Saturday, December 26, 2009

Magpie 101


I don't usually do reruns. But the prompt this week seems to demand re-posting the following from several years ago.
You see, I was once pleased to be given an interesting assignment: I was to make a movie about a top American corporation. The film would involve some shooting in Japan.

So I flew to Tokyo, ready to go to work. As I got off the plane, I believed that the Japanese were really taking this motion picture project seriously because, as I was surprised to see, I was being met at the airport by a large limo. And not just a limo; the car had a uniformed driver and another chap, also uniformed, who rode shotgun - though in Japan I suppose it would be shogun :-) - in the front passenger seat.

I was able to cruise through the world-famous Tokyo traffic jam in comfort. In fact, I had never had a job, of any kind, that started off so auspiciously. They drove me to their head office and I got to meet everyone. They were all friendly and welcoming; there was a lot of bowing, me doing my share, of course.

It was lunchtime, so they asked if I would prefer going to a steak-house or would I like to try some authentic Japanese food? Well, of course, we had steak-houses back in the Stytes and besides, I thought it would be a good political move to opt for the indigenous cuisine, so we headed off for what I would today recognize as a sushi place.

I say I would recognize it today; I didn’t recognize it then. Truth is, a few decades ago there weren’t many sushi joints in the U S of A, and you certainly didn’t see sushi for sale in just about any American grocery store. Most Yankees of that era didn’t know from sushi; the idea of eating raw fish was regarded as just sort of weird.

However I could see that this restaurant I was being taken to was elegant and upscale – i.e., expensive – so I looked forward to an excellent meal.
But there was a fly in the saki. Something had been worrying me, and it had nothing to do with raw fish. It had gradually dawned on me, as time went on, that I was inadvertently sailing under false colors.
The reason for the great welcome I had received? I came to realize that they thought that I, a humble artisan, a simple, rather impecunious documentary-maker, was actually one of the top executives of the American corporation in question. That explained the limo and its two charioteers.
That was bad enough. Just as bad was the question, how on earth do I go about telling them of the mistake? I had heard all about the importance of saving face in the Orient; would they think I had intentionally tried to trick them? Would hara kiri knives be involved in any way?
At this point the waiter served the meal. I felt like I had just come into the big city from Mayberry; I recognized absolutely nothing that was being served. But one thing struck me forcibly. Among everything else on the plate there was a little creature there – who was walking around.
I had never gone in for ambulatory victuals. However, when in Rome… I took up my chopsticks and went after him. He valiantly fought off my preliminary attack. This was followed by a certain amount of thrusting and parrying. Fortunately, I remembered the rules of fencing from my college days. What was odd was that he seemed to know them too.
Then, while I sat there planning my next move, the little fellow climbed over the edge of the plate and headed off to the left. The Japanese are a polite people; the two guys with me were trying desperately not to laugh, but not succeeding. The waiter took pity on me and swooped the whatever-it-was away with a towel. In a way I was sorry to see the little chap leave; he had fought well, and with a certain panache.
Well, long story short – it’s been long enough – the gentlemen I was visiting took the explanation of the misconception well enough and, as that great Japanese playwright Shakespeare used to say, all was well that ended well.

12 comments:

lakeviewer said...

The story is funny enough with just the raw food experience; you added two more conditions, the fly/insect, and the mistaken identity. Enough hooks to keep us in a churn. Tell us more, tells us more.

Berowne said...

>> ...you added two more conditions, the fly/insect, and the mistaken identity. <<

Now, that's interesting. I had never thought that the critter might have been a fly and that I wasn't SUPPOSED to eat it.

(It didn't look like a fly.)

(And it didn't fly.)

French Fancy said...

I wonder what it was crawling round your plate. You are very bold and brave - this is the stuff of situation comedy really.

Jeanne said...

Like Lakeviewer, I assumed that the critter was a passerby, and not part of your meal. Did the other gentlemen's plates include ambulatory cuisine?

Berowne said...

>> You are very bold and brave. <<

Very true. At least when it comes to creatures of that size. :-)

Kevin Musgrove said...

I love the description of the on-plate tourney!

Berowne said...

Jeanne: >>Like Lakeviewer, I assumed that the critter was a passerby, and not part of your meal. <<

Oh, it was part of the meal. Each of the two Japanese gentlemen with me had been served the same plate. They, of course, popped their version of whatever-it-was in their mouths with their chopsticks immediately. My mistake had been to anthropomorphize the little fellow and try to get to know him a bit before beginning the personal combat session. As I suggested, he was a worthy opponent.

Berowne said...

Kevin - Thanks much for your comment.

willow said...

I ate some strange things in Japan, but was never expected to eat a crawling thing. Ick-ick. Relieved to hear you weren't forced to use commit hara kiri.

Berowne said...

Good comment, Willow. And, happy new year!

Anna Lefler said...

Woot! Sounds like you were grace under pressure. I would have - as one of my friends puts it - fruck out.

Happy New Year!

:-D Anna

Berowne said...

>> I would have - as one of my friends puts it - fruck out. <<

This is not just a new year; I have learned a new verb! :-)

 
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