, it was a frozen bagel you were supposed to heat up at home.  The sales clerk must have been thoroughly confused when we said we didn’t need it wrapped at all, that we would just carry it.  We were at a train station bagel shop.

But no worries, now I know.  And there are always little mysteries when one is shopping and clueless.  Let’s review Jing’s typical trip to the store.

Very Polite and Cheerful Store Employee:  Isshramashi (welcome, with Gaijin phonetic spelling)

Me:  Konichiwa!

Very Polite and Cheerful Store Employee:  skjaowiejlsdejlskjdflk des ka?

Me:  Hai!

Transaction Commences

Very Polite and Cheerful Store Employee:  Arrigato Gosaimas!

Me:  Arrigato Gosaimas, Kiotsuketene!  (Thanks, take care)

There is always a question at the register.  Sometimes “Hai” suffices, and though I don’t know what the question was, I am successful in pretending that I had any clue what they said.  Salesclerks could be asking me if I was a Satan-loving-atheist and and I’d smile and say “hai” like a polite schoolchild.  This is illustrative of my plot to blend in as much as possible.

In yesterday’s confusing incident, I went to the bakery to buy bread.  This seems relatively safe, because its hard to confuse bread.  Even the signs saying what kind of bread are in English.  I’m thinking to myself, I got this.

At the bakery you have to get a cafeteria tray and use little tongs to put your selections on the cafeteria tray and bring it to the counter, where they ring it up and wrap it for you.  I know this from careful observation of previous customers.  At the register, my lovely saleslady asks her question, I give the standard response, and she wraps my purchases.  At the very end, from under the counter she pulls out a tray of six eggs and puts it in my bag, ties it all up and hands it to me.

In these instances, I wonder if I had mysteriously requested some eggs.  I do an estimate in my head of the purchase and conclude that I didn’t pay for the eggs.  I thereby determine that these are free eggs.  Why?  I dunno.  If there ever was an occasion to say the letters “WTF” out loud in public, this would be it.  But in the interest of appearing Japanese, I maintain my ninja poker face, smile and say thank you and walk away.  Man I’m good.  What just happened?  I haven’t any idea.  I’m thoroughly baffled.  But you would never know by looking at me.   And the eggs made a delicious omelet this morning.