tirsdag, august 29, 2006


My hotel is off to the right of the 109 Building in the center background. This is just across from Shibuya Station's northwest exit (I think). My hotel is apparently at the base of Love Hotel Hill. Uh-huh.

What shocked me most last night?

It took me 33 minutes to find a credit card. That says a great deal about how I’ve changed my spending habits this year. I actually lost within my little apartment an active card.

The sad part: I have only two drawers in which I place things like this. Yet, it took me 33 minutes to find the card.

Sadder: As it turned out, I didn’t need it.

A Love Story

I am so totally in love with Japan!! I’m going to make a t-shirt that reads, “I LOVE ALL OF YOU. REALLY.” And I’m including the periods.

I just made my reservation at the Shibuya City Hotel for September 14, 15, and 16 in Tokyo (the days leading up to the Yokohama jaunt). The woman at the desk was sweet as pie. She spoke limited English, and my Japanese was hilarious. Seriously funny stuff. She even laughed a bit at first when I said “Konichiwa”; it was just so clear we were in trouble. One word was enough for her to break convention and outright laugh at my attempt to speak her language! I’m guessing it was because for phone chatter “konichiwa” is really an out of place comment, especially when the other speaker has said something like, “How may I direct your call?” and here I am hitting the reset button on conversation as if we’re face to face.

It screamed trouble.

It reminds me of the Simpsons episode in which Mr. Burns and Homer are meeting to negotiate. And Homer’s thinking, “Reject the first offer, reject the first offer,” and Burns says, “May I offer you a drink?” to which Homer replies, “No deal, Burns!”

“Konichiwa” seems innocuous, yes, if we live and die by direct translation guides that care not a jot for usage, but more than likely it makes little sense in Japanese conversation in the way I used it.

Further fun: she was even polite enough to ignore the fact that when I’d first asked, in Japanese, if she spoke English, and she made an “Oh, I don’t know about this” hem-and-haw sound but said “reservation?” in English, I responded, in Japanese, with, “Does anyone speak English?”


I’d totally decided upon my script before the phone was answered. So she repeated, “Um, maybe reservation?” with a decidedly rising French accent.

“Yes,” I said. “A reservation. Please,” in what has become for me my foreign speaking pattern. And I do speak differently to those whose native language is not English, adding variations in inflection and word choice for Europeans and Asians, because different language tricks seem to help with these audiences. It’s a good thing. I’ve been in this situation plenty. It may be silly in the ears of native speakers, and one really shouldn’t try to speak “broken English” (That is, don’t explode grammar on the assumption that the other speaker will), but slower, simpler speech is appreciated. In short, avoid crackerbarrel witticisms. Idiom is not of use. Also, while one should not generally quash one’s accent, it helps to thin it out. With me, doubly so.

In the end, it was a lovely exchange, at least for me. Both of us sounded mildly but not critically embarrassed by our communication difficulty. What needed to be done was done. And it ended with this sweet woman saying, “Um, maybe you have a question?” and I said “No, no questions today.” And she said. “Yes. Goodbye.”

I actually waved. I was so happy with reserving a hotel room in Japan that I waved to someone through the phone. I waved and said, “Yes, goodbye!”

English isn’t just my first language, it’s my second. Awesome.

So I’m excited to meet everyone in Japan. Here’s hoping I don’t come across as the next Pauly Shore.

Note to self: Do NOT end speech with “age” endings. For example, there are many clubs near the hotel. Do not inquire about the “tunage,” Weasel.

ps: I miss MST3K right about now.
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