Monday, February 26, 2007

two sides to one coin

I was walking to the local 99YEN discount shop, and I walked past a bar I had seen when Tom came to visit me from Hong Kong. Its a chicken-on-a-stick (yakitori) bar, and sometime around 11 at night me and Tom had walked past it. We were hungry, and the Japanese sign out front read "open for business" so I slid open the door and started to step in (with Tom behind me, not yet through the door) and the owner looked over at me and said (in Japanese of course) "We're not open for biz-nuss, son" (I'm trying to capture in English the feeling of informal friendliness that could also be seen as rude depending on which way you want to read it.) Although that sounded oddly like something from a cowboy movie when the greenhorn walks through the doors, even more so because of the open sign, I decided I must have just caught the bar right as it was closing up. Which brings me to my 1:30 in the early morning walk past it a few minutes ago. It was still open, with customers inside. Heres where we get to the two sides on one coin idea. This situation could be understood as zenophobia or racism or a mix of the two. But it could also be understood in a million other ways too. Maybe the owner's friends came in from out of town. Maybe the customers were yakuza gangsters and the owner was afraid to push them out and close up. Maybe he has special super-late hours on Sunday nights. The list could go on forever. The same two sided coin situation can play in the opposite way. When I got to the 99 YEN shop, I was in a hurry so I just grab my super late dinner stuff and just as I'm thinking about walking to the counter, the register-guy runs over and brings me a basket for my stuff, I tell him I dont need one because I'm buying my stuff at that moment. He responds by bowing and using respect words in a hurried nervous manner that makes me feel important, like he needs to sell me my stuff as fast as he can so I can go home to my warm house. Of course, up pops the two-sided coin. Maybe he was thinking I was a drunk foreigner and when I communicated with him he realized I wasnt one of those two things. (I'm sure you can figure out which!) Or maybe he was feeling guilty for not liking me which translated into rushed service so he could get me out of his hair. Or maybe his rush was fear I would hurt him or speak to him in some freaky language, or both. Theres always more than one way to see the same thing, I suppose.
All original content CC 2002-2012 BY NC SA - first design from dilarangmelarang altered by neonvirus and thunderbunny.