Friday, April 4, 2008

There is no gas gauge: An Epic of Tragic Betrayal by a Trusted Friend


As I hopped on my scooter Tuesday morning, I noticed the beautiful skies and the contrast of the plum blossoms blotting out the blue sky around my apartment. It was sure to be a great day. Three minutes later my tune changed. Why does this kind of thing happen to me? This was not the first time. It would not be the last but I couldn’t help but feel a sharp pain in the very core of my being. My heart was crushed in one fell swoop. My scooter died just as I was encouraged on my way by my good friend Mr. Green Light (or blue light as it is called in Japan; I still think its green no matter what color you call it). I sadly pulled the off the rode and began the push of shame back to my apartment. There is something embarrassing about pushing a vehicle that you should be driving. I endured the silent looks of awe as I passed a long line of cars waiting to accelerate, without any problem and arrive on time without any hassle. I wanted so desperately to be one of those people. In my attempts to speak Japanese I rely heavily on the facial expressions and gestures that so often accompany a conversation. The telephone is my worst enemy. I had to call school and let them know I would be late. As the phone rang on the other end, a giant butterfly hatched from the cocoon that had somehow found its way into my stomach (I usually don’t ask what I am eating). It continued to flutter around until I heard a voice on the other end. Stupid butterfly tried to come out and I had to choke it down to speak. After clearing my throat, I said (literal translation), “Vice principal”? “Yes”. “It’s Wade” (as if he couldn’t tell by the grammatical mistakes and silly accent). “Yes” “This morning my scooter is bad, so I am coming by bike” “(something I didn’t understand)” “Yep, that's it, I am coming by bike.” This is where it got hairy. I don’t know how to end conversations on the phone with people who have a higher social status or age than I. So I hope that he would wrap it up, and so it began. I squinted into his face and waited for him to make a move. We both stood with fingers twitching above our guns, tumbleweeds running amuck in the street in front of us. After what seemed like hours I panicked and reached for my pistol and shot quickly from the hip, “Ok, thanks”. “Ok, be careful.” I hung up quickly and checked my pulse. I was alive. Why do I get so nervous when I am talking on the phone? Even in English I am not a skilled phone conversationalist. Most of my phone conversations are wrapped up in three sentences (I usually allow four for females out of courtesy.)
I began the ride to school and the day past uneventfully. Maybe the poor beginning was not so bad after all. After school I hustled home to see if I could take my scooter to a mechanic. I changed clothes and slung on my backpack with my Japanese book (it was Japanese class night). I began pushing my scooter along the sidewalk avoiding the strange looks I was receiving. Stop looking at me!! I don’t stare at you when you walk your dog. Don’t stare at me when I walk my scooter. Ten minutes later I approached the gas station. I had decided since my scooter lacks a gas gauge and the light sometimes doesn’t work so well, I should fill up, give it a try and if needed, go see a mechanic. From across the street I surveyed the objective. How to infiltrate it without looking like a complete idiot? How many people walk their scooters into the gas station? Maybe 35% (maybe its lower, I don’t work at a gas station so I’m not qualified to make a valid estimate). Anyway I didn’t want those gas station attendants that I had possibly run out of gas. I decided the best way to go about it was to slide my helmet on and creep across the road and then close to the entrance I should sit on my scooter push as hard, as I could, coasting into the station and making cool engine sounds with my mouth. What a great plan!! To sell it I could even turn the key and stop making “VrrmmVrrmm” sounds simultaneously!! I grinned as I envisioned my success. Time to execute. I started crossing the street and was spotted instantly. It was all over. I was caught and in turn looked like an even bigger idiot because I was pushing my scooter with my helmet on, like I never take it off (even to sleep). I sheepishly pushed it up to the pump and asked for gas and oil. I reached for my….wallet…my wallet. Great…just great. I had left my wallet in my apartment. I chuckled and looked at the confused gas attendant. I explained what had happened and he looked incredulously at me as if to say, ”That’s impossible. No one would ever do that.” I asked if it was ok to park my scooter off to the side and run back to my apartment to grab my money. He grinned and said it was ok. I could tell he was composing a story for his blog about how he met a silly foreigner who was walking around town pushing his scooter for kicks and then running around like an idiot looking for his wallet.
I ran the ten minutes to my apartment and then the ten minutes back to the station. I arrived dripping with sweaty and out of breath. He grinned again and I had to chuckle at how ridiculous I am. It turns out that I was betrayed by one of my closest friends. My scooter had failed to warn me that it was running out of gas. What a backstabber. It seems that word had made it back to my scooter that a car was in my future and out of sheer jealously it decided to maroon me in the middle of the street.

I cut my hair yesterday from about 4 inches to about a half an inch. My teachers were very surprised to see me this morning. One even jumped back in fright when I walked in the door. Drastic changes seemed to be pretty uncommon around here. Most of my teachers told me my hair looked good. I can’t decided if it was in consolation or honesty. I envisioned the conversations later in the tea room. “Yep, its pretty short isn’t it.” Yeah, its horrible.” “We better tell him it looks good next time we see him so he doesn’t feel so bad about it.” I chose to believe that they really do like it.

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