Last weekend, I took a trip to Akihabara. This is the part of Tokyo known as “Electric Town,” and it is famous for three things: An incredible array of electronics stores selling every gadget imaginable; comic book/manga fan stores where you can stock up on action figures and other branded merchandise from all the popular comic books; and maid cafes, where a cute girl in a little miss muffet outfit will wait on you and talk like your servant. I did not visit the last two. (I walked in and right back out of a comic fan store — mainly because I don’t really care. And, what’s the point of having some girl talk to you like a servant in Japanese when you’re not a guy and you don’t speak Japanese? Maybe I’ll take some guy friend there someday). MY reasons for going to Akihabara were to find a better, but still cheap, cell phone (more about that later), and most importantly, to get a new camera.
I broke my camera a few weeks ago, while I was still at training for my new teaching job. On the last day of training, a large group of us decided to go out and have dinner together to sort of celebrate and say goodbye before we all parted ways the next morning. We chose a nice little Italian restaurant in the middle of a busy mall. We placed our orders, and as we were sitting there chatting, I decided to take a picture of the group at the table. Now, I am what you call a lazy photographer. If I can take a photo of something far away with my zoom instead of walking over to it, that’s exactly what I will do. If a photo can be taken from a moving car, I will not bother to stop and pull over. I might roll down the window, though. And, if I think I can get a shot while remaining seated, I will not bother to get up. This is how I fell out of my chair in the middle of a crowded restaurant in Japan.
I’m leaning back to try to fit everyone in the shot, and as more people notice my camera, more people want to squeeze into the shot. So, I keep leaning back, and leaning back. Suddenly I realize I’ve reached “the tipping point” where I’m no longer stable, and gravity threatens to pull me to the ground. Thinking quickly, I reach out and grab the edge of the table…. and I take it down with me.
Suddenly, I am laying on the floor, disoriented, with my leg in a puddle of drinking water, and a frantic waitress patting me with lap napkins. There is a hush over the restaurant as I can feel every single eyeball within 10 yards aimed in my direction. I really wished I hadn’t pulled over the table, because at that moment I really, really, REALLY wanted to crawl under it. The sweet, concerned waitress helped me get right-side up again, and gingerly handed me my camera, which had gone flying several feet in the “collapse.” The lens now peered slightly, permanently to the right. I was sad, but that sad feeling was trumped by one of utter, face-burning humiliation. Fortunately, our food had not arrived, or I could have been wearing my disgrace on my clothes for the rest of the evening. As it was, I was so embarrassed that I practically choked on my food several times while stifling frequent bursts of humiliated laughter during dinner.
My father had a similar experience recently, but he handled it in a much different way. While on a family trip to South Africa, we were dining at a traditional African buffet at a lively restaurant with our tour group of about 20 other people. We’re all wrapped in African-print togas over our touristy clothes and having a great time chowing down on wild game like crocodile and warthog. I’m not sure what triggered the fall…perhaps it was the lack of extra space to maneuver at the crowded group table. Perhaps it was a wobbly chair. Or perhaps my Dad was enjoying the South African wines even more than usual. All I know is there was a loud clatter at one point during dinner, and I looked over to see my father laying backwards in his chair, legs pointing towards the ceiling. Everyone gasped, and I could see the horror on their faces. “This poor elderly man has lost his balance and probably broken a hip or something,” their expressions seemed to say. But in a split second, a mischievous smile sparked onto my Dad’s face and he threw his fists in the air. “YEAH! This is my moment!!!” He yelled. My mother, my cousin, and the tour guide struggled to hoist his chair back upright as he shouted and pumped his arms like he was the star player of a football game being carried off the field on the cheerleaders’ shoulders. My Dad knows how to “own” an otherwise embarrassing moment. For some reason, it did not occur to me to respond this way while I was laying red-faced and confused on the floor of an Italian restaurant in Tokyo. I don’t know why. I doubt I could have pulled it off anyhow.
Happy Father’s Day Dad!