Today was just weird somehow, while I was out running a few errands. First stop was for a few groceries, and while I was passing by the dairy section, an older immigrant woman approaches me and asks: “Excuse me sir, is that milk all right?” She pointed to two identical milk jugs, one of which was all bent and looked like it could be leaking. Assuming my most Solomonic demeanor, I pretended to give this difficult question of discernment my all, and after a brief pause I recommended she buy the undamaged bottle.
Next was a brief stop at Starbucks so I could check some things online, but found that I had lost my USB AirCard. (It did turn up later though so at least I didn’t just forget it somewhere). I parked a few blocks from the coffeeshop, and while i was walking over there two motorcycles went past me on the sidewalk.
On the way home from Starbucks, I stopped at the Italian deli to buy sandwiches. I parked in a city lot which is behind it, noticing that it had been re-asphalted and re-painted, and that all the concrete stoppers had been removed. I got my food, and on the way back to the car another stranger, again speaking in heavily accented English, addresses me. “Excuse me sir. Do you live in this area?” I indicated the affirmative. “Am i allowed to park over there?” I assumed so, I told her. If you don’t see any signs forbidding it, I think you can do that.
Anybody else have strangers accost you with bizarre questions?
But odd you should mention it, because about a week ago something came addressed to my stepdaughter from the local JW meeting all–the local JW meeting hall that’s not far from the Catholic girls’ academy she attended before she went off to college.
If anyone’s following this and wonders why I mentioned this…it’s because, of course, it turned out that all the concrete stoppers b]ut one had been removed. It was the one that I–naturally–ran over thinking I could just head straight toward the exit, as there were no other cars in the lot.
The oddest one I ever had was that I’m standing there and this little old Japanese lady comes up to me and starts asking me the directions to somewhere or something.
But now you have to realize some things here:
I’m a white guy.
She was talking to me in Japanese
We were IN Japan
We were on a train platform with a whole CROWD of Japanese people surrounding us.
I’m the ONLY white guy anywhere in sight.
And while it’s true that I understand Japanese, this little old lady is mumbling and she has a strong accent from somewhere else in the country, and I’m struggling to understand what she’s saying as I’m just boggling WHY, of all of the possible people she could ask whatever it is that she’s trying to ask, that she chooses to walk up to the tall white dude and ask him directions, in JAPANESE.
For some reason, old ladies think I’m a retail store employee. I’ve never worked in retail, and I’m never wearing clothes that look like the store uniforms, either. I don’t get it. Maybe because I smile?
Once, I ran into the same lady three different times on the same grocery trip, and she asked me each time if I worked in the store. Two times I was pushing my cart with me. By the third time she started to sound irritated.
Then, there was the time in the shoe aisle at Target. I was sitting on the floor, had my basket and purse sitting next to me, had one shoe off, and two pairs of shoes off the shelf to try them on. I was also wearing a bright green sweater. (For anyone reading this where there are no Targets–they’re all about their red branding. Red signs, red uniforms, red carts, red packaging, red counters, red commercials, red ads in the paper…red. Target = red. It is impossible to shop at a Target and not know this.) A woman walked into the aisle and started looking at the boots on the side opposite from me, asking questions to herself about sizes and styles. Then I realized she could have been talking to me, so I looked up, and she asked me, “You work here, right?” Took me a second to respond, “No…sorry.” I don’t know, maybe she was colorblind. And used to employees trying on merchandise.
I think you answered your own question there. She probably wanted to see if the tall white dude used his mouth and vocal cords in the same way that real humans (ie Japanese) did. She only spoke to you in Japanese because she didn’t speak any English, and at the very least it would elicit an “I’m sorry? Uh, I don’t really speak Japanese” response.
In other tales of the gaijin, a friend and FOAthatF were at an onsen. The FOAF had a tatt, or maybe both of them did. No one said anything though, so they were just showering away. The FOAF accidentally knocked an ojiichan’s towel to the ground, but picked it up right away. This apparently incensed the ojiichan, who went out to complain to management. Not too long later, a guy came up to the gaijin and told them, in Japanese, that they had to get out. They pulled the “I’m a gaijin who knows nothing of your crazy language” routine, nodded and smiled and said thank you, and headed for the baths. The guy went out to get some paper, and came back with the phrase “please go” written on it. They again said thank you, and “went” straight for the baths and sauna. They were in the sauna about half an hour later when the guy comes back and literally begins pulling my friend’s arm. They decided to leave at that point.
Spectre, you apparently project trustworthiness and approachability to people on foot, and invisibility to motorcyclists. Be proud of the one and beware of the other.
Both the people you encountered needed some help, and picked you to ask for it, and you gave it to them. Deference and titles may not be in the cards, but you deserve to feel good about yourself, and I hope you do.
Not bizarre questions but I often get asked to recommend a book by other customers when I’m browsing the shelves at the two bookshops that I often shop at and I’ve never worn clothes like the staffs’ uniforms. I’ve also, more than once, been asked where one can find the latest Clancy/King/Grisham/Patterson/Butcher etc etc.
Not that I mind, in fact I love recommending books to people. But it is strange that it happens almost everytime I go book browsing. In some cases, a member of the staff is right there…and they still ask me.
Maybe I give off vibes that say “this person knows his books”
I had some japanese jehovah’s withnesses come to my door a month or two ago. After asking if I spoke japanese (I speak a bit but am nowhere near fluent) they started their pitch, at which point I realized they were JWs. I told them I was Jewish as that usually (at least in america) sends them scurrying, but their jaws just dropped and they started asking me all sorts of crazy questions, like “do you believe in god?!” and I had to explain the basic premise of the Jewish religion to them, in japanese. Most Japanese people have no idea about Judaism, and most are completely surprised when I tell them I’m jewish (and some even excited. Like “wow, an actual jew! who’da thunk it?!”) it’s really weird
depends. It’s not so much the accent as the dialect (or “ben”) I live in Toyama and Toyama-ben is really weird. People from Tokyo understand most of it, but they make fun of it, too. A lot of it’s just a little different (like adding “ne” to things, pronounced “nay”), but some of it’s WAY off (like “tired” is usually “tsukarata” but in toyama-ben you say “doiyoi”)
ETA: I should say “you CAN say ‘doiyoi’” as people understand tsukarata, too. I personally do my best to avoid speaking in Toyama-ben
One day I was taking the bus home from work in a somewhat dodgy part of town (Ashby and San Pablo). At the bus stop were the usual assortment of drunks and prostitutes. And then there was a me- a white girl in business casual. This young very clean cut looking black kid wearing brand new clothes walks up to me, toting a rolling suitcase behind him.
He asks me “Excuse me, where is the ghetto?” I was like “What?” and then he asked again. I told him this was as sketchy as it was going to get for a while, but he might have some luck walking west a bit. That didn’t seem enough for him, so I suggested that he might want to check out Richmond, but he’d probably have to get on BART to get there. “Damn!” he said “I just spent all my money coming here!” Then I asked where he was coming from. He said he was coming from Oakland. After that I didn’t know what to say- I mean, doesn’t Oakland have its own ghettos? Luckily the bus came and I got on before things got any weirder.
In Cameroon, westerners were assumed to have all kinds of arcane knowledge. People would come up to my house with all kinds of stuff wanting to know about it. One guy brought a huge rock and wanted me to tell him if it was a diamond. Another fake flowers seller would accost me every time I saw him wanting me to teach him crafting techniques. Every day people would want to know what the scraps of foreign money they’d been holding on to for years was worth. The hardest was the guy who had a penny, who was convinced the a “cent” (or hundred in French) was a hundred dollars.