すみませんお爺さん！I’m sorry, old sir!
Well, yes the title is strange, but so was the experience that spawned it.
I’ve been avidly researching every aspect of my new town, down to minutia such as local restaurants and shops. But there was one piece of information I couldn’t locate anywhere: the price of a train ticket into Sapporo.
I thought perhaps I simply was unable to locate the information on the Japanese site because my kanji is still lacking. So to make up for my slack, I asked my friend Mai-chan (日本人) to read the site with me. She was unable to find much information on the trains in town either, so we checked the time, and decided it was a suitable hour to call the Town Center in Atsuma-cho itself!
Mai-chan dialed the number to begin the inquiries.
An obviously aged voice comes on the line and I have to suppress my laughter because of the image I have conjured up in my mind. A perfectly content gentleman of about 65 sits halfway reclined in a desk chair. His office is small, with two windows allowing small portions of darkened snow sky to let in the muted daylight. Blankets of white lay heaping outside the little cabin, making him sleepy and lazy as he lounges, undisturbed, listening to his radio in the corner. Rarely a call interrupts his retiring career as the dutiful Atsuma Information Kiosk Operator, save from his wife, respectfully asking if now is an appropriate time to bring him his lunch. He dozes off, digesting the onigiri and nattou, wholly removed from any aspect of life outside of Atsuma-cho. Then confusion and alarm sweep through his entire being as he hears the words…
“Yes, excuse me sir, but how much is a train ticket into Sapporo from Atsuma-cho?”
“Well, sir, my friend is coming to Atsuma in March and is hoping to get a solid estimate on how much travel into the city will cost.”
“…eeeh? In March? Your friend is coming to Atsuma?”
“..eeeeeh? Where is your friend coming from?”
–We suspect that all of his eeeehing and stuttering was primarily surprise, yes. However, after the initial shock, we speculate he was stalling as he rapidly tore through drawers to find dusty, unused pieces of paper containing tourist information.–
“Yes, sir. She’s an American. She’ll be arriving from America.”
“…….. …….. …….. *GASP* ……. …….. ……. eeeeeh? Amerikajin?
–Silence. We were afraid he passed out until we heard more papers rustling and his uneven gasping breath.
“Aaaaah, you can get the train in Hamaatsuma… the prices are listed there, at the station. But it isn’t in our town center.”
“Oh really? I see. Thank you sir. Please excuse me. Goodbye.”
Mai-chan and I broke out in uproarious laughter, trying to catch our breath after obviously throwing off this poor ojii-san’s groove. I can imagine the gossip that rapidly swept through the town, heralding my arrival with all the energy and fanfare reserved only for Godzilla.
Possible news headline: GAIJIN COMING IN 4 WEEKS! PREPARE YOURSELVES!
Now I really hope my placement doesn’t randomly get switched on me at Tokyo training (I’ve heard rumors that this can happen frequently). I would hate to be responsible for throwing that poor old man into such a dither for a false alarm.
I’m sorry, old sir!