I walked into my Senior's English Class and one of the women piped up 'How have you been?' and it took me a second to answer. It wasn't the fact that I have been trying to convince them to do this for five years now and this is the first time it's happened that did it though. I answered: I've just had a very strange experience.
I'd dropped in to Circle K to make some photocopies, having forgotten- for the third week in a row- to buy printer paper.
There was someone using the copier. First glance- an old guy. Second glance- ??!! An old guy bending down to pick up dropped change with a hole in his pants and nothing on underneath!! Still shellshocked I quickly regained my composure when he stood up and noticed me waiting.
"Just wait. I won't be long." (He's also wearing a pink shiny scrunchie pinned to the top of his baseball cap, a primary schoolers crossing flag pinned to his sweater and seems to have only one tooth.)
"Oh, no problem. I'll wait."
"No! Don't wait. Look around. Buy something. It's not a department store but there's lots to buy."
(He went back to the copier while I took a step back and tried not to look like I was waiting.
Another woman comes in to use the copier and stops short.)
"Wait! You have to wait. This young lady is after me." (Kind of chuffed to be called a young lady...)
He continued to talk to me the whole time I was using the copier. Apparently it's a great copier they have there- everything you copy comes out exactly the same. He kept reassuring me that if I had any problem with the copier I could ask one of the shop attendants as they were really friendly, true career women everyone of them.
Finally I had to leave the shop and end our conversation which had moved on to what I was copying and where he was going after he finished copying but the whole encounter got me thinking.
I don't know why but in both Australia and Japan I seem to attract people on the margins of society. I used to work in South Yarra in inner city Melbourne and invariably end up talking to someone about alien abduction or the government controlling us all through the TV while waiting for my train.
While at driving school in Nagano's frigid February weather I was riding my bike in to school each morning. It really was bitterly cold and the bike park was next to a homeless man's lean to. I bought myself a hot coffee each morning and bought him one one day, too. He refused to drink it- pure poison apparently, odd coming from someone who seemed to survive on instant noodles and one cup sake, but thereafter every morning he'd call out and we'd exchange a few words before I went off to class.
And now Mr no- pants.
All that copier-side conversation and he didn't ask where I was from, did I like Japan or compliment me on my Japanese. Quite refreshing for a first encounter.
But with that experience fresh in my mind when Mrs Y asked me "How have you been?" I was stumped for a second.
But only for a second.