Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"The bell that rings inside your mind, it's a challenging the doors of time."

In equal measures cute, simple, and true is the Melon Pan Song.

"Red bean bread has red bean jam in it.

Melon bread doesn't have melon in it.

Curry bread has curry in it.

Melon bread doesn't have melon in it.

Melon bread is my favorite,

but it doesn't have melon in it (too bad!)

Melon bread is my favorite,

but it doesn't have melon in it."

So why this disturbing disparity? Answer at the end!


For as long as I can remember, I've been afraid of policemen. I'm not sure why, as my youth was so far the opposite end of the spectrum from misspent as it's possible to be without being dead. I have a Pavlovian reaction to a blue uniform and flashing lights - but I suppose that is the intended reaction. If I pull over or put my hands up without question the less likely I am to get hurt, theoretically.

Another odd character trait is that I am incredibly gullible. This has gotten me into various amounts of trouble. I'll be fairly certain most of the time that Man has walked on the Moon - and then I'll run into some conspiracy theory that it was faked in a Hollywood basement and I'll think, Maybe? It has something to do with the amount of conviction some people have. I don't really have many firmly held-beliefs, so when people do it makes me feel as though, if they feel that strongly about it, it must be true. Even when on some level I know what they're saying is preposterous, part of me think it's possible. This is a very dangerous quality - it once ended me up at a Lyndon LaRouche meeting, a period of my life that I can't speak of but to apologize profusely.

The two in conjunction means I would be an ideal subject for Milgram's experiment. Though now I've taken Psychology 101 I am forewarned. Or so one would think.

When I first came to Japan, there was a scam going on targeted on foreigners. Someone would come to the door claiming to be a policeman needing to copy down all their information. There might be hints that something was off, such as a not-quite uniform or a solitary man when they usually work in pairs. To prevent identity theft or worse one should ask to see their ID and copy down their badge number. I made a mental note to be wary and promptly forgot. A year passes.

The other day I was coming home with two arms full of groceries, when a bike-policeman pulled into my parking lot. He didn't speak much English, but I gathered that he was checking the inhabitants of the building against a registry book he carried. Since the inhabitants of this apartment are me and a lot of young Chinese temporary workers, it's the sort of check-up I'd been expecting for a while. I was also amused to notice that the lot next door, which had been full of men clearing away the rubble from the Kentucky, was suddenly empty. So I figured I'd distract him to give them time for a get-away. Or I figured I'd do my part as a responsible legal immigrant to help out his records. Or I figured - who am I kidding, I figured nothing, I was just responding in terror to the uniform.

He had my name in his book - but that could be copied down from my door. He mentioned seeing me pass the police box in front of the station - but that could be easily guessed in a town this size. I explained the usual, living here a year, working at the junior high, from America. I let him copy down my alien card info, address, birthdate, entry into Japan, without a whiff of suspicion. Until he'd ridden away and I entered my apartment and was instantly stricken with self-recriminations. I hadn't even asked to see his badge, I was so eager to obey. What if he was laughing on his moped as he drove away, at the foolish gaijin? But who would want to steal my identity anyways?

I fretted about it for a few days, and then decided to try biking past the police box in the hopes I would recognize the policeman always standing there. I did so not without misgivings - if there's anything more suspicious than a little white girl walking slowly pretending like she's not casing out the joint I don't know what it was. I was trying to see the white moped but there was only the small white patrol cars. There was a police man standing in front as always - but he was wearing a mask and I couldn't identify him as the same one who had visited me. The uniform was different - but it'd been hot the other day and was cold now. I finally gave up my identity as lost and start to go home.

"Emily-sensei!" I looked around for my students, but it was the policeman. At first I just thought, "Is he a parent?" but he indicated coming to my apartment and recording my info. I peered at his eyes above his mask - it was hard to tell, but the friendly brown and wrinkles seemed familiar. "Were you looking for someone?" he asked. I couldn't exactly say, "You - because I thought you were a fake policeman," so I just said Fine, thanks, and went on my way in a state of great relief.

Of course, being a constantly worried child, there was a small niggling of doubt that somehow the scammer had hide away the usual policeman and was just standing there in time to soothe my suspicions. But sometimes I just have to take it in faith that the world is not as twisted a place as it is in my head.


(The answer is, it's called that after its shape rather than its contents, and is usually just sugar flavored. Too bad.)

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