Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Let's Pretend

Today, I experienced an inordinate number of people playing a game I call "Let's Pretend." To get us started, let's pretend my readers want to know how this game is played.

My first experience with this game came during a rare lunch meeting with my husband at the local JR station. He had a large gap in the middle of his schedule today and had time to come back to our neighborhood, go for a swim, and then meet me for lunch. We sat in a little area near the bus stop in front of the station with benches. Since this area is so near the station, there is a constant sea of foot traffic flowing by. This is where I got my first dose of "let's pretend."

In the 40 minutes or so my husband and I sat there, I'd wager that easily 300 people (possibly more) walked by. Many of them pretended that my husband and I were not real people and therefore did not deserve the courtesy of not being stared at like a freak show planted near the station for their amusement. One of the biggest gawkers was a woman in a black calf-length fur coat. It is spring so she could have at least worn a white one if she was absolutely required to be ostentatious. It was also 17 degrees (63 degrees Fahrenheit) out today. If anyone should have been gawking, it should have been us at her for wearing a winter coat on a nice spring day. I guess she was pretending it was cold enough to warrant such a coat so she could show off how wealthy she was. I didn't have to pretend that this showed she was either shallow or had severe circulation issues.

The next round was played at one of the local markets, one of the few that carries imported Mexican food. When I reached the check-out area, there were 3 lines. Two had about 8 people and one had 6 so I got into the shorter one. As my gentle readers may guess, this is always a mistake. As soon as I got into the line, it stopped. The fellow at check-out apparently had to walk off and take a phone call and it required another fellow to stand by while he made the call. The second fellow who was doing nothing at all but stand there kept nervously glancing back at the arrested line as if he felt the people standing in it might rebel at any moment and start battering the staff with their baskets. The fellow on the phone was older and clearly in charge so it was his right to pretend that the store wasn't incredibly busy so he could have a lackey stand-by for some emergency pricing action or cleaning up on aisle 3.

Since the shop with the Mexican goods is quite expensive, I had to pick up the bulk of the ingredients for burritos at a cheaper place. At this place, there were also relatively long lines and I was treated to two rounds of "let's pretend". The woman directly in front of me pretended that she had no idea money would be required at the end of her encounter with the check-out clerk and didn't bother getting her wallet out until she had been completely rung-up and received her bags. Other people pretended that I wasn't there as they bumped into me repeatedly to get past me and the woman who had forgotten that she'd have to pay for her groceries. I guess they were pretending it was me who was responsible for holding up the line and I deserved to be pushed about a bit.

Since the first 2 shops didn't have ripe avocados, I had to go to another shop. After all, you can't have good Mexican food without guacamole. You can imagine my joy at this prospect given how much fun I'd been having so far. Fortunately, the last place was not crowded. Unfortunately, there was one more round of "let's pretend" waiting for me. A woman rudely cut me off as I approached the counter then proceeded to take an eternity to poke around the change in her wallet. She then forgot how much her total was and that it was displayed digitally on the register display and proceeded to poke around her wallet like a chicken searching for an elusive worm. Finally, when she'd nearly worn a hole in the change pocket of her wallet, she decided she wanted two blocks of tofu instead of one and pretended running off for 5 minutes to go find another wasn't going to leave the person behind her in the only line available stuck waiting while she did so.

I went home and tried to pretend the whole thing didn't happen. Since I'm not nearly as good at pretending as a means of altering the fabric of reality, I decided a little cathartic post would be a better idea.

Note: I'm well aware that these experiences (except for the first one) were based on living in a big city, not because the people are Japanese. Somehow, that doesn't really make it any easier to put up with. ;-)


Helen said...

I hate to say this, but my husband always does the "Let's pretend we don't need money" thing too. It drives me up the wall. I think it might be a Japanese thing! I can have the exact change ready for the clerk before he's got his wallet out of his pocket.

At least you only have to deal with it sometimes, I have to deal with it every time I go shopping.

Elec said...

You've put my at ease; I thought I was the only one that was wearing a cloak of invisibility that I didn't know about (on account of it being invisible!). I notice this is exacerbated when I'm already not in the best of moods. :-P

Case in point: I had an audition last night and was lugging equipment around. It was like people locked onto me as a target to run full-force into. You can imagine that my agility had been greatly reduced, so I don't know why everyone decided that I had to be an acrobat.

On another note, I salute you for having the resolve to hunker down and do all that work to make Mexican food! I sadly gave up on that quest, and there is perpetually a tear in my eye and an empty space in my soul because of it.

I laughed aloud at the "strange-looking person gives ME funny looks?!" bit. So common.

Shari said...

Helen: Usually, I see old ladies doing the absent-minded act. In general, men seem to be a bit more on the ball. Women also have this bad habit having long conversations with the clerk and holding up the line. I think you need a little cattle prod for your hubby. You could condition him to whip out his wallet and be at the ready with change through time. You could probably use it for other types of training as well. ;-)

Elec: I think you were the victim of the dreaded "if I don't look at you directly, you don't exist" syndrome that is so common in Tokyo. In Shinjuku station, this happens all the time. People will look anywhere but where they are going so they can meander around and not be responsible. It's one of the reasons walking around stations is so stressful.

My husband just bashes into those people. You probably could have done some damage (with your equipment) that would have made a lasting impression that may have scared a few people into looking where they are going. ;-)

As a little cherry on the icing on the cake of my grand Mexican food gathering experience, the avocados I bought were half rotten. :-)

Anonymous said...

When I was living in Detroit, getting your wallet out while you were waiting in line was a sure way to get people to look at you like you were crazy. I had to force myself to do the "Let's pretend we don't need money" thing.

Shari said...

That's very curious. Did they think it was odd because you didn't want to flash your money or because no one ever prepared to pay before they had to?

Anonymous said...

I think it was mostly the "OMG this is DETROIT!! You'll get MUGGED!" factor. Which had about ZERO basis in reality, but that is what almost everyone I talked to felt was bound to happen if "the locals" find out you have money. Even "the locals" would express such sentiments, despite them living in Detroit for 30-40 years without ever being mugged. (And when I say Detroit, I mean Detroit proper, not the suburbs.)

Emsk said...

A windy day a while ago, when on an international call from my local "town square" (let's pretend it is one!), a man played let's pretend there's not someone standing right behind me while I stub this cigarette out. That was nice!