I check the TV listings online everyday. I found a TV show that featured the town I was moving to. I was looking forward to it in front of the TV. When the show started, I realized it was about how to live inexpensively after retiring. The town was introduced as the area that had many budget apartments where retirees with a drastic income drop could afford and save money. The show chose a couple of apartments as super money-saver ones of all others. To my surprise, my new apartment was one of them! Seeing the exact building I was about to move in on TV, I felt delighted and embarrassed at the same time. To sum up, the apartment I selected is one of the best bargain apartments located in the least expensive area in Japan. It proved my discerning eye as a bargain hunter, but also declared my new place was the cheapest in the country on national television. I have a low income, all right, but I’m not retiring…
When my uncle got married with my mother’s cousin by an arranged marriage, my grandfather paid for his new house. He was proud of having his own darkroom in the house. His hobby was photography and he used to have the latest models of a camera. He planned to enrich his hobby by developing pictures by himself.
After he quit a job at a gas station, he found a job supplying ice cream to small candy stores. He finished drifting jobs, had two daughters and finally settled down. I visited his house with my parents one day, and found that his darkroom had been converted into a family closet. He explained he no longer spent so much time taking pictures as before, with a weak smile.
Several years passed and I had become a student at a private Catholic school. The school was a prestigious girl’s school that included from the elementary school to the college. I had been there from the junior high and had acted as if I had been from a rich and noble family to fit in. By the time I advanced to the high school, I had been quite popular among the snobbish students. Most of their parents were rich, and they looked down some students whose parents weren’t so rich.
One of those girls we looked down came to me and said, “I saw your uncle yesterday.” And she started talking about my uncle to my friends. “Do you know what her uncle is? He’s an ice cream man!” she giggled. Her parents ran a grocery store and my uncle went there to refill their ice cream case. He noticed her school uniform and told her I was his niece.
Her point was that I was a niece of a funny, loud, rude ice cream supplier in spite of my snobbish attitude. She went on spreading her encounter with my uncle to other students and they all laughed at me. I was indignant rather than embarrassed…
I went to Costco again today. I had a hot dog and a slice of pizza at the food court there for the first time. They had incredibly low prices and had the exactly similar taste to the ones I used to have in the U.S. The store also has the smell of the U.S. I think people living there don’t ever notice but supermarkets of the U.S. have unique smell, which is very different from Japanese supermarkets. I could tell instantly by the smell which country’s supermarket it is even if I entered blindfolded.
While I was eating at the food court, I felt back in time when I lived in the U.S. The similar taste and smell gave me an illusion that I still lived there. But one big difference reminded me that this was Japan. The clerks have good attitudes. The hot dog came with an all-you-can-drink soft drink that Japanese food courts don’t have, and I didn’t get how to draw a straw from the container. While I was confused in front of it, a man standing next to me nimbly pushed down the bottom receiver and a straw came out. Now I recollected the American way after being embarrassed…
One summer in my childhood, my grandfather on my mother’s side invited
my mother and me to lunch. The restaurant’s specialty was eels. An eel
is an expensive treat in Japan. We arrived at an awfully old-fashioned
Japanese restaurant where we took off our shoes and sat on the floor at
the low table. Except for us, only one table was occupied by a woman
with a small child, who was busily stuffing the leftovers into a tin box
she had brought. Every time my grandfather needed a server to come to
our table, he clapped his hands twice and called out, “Hey, sister!” It
was an obsolete manner no longer practiced, which embarrassed my mother
and me. When our house was rebuilt, I had my own room for the first
time. That time, my grandfather took my mother and me to a furniture
store to buy me a bed and a wardrobe. After we chose the items, a young
salesperson calculated the total. My grandfather naturally asked for a
discount but the salesperson’s offer didn’t satisfy him at all. He was
an old patron of the store and had bought every piece of furniture there
when my mother got married. He was used to special treatment and
assumed he would get one there. But the salesperson declined the further
discount, as he was new and didn’t know my grandfather. Even so, my
grandfather persisted and decided the total amount of his own. He handed
bills to the salesperson, and told him how much the change to be
brought back should be. My grandfather’s way apparently perplexed the
salesperson. Standing next to my grandfather, I was so embarrassed
again. Eventually, a long tug-of-war was over and the salesperson
brought back what my grandfather had told him. My bed and wardrobe were
successfully discounted, but I learned my grandfather’s style was
outdated in the modern world…