Wednesday, May 30, 2007

never go to kyoto eki mae DoCoMo

I thought I would stop by the DoCoMo Shop in front of Kyoto Eki on my way home from work. I walked into the empty store, the staff were standing around smiling like they had been under the counter at the Beanery hitting up whippits. I went to the machine that spits out numbers and asked (sorry, still no Japanese fonts) in my most polite Japanese, "I want to pay my bill, do I need one of these tickets?" Everyone smiled uncomfortably so I asked again. One young man with an absurd haircut smiled at me like I was a retarded child and said, "Please wait here for a minute." I figured out quickly what was going on, but I wonder why he thinks I would understand "Sho sho machi kudasai" if I can't speak Japanese. A balding middle manager in an ill fitting shirt and a badly tied tie scurried out from the back, his eyes a beady. "Can I help you?" He asked with an oddly incompetent accent. "Yes, I just want to pay my bill." I said in Japanese. Everyone who worked there just stood around uncomfortably. "You fucking morons." I murmured. The middle manager persisted in speaking to me in broken English until I finally overwhelmed him and he spoke in calculated, ultra-polite Japanese.
I try to be more understanding about these things than Brett, but this time really got to me. I know that many stores, especially in Kyoto, have to deal with foreigners who wander in off the street speaking all kinds of gibberish. I understand that. But do they ever process how disrespected and dehumanized you feel when you say something in completely normal Japanese to someone and all they can do is look at you like your lobotomy must have been traumatizing. What I said was absolutely correct, and the only thing that kept them from understanding that was their own small minds diseased with their own preconceptions. That is what happens when you are taught what your image of foreigners should be. If I have a DoCoMo phone and I am saying that I want to pay my bill, in very polite Japanese, shouldn't they assume that I know what I am talking about and deserve to be treated like a human being.
It occurred to me as I left, swearing I would never come back, that that is one of the big factors in my hatred of my current job. That is the same, patronizing dismissive way I am treated everyday.


Anonymous said...

"the staff were standing around smiling like they had been under the counter at the Beanery hitting up whippits"

you should just stop writing now because nothing you ever come up with is going to top this. best ever. -summer

Noelle said...

I was handed a spoon at a noodle shop once because that was all the non-chopstick utensils they had. And everyone knows whiteness means you are incompetent with the sacred chopsticks.

wwc said...

yes, but noelle, you are twelve different kinds of white. you are irish and live in norway. how could they not throw spoons at you. i just carry around a spork and yell, "what the fuck is this, smarty-pants!" actually, if they ask, "can you use chopsticks?" i ask, "can you use a telephone?" then we slowly back away from each other looking confused and disturbed.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.