Wednesday, April 12, 2006

True Story

The other morning on my way to work I was stopped at a familiar traffic light. It's on a cross-street to the highway, so it's a busy intersection and I often get stopped at this light. It's also right beside a local fire station, and I often catch the guys out in front of the trucks doing their morning calisthenics if I make it around 8:30.

(Group calisthenics alone is a good enough reason to live in Japan, by the way. There's nothing like mandated company aerobics to make an American feel like she's on a different planet. Would that work for one tiny second in the States? No. They're not like military calisthenics, either. They look like range-of-motion exercises, so the men are in a circle with their arms out, wobbling around at the waist and flapping their arms in wide arcs, back and forth.)

Anyway, I was sitting at the light thinking about the day ahead of me. TPS reports (just kidding), an associate review, conference call at 4:00, need to stop by the commissary before it closes, what should I have for dinner. Suddenly the car behind me honked its horn. Instinctively, I quickly checked to make sure the traffic light was still red, which it was. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw two teenagers kind of play-wrestling in their car. They were laughing and not really paying attention to anything else.

God, that's rude, I thought. I turned up my music and waited for the light. Rude, rude, rude. When the light was green I turned the corner and drove for a couple of kilometers, and then looked again to see if the same kids were still behind me. I started thinking, I don't know why some people have to be so rude. It's disruptive and startling and there's no reason to just honk your horn and scare everyone.

Every once in a while I have moments like this, moments where I realize that my reference point has changed. I've heard car horns about three times in the past 3 1/2 years, and I'm pretty sure those were all during trips to Tokyo. You just don't honk your car horn here. I've sat through cycles of green lights (that is really true) as the first car in a line of cars waiting to go, and no one has even used their horn to alert me that I'm spacing off. I worry a little about returning home and feeling like EVERY THING IS SO LOUD AND RUDE AND OFFENSIVE after living in this peaceful, polite country. I think I'll adapt back, and probably quicker than I want to, but there's no doubt that I've changed in little ways and big ways because of living in Japan.

No reason for the picture today, except that it totally makes me want to go to that hair salon. I like that they appreciate that a good haircut can change your destiny.

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