S***ler

, , , , , | Related | March 9, 2020

I am playing the board game “Secret Hitler” with my wife and friends. It’s similar to “Werewolf,” in that you are assigned a role and have to keep it secret whether you are a good guy or a bad guy. The point of the game is to try to kill Hitler or get Hitler elected, and nobody is supposed to let on who their assigned role is.

It’s our first time playing this game. I have been dealt the card for Hitler, and my wife is reading out the instructions.

“Everybody close your eyes. Hitler and the fascist should open their eyes and acknowledge each other.”

We do so, and then there is a long pause while the other fascist and I wait for the next instruction. It takes a while to come and I get impatient. 

“And then we close our eyes again?” 

A disbelieving silence comes from the rest of the table, and then I speak again.

“S***.”

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Those Prices Are Not Healthy

, , , , | Healthy | October 21, 2019

I’m an American living and working in Japan. One day, I get severely ill, so I call an ambulance and am taken to the hospital. It turns out to be an easily treated condition, but they keep me in for observation overnight.

During checkout the next day, they keep warning me and apologizing that payment will be expensive, even with my insurance. “I’m so sorry but it will be pricey,” is something I hear from several people. 

At that point, I’m a little worried about the cost, but checkout is almost done and they present me with the bill — about ¥30,000, a little under $300 US.

I surprise them when I start laughing, then horrify them when I say that an ambulance ride, hospital stay, and followup medication in the US would easily add up to at least ten times that price!

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This Will Week-End You

, , , , | Working | August 22, 2019

(My company provides English tutoring in Japan, and we are contracted to work a certain number of days each month. If we are unable to work but have no sick days or vacation days available, we are asked to trade a later day off. If we choose not to do that, our pay is docked accordingly as we are not working the contracted number of days. [Coworker #1] does not seem to get this. He’s only been here a couple of months, but he’s constantly calling out, and [Coworker #2], who follows [Coworker #1]’s social media accounts, says she’s seen him posting pictures of himself at clubs or in other cities on some of the days he claims he’s sick. Finally, one day, a few of us are hanging out and he starts complaining about things.)

Coworker #1: “Man, I’m so broke… I have to go pay my electricity bill tonight, but I don’t know if I’ve got enough money to buy food next week…”

Coworker #2: “Didn’t you just go to a club last night? Maybe you should cut down on things like that until you’ve got a little more money saved up.”

Coworker #1: “But this job is just so boring! I have to have something fun to do on my days off. But yeah… I guess you’re right. It just sucks that they tell you that you’ll be getting [salary] and then they do everything they can not to give it to you.”

Coworker #3: “What do you mean by that?”

Coworker #1: “You know, they tell you they pay [salary], but then they cut your pay when you get sick.”

Me: “They only cut your pay if you’re working fewer days than you’re scheduled for. Didn’t you call out like eight times last month? How many of those did you use sick days for? Or make up later?”

Coworker #1: “Well, yeah, but I wasn’t feeling good! I’m all out of sick days. I didn’t make them up, but that’s another piece of bulls***! They tell you that you get 117 days off and then they don’t want you to use them!”

Coworker #2: “Uh, dude. You realize those are your regular days off, right? Not vacation days.”

Coworker #1: “What?!”

Me: “That’s weekends and holidays. We get a total of 117 regular days off during the year. Then, we get [number] sick days and [number] vacation days. Did… did you think you got 117 vacation days to just take off whenever?”

Coworker #1: “Well, yeah, that’s what the contract makes it sound like!”

Coworker #3: “No. No, it isn’t. Go back and read your contract again.”

(We’ve been trying to give him advice and encouragement from the start, but between how often he calls out and how unenthusiastic he seems about the job in general, we’re not expecting him to last much longer.)

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Giajin-People Problems

, , , , , | Friendly | May 5, 2019

I had the opportunity to study abroad in Japan while I was in college. During our orientation week, one of the staff volunteers mentioned that those of us who were taller might get some extra attention, but not to worry about it. I didn’t think much about it, because I’m average height by Japanese standards, until random events like the ones below started happening to the taller students in the group:

1) While visiting a Japanese onsen — public bathhouse — my friend, who was at least 5’10”, had just removed her robe and was about to step into the water — we’re both women, so we were on the women’s side of the onsen — when a tiny, elderly Japanese lady popped out of the water and hustled over to us, completely naked. I thought, at first, that maybe we had forgotten to do one of the pre-bathing steps and she was warning us, but when she reached us she stretched up as far as she could and patted the air somewhere around my friend’s shoulder.

“Takai!” she said, which means “big/tall.” She giggled, and then quickly hopped back into the onsen where her friends were all cracking up.

2) Another friend of mine in the group, a man, was over six feet tall, and had long hair down to his shoulders. One day, we were waiting for a crosswalk sign to change when a group of Japanese middle-school-aged girls ran up to me, asking if they could take a picture with him. I said they’d have to ask him, and he was usually a good sport about that kind of thing, so I ended up with five phones and cameras shoved into my hands to take pictures of them with my friend. I don’t know if they thought he was a celebrity or were just excited to take a picture with a tall foreigner, but they were so happy.

3) When the same male friend was going through the airport on a flight from Japan to Korea, he got pulled over to the bag inspection table, but when the customs agents pulled out a pair of his shoes they forgot about the check and instead spent a few minutes talking about how big his shoes were! That was it; they didn’t pull anything else out of the bag.

Overall, there were never any negative encounters for my taller friends, except for maybe not fitting comfortably in some spaces, and house slippers never fitting.

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Wheelchairs, Trains, And Automobiles

, , , , , | Healthy Working | April 26, 2019

My parents came to visit me in Japan. On the second day of us all being together, we were walking through the hotel garden and my mom hurt her foot. She iced it as soon as we got back to our room, but an hour later she couldn’t put any weight on it. The hotel we were staying at organized a taxi for us to a local hospital that had an ER open at midnight. We got there and the doc and nurse that cared for my mom spoke English. It was midnight and they had English-speaking staff on duty!

When they wheeled my mom into the ER from the waiting room, she had an anxiety attack, so back to the empty waiting room we went for the rest of her care. In the end, she had broken her foot — her big toe really. There was nothing that could be done for that but for her to stay off it.

Yeah, right. Day two of a two-week vacation in Japan? Ha! We rented crutches for the next two weeks and borrowed the hotel wheelchairs wherever we stayed.

After getting back to the hotel, the staff there were able to organize a rental wheelchair for us for our week in Kyoto.

Before Kyoto was Hiroshima. Our hotel was basically connected to the train station by a long walkway. Dad contacted the hotel, and two employees met us at the ticket gates with a luggage trolley and a wheelchair. At the end of our stay, one pushed Mom to the station as Dad and I had the luggage. Dad used the wheelchair to get Mom up to the shinkansen waiting room and returned the empty chair to the hotel staff member.

In Kyoto, the rental company delivered the wheelchair to the door of our B&B and collected it from Kyoto station, after we wheeled Mom up to the shinkansen platform.

After returning to Tokyo from Kyoto, Mom made her way to a waiting room. I went from ticket gate to ticket gate to get a wheelchair to get her from the shinkansen waiting room to the local train line. The employee wheeled her from the waiting line to the ticket transfer gate where two local line employees met us. One pushed Mom and the other lead the way, breaking traffic. It was over 700m to get to our train and Mom would never have made it on her crutches.

At the train, Mom was asked to sit on the train seat and the ladies took the wheelchair. At our exit, another employee was there with a wheelchair. She took us to the Tokyo Monorail line where we had another employee and chair. He got Mom onto the monorail where yet again there was an employee waiting with a chair for Mom.

Japan is nowhere near as wheelchair friendly as the US. People here have smaller personal bubbles and got too close to my mom for her comfort, but the level of care my mom got from train and hotel employees was amazing.

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