William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

48. Showa Day, Hesei Technology

I haven’t told this story to anyone yet. Part of that has stemmed from my persistent yearning to keep my facts straight. (And still sometimes I exaggerate. The steel wall behind the school was really more like 1.1 stories tall.) But the other reason had to do with the fact that this is a bit of an awkward, self-effacing story that requires a modicum of alcohol to bring oneself to tell, and that’s what my trip to Circle K ten minutes ago ended up facilitating.

We had a great time celebrating Showa Day (or, perhaps, Showa) with L. We had a great lunch at his new apartment. I bravely or foolishly sought to bring ice cream – it had been a while for me, and I felt that it had probably been a while for the others too, so I stuffed a well-wrapped 2L tub of Neapolitan deep in my backpack for the should-have-been-45-minutes-but-was-an-hour-because-people-kept-stopping-and-other-things-went-wrong bike trip. Remarkably, it was still frozen and semi-hard when we finally reached L’s. It was hot enough outside that I’m sure it wouldn’t have lasted 20 minutes had I not insulated it with my coat and a cold towel.

After lunch and some conversation, we got back on our bikes and headed for a huge beachfront park nestled on the south side the airport.

Even as I was starting to change into my shorts I felt a bit… well…

I guess chilli and ice cream aren’t a good combination for me.

Soon after leaving my stuff with everyone on the beach, I resolved to go back to the main building in search of a restroom. I found one. At first all I could find were Eastern toilets, and so it was with great relief that I spotted a more contemporary unit, and not a second too soon – I shudder to think what could have happened otherwise.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one in that restroom, and so I wanted to hit that flush button as soon as possible. But the control panel was unlike any other I’d seen before. Frantically pushing buttons, I ended up turning on the bidet. On both sides. Gah.

Then I tried a nice big button that was down and to the right of the panel – you know, maybe the panel was just for the electric toilet seat / bidet. So I pressed it.


“*@&#!” I yelled. And I guess this time it was kind of literal.


I’d unwittingly triggered some sort of an alarm. The insistent, panicky beeps sounded throughout the building (judging from what I could hear). There wasn’t any way to stop it – and I still couldn’t flush; in my panic and delirium I simply activated the bidet again, but this time at a higher intensity. GAH!


I heard footsteps and voices approaching. Okay, okay. Think. Think. I implored the wall and the control panel for an answer. I noticed a not-quite-representational diagram of the control box that indicated buttons on top. On top? Yes, there they were – two tiny little flush buttons, with the kanji for “big” and “small.” I forgot which was which, so I just hit both in succession.

Mercifully, eventually the beeping stopped, but then there was a knock at the stall door followed by a curt interrogation in Japanese.

Um… uh…

“ウン、ども すみません… わたし わ だいじょうぶ です。”
“Uh, domo sumimasen… watashi wa daijoubu des.”
[Terribly sorry. I'm okay.]

I heard something else.

“ウン… ちょと まて ください。すみません。”
“Um… choto mate kudasai. Sumimasen.”
[Please wait a moment. Sorry.]

I guess eventually they went away. I was left shaking and trembling, but left in peace. Gah, holy cra- … um, I mean, wow, that was intense.

As I left the main building and walked light-headedly back to the group, I started to laugh inside. I mean, this whole thing seemed pretty funny. (“Wow, another great moment in my internship!” it could be phrased.) Everyone was all split up doing their own things when I got back, so I decided to save the anecdote for an appropriate time when everyone’s together and we happen to be on a related subject. That could be a while, but some anecdotes keep well.

[Update: I'm looking at my photos from the day, and the button was labelled "呼出" with a yellow kana sticker afterthought "よびだし" - yobidashi, which I've looked up and found to mean "call." D'oh. But the word also refers to the people who summon Sumo wrestlers to the ring.]
Tags: anecdotes, holidays, japan, parks
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