fool’s folly
“Fool” can be a very strong word when used deftly, but being a fool myself, I lack such skill and therefore do no real harm in applying the label reflexively. And indeed I do so, in part because the course of my daily life from the time of my birth is strewn with unfortunate events of my own causing—adverse circumstances that only a fool could have brought into being. However, the real reason that I bother to use space for name-calling in my blaug is that I made a blunder of unusual magnitude two days ago, and my conscience hasn’t fully recovered.
On the train ride home from work: I shift between near-sleep and distracted analysis of the peculiar use of vocabulary in the novel Eragon. As the train pulls away from my platform, I head down the escalator, along a walkway, up some stairs, through the station building, and back down some stairs (convoluted route due to construction).
Across the street is a department store called Seiyū (partially pictured earlier from behind), in the basement of which is a grocery store. As is often my habit, I stop in for a few food items—just enough to last me less than a day, which is roughly normal for Tokyo. The cashier calls out the price of
My train station on the right, Seiyū on the left, and one of three northern entrances to the station in the middle.
each of my items as she scans them, using the standard humble expressions, as if the prices of the food I’m buying are somehow below me. I pay, participate in the exchange of a few more humble expressions, and step over to the counters where customers bag their groceries.
Sitting on the counter are some advertisements for Remy’s Yummy Restaurant, which is known in the U.S. as Ratatouille. Being a fan of Pixar’s movies, I pick one up, stuff it in my plastic bag, and head back to my dorm. And there I am for an hour or two.
Suddenly I realize, for no reason that I can remember,
The same scene from the other side.
that my wallet isn’t in my right-front jeans pocket where I normally keep it. “Huh . . . ?” I wonder lazily. Slowly I start to look around, supposing that if it isn’t in my pocket, then it must be sitting somewhere nearby. The carefree movement of my searching eyes becomes more frantic, and soon I’m on my feet, looking into every nook, drawer, and zipper that my room can offer. But to my dismay, it does not offer to return my wallet, and
A third perspective of the same place. To the left is the northeast entrance to the station.
I’m left dumbfounded.
I lost my wallet?! No way! It never happened back home, and surely it can’t happen here, either. I’m too consistent in my routine, my precise daily repetitions, to have made such a thoughtless mistake. Right? Well, obviously my room doesn’t agree with me, or it would have given me my stinking wallet back already. All evidence rather mercilessly indicates that I’m actually the only thing stinking at the moment.
Dazed that I could have been so stupid as to have left my wallet somewhere, I race out of the building and up the street toward Seiyū. After a block or so I realize the irony that I prepared for the loss of just my passport—by bringing a photocopy of it—and it was sitting safely in my backpack in my room. Wait, in my room? I might need that to identify myself if I’m going around asking for a wallet! So I run back, stuff my passport where my wallet should have been, and then make the entire trip to the store. Oh am I glad to see that it’s still open.
Even as I run down the escalator, I think, “Wow, this is certainly the fasted I’ve ever gone down this escalator before.” Maybe my decision to skip the last four or five steps made me think that. It’s late, and there aren’t many customers, so it’s easy to find a cashier who isn’t busy. Without giving much thought to how I would express my situation in Japanese, I explain it, and the cashier tries to help me.
I already concluded that the moment of carelessness must have been when I simultaneously set my items down for bagging; put the change I was given into my now-lost, synthetic-leather product; did something with the receipt that Japanese cashiers unfailingly place in my hands after every transaction; and noticed the ad for Remy’s Yummy Restaurant. That’s about three items too many for my stubborn, one-track mind.
So the cashier now kindly but futilely looks around the same counter where I was standing a short time before. The wallet that clearly isn’t there is, in fact, not there, and she apologizes. Consulting with another employee and a tiny lost-and-found drawer prove just as ineffective, though I do appreciate the effort nonetheless. I write down my contact information, should anything of mine turn up. Sadly, though, my dorm is without phone or Internet, and I haven’t been able to get a cell phone yet, so I equally futilely hand over my street address. Somehow I feel that snail mail would be less than helpful in this case.
If the store didn’t find my wallet, then someone else who was there tonight did. My only hope now is that this person might be good-natured, or at least kind enough to a foreigner to return his essential, synthetic leather to him.
Down the street from Seiyū a short way is a small police building, or a police box as they’re called, which are common in Japan. That’s the next logical place to go. Of course they don’t have my wallet, either, but they do have a Lost Item form I can fill out. As I answer the questions, the officer helping me shows me how to write characters that I’ve forgotten, such as those for “wallet” (財布) and “registration” (登録). Again the only contact information that I have to give is my street
The police box. I didn’t want the police to think that I was doing anything threatening with my camera and tripod, so I took this from far back. Cars kept getting in the way.
address, but the officer assures that if they find my wallet, they’ll definitely send me a postcard. Great.
Feeling dejected, I walk home, now slower than I ever have before. I have plenty of time to think about my mistake and all of the consequences that come along with it. And come to think of it, they are more numerous than I realized. Tomorrow’s a day off, thankfully, but after that I won’t be able to get to work because my train pass is gone. So is all of my money, which means that I can’t buy a ticket, either. I am blessed to have a little food in my room because it’s all I’m going to get. My parents can put money in my American bank account, but I don’t have an ATM card anymore, so I can’t withdraw it. There was a credit card in my wallet, too, which makes me wonder if identity theft could be a problem since they’re accepted everywhere. The worst
Fully zoomed out from the same place as the previous shot. A bit overexposed so you can see more detail in the dark.
part is that I must call my parents to tell them to cancel my ATM and credit cards, and I must also call someone in my company to let them know that they imported a fool from the Americas who is now stuck in Koganei, Tokyo. Oh, but I don’t have a phone. And public phones cost money. What else can’t I do?
. . . ah, yes, my alien registration card is gone, too. No bank account or cell phone for me! Not that I have a need for either anymore, as they’re both pretty useless without money. So all things considered, I’ve done pretty well for myself, haven’t I? There is definitely a cloud of disappointment following me around, and it’ll be amazing if I can ever get to sleep with this much rain pouring on my head. Not everyone here sees things as I do, so I’ll say simply that God is the only reason I can find sleep tonight.
My plan for the next day is to use the only method of communication left to me, which is the wireless Internet I found at Koganei’s community center. But I figure that I should first check back with the police and the store since I am not about to sit around and wait for a lousy postcard that may never arrive. There is a different set of officers at the police box this morning, so I retell a bit of my tale. Their answer is the same: They will without doubt send me a postcard in the event that they find my wallet, so there’s nothing to worry about. Which part is the joke? The postcard or the confidence that I’d be assured by it?
Unless the police have no means for communication internally, it is clear that whoever grabbed my wallet didn’t give it to them. He or she also didn’t bring it to my dorm, which is the only other altruistic option available because my street address was, of course, the one piece of contact info in it. So that’s it, then. I have to try to tell everyone what I’ve done, making my parents worry and people at my company stop what they’re doing to help me. This idea is repulsive to me, but I know that I have no other choice. Well, if I must do that, then I should at least double-check with Seiyū so that I can say I did everything possible to right the situation.
There are many more customers here now, and I suppose that it shall be difficult to find a cashier who can step away from the register to assist me me. However, I find a lady stocking shelves, so I decide to ask her. She responds completely differently than last night’s employees, offering to take me up to the store offices on the third floor, just in case there might be any help up there.
We enter the offices that were previously hidden by magic along the white, painted wall of the third floor. The lady leading me in without a wand relays the information I gave her to people in the office. Then suddenly, for no reason, hope fills the air: There is a lost wallet somewhere in this magically hidden room! One of the office ladies walks back to some high-tech lockers, pushes some buttons, and brings it out for me to see.
It’s mine! It’s mine! They found it! After proving my obvious, caucasian identity (which is clearly indicated on my alien registration card still inside my wallet) with my passport, I am amazed to find that the synthetic leather is actually tangible, and nothing is missing from it. The relief is tangible, too, and I say something to that effect in Japanese. I write my name and authorize with my personal seal for the first time.
Now everything is once again as it was when I got off of the train last night, except that I feel I’ll be a lot more careful in the future. When I step back outside, the weather is overcast and somewhat cool, but to me the sky has never looked so blue.
Wednesday, 2007 July 18