I had a great Japanese day yesterday. I had a regular day of school followed by a slightly awkward ride home where I waved goodbye to my students biking beside me to go into a DVD/Bookstore only to realize (of COURSE) it’s porn DVDs and books.
They sold candy, too. Candy and porn. So I’ll just pretend my students were snickering at my going to get some Pocky. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
No, the cool part came after that. I went to the local Best Buy facsimile to begrudgingly purchase some new headphones for my iPod. You see, Steve Jobs designed his earbuds to fit into Ears That Are Not Lauren’s, so I have been struggling to keep the blasted things put ever since I got them. Finally, when I went to Tokyo 2 weeks ago, I buckled down and bought a new pair…only to find these are even weirder.
They fit. They’re the kind that wraps around your ear with a little leg and THEN shoves the bud in your ear. Ooh, this is getting HOT. I must have spent too much time in the porn store. Anyway, what I didn’t realize from the packaging, which was, oddly, written in Japanese, was that…well, one ear wire was MUCH longer than the other. Like, you know how most headphones are shaped like a Y? This one was shaped like…a lowercase r. Or something.
Kevin told me a few days later that the longer side is supposed to go behind your head, but that doesn’t make them any less irritating. Also, the wire itself is way too short. So my iPod doesn’t even hang down to my pocket without pulling on my left ear, while my right ear has all this slack bunching up on my collar.
I had it in my mind that I would knit a pouch to wear around my neck so that slack wasn’t an issue, but I realized the only thing I wanted less than sitting down and knitting the damn thing was then wearing some weirdo iPod necklace like a loser.
So I swallowed my consumer pride and went to shell out more money. Until I was faced with the same problem. I *like* earbuds more than I like flimsy ear coverings that let so much sound in. But the only earbuds there with ear straps had shorter wires than the one I currently had. And the ones with ear coverings had extra long, and then some were just metal sticks you were supposed to strap around your face, and God, how is it this hard to purchase a listening device in this capital of electronic commerce?!
After being pissed off that the lame lowercase r headphones I had were actually better than my rainbow of selections here, I finally decided I’d look for an extension wire, not knowing if such a thing even existed. Miraculously, I found some in some packages, and I just wanted the cheapest one. But what if it wasn’t long enough? 30 cm? What the flip is a centimeter? Think back to physics class. Half a parsec? Wait, is that a real unit of measurement, or was it made up for Star Wars?
Anyway, I was distracted. I was distracted and a dumb idiot. I gathered up all the Japanese I could muster, swallowed my pride, and walked to a counter. “Excuse me,” I tried to say. “In terms of coming from a country with an inferior unit of measurement, could you telling me how long is 30 of these mystical centimeters you use in this fair land?” Well, something to that effect anyway. Then the guy nodded his head and brought out a frigging ruler. This is the first time I have said something and gotten an answer I understood. Heck, this is the first time I’ve said something and had someone pretend they understood it!
I realized 30 cm was too small, so I went back for the 1 m version, which originally had seemed ridiculously long. I went back to pay for it and was able to convey, when he asked for my point card, that I didn’t have one, but I wanted one. And he just handed one over! Fricking amazing. Speaking a language.
THEN I get home, and my landline rings, which it never does. I pick it up and a Japanese woman starts talking. I say “Hai” a couple times, because it seems to make them happy. I hear my name and say “Hai” again. Then, I actually catch on to something. She’s asking a question…she’s asking if I understand. She spells my name…wrong! Yes! My supervisor had called a few days earlier to tell one of my billing people they were spelling my name
ロレーンス (Lauren-su) for some strange reason. I corrected her politely and she said she understood, thanked me, and hung up.
I felt like a million bucks after that. No, I haven’t actually picked up as much of the language as this story might have you think, but I have gotten better at being confident while listening, and being able to pick out the words I know. I was also incredibly lucky at guessing what the problems were.
I was just happy to be able to take care of something all on my own for once. Speaking on my own, that is. Not converting to the metric system in my head. Don’t even get me started on whatever the hell it is that I weigh or the temperature in Celsius.

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