Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Have it our way

My five year old son likes Legos. He also likes Youtube and has learned that by typing Lego + Star Wars, you will find Youtube videos made with Lego figures. Trying to stretch his interest away from the repetitive viewings of the Star Wars related themes, I showed him what is to me one of the great chase scenes in a movie- Daniel Craig chasing the bad guy in Casino Royale. I only let him watch the chase scene- a youtube clip as well. He thought it was pretty good, but he still wanted to see the James Bond + Lego version. I started to say that there isn't a James Bond Lego version, but then thought better of it and did the search. Lo and behold, there are James Bond Lego clips, not one, but several.

I pressed the "Eddie Izzard- James Bond" button never having heard of Eddie Izzard. I was not  prepared for my five year old to hear some of the language (a problem with kids on youtube), but I have to admit I cracked up- it is a funny routine about "gadget envy." Curious and hoping for another laugh,  I clicked on the "Eddie Izzard- Death Star Canteen" button.  I laughed more- Darth Vader is so full of himself he doesn't get that he needs a tray for the hot food. Vader launches into "I'm your boss!" "You're Mr. Stevens?" "Who is Mr. Stevens?" "He's head of catering." "I'm not head of catering. I am Vader. I can kill catering with a thought." At last a version of Star Wars I can tolerate a while longer.

Later, I watched "Eddie Izzard- Late Night Petrol Station Shopping" where a Lego guy goes to the petrol station at 3 am to buy brown bread and leaves with a roll of toilet paper and shredded wheat because the guy behind the bullet proof glass can't hear what he wants and the queue of murders forming behind him scares him. Reminded me of ordering burgers at Disneyland last week- you just get what you get- you can't really communicate what you want.

A few days later, my neighbor told me a story about ordering pizza in Japan. He goes into a pizza shop and asks for a "Shrimp and Tomato pizza." The shopkeeper replies, "We don't have that." "Mmm, Ok, how about the shrimp and onion pizza?" "Ok." "Oh, and can you hold the onions?" "Sure." Pause for dramatic effect, "Can you add tomatoes?" "Sure." Then the light dawns on the shopkeeper- he's been out maneuvered. But seriously, this is how you get a special order in Japan. There is no deviating from the menu. Why you wonder?

Kids are expected to eat what they are served in Japan- all of it. This is every adult and every kids' experience so it is done. A friend told me about having to eat all of the rice even when she was so full her stomach hurt- it just had to be done. I always tell Japanese friends to not try this technique in America. They'll get fat.

People follow the rules here which is both fabulous and a pain in the arse. Society is orderly and more functional than I am used to in my American experience. The fabulous part is that things work here- you can't read the train signs, but you can step on the 10:03 train to Ueno Station and you will get where you need to go by just getting on the train that is there at 10:03. Most of my day I have no idea what everyone is talking about or doing, but I just do what everyone else is doing and I am fine. The pain comes when you just want to eat lunch and you can't because you can't eat until everyone eats or if you want something not on the menu like a shrimp and tomato pizza, it's not done that way here.

My husband recalled the seventies Burger King ad "hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us, all we ask is that you let us serve it your way, have it your way." In Japan we agreed the attitude is "have it our way" except that the Japanese people don't seem to see it the same way I do coming from a different culture, but it works here.