Phantom of the Opera?

Today’s entry stems from a conversation I had with Jeff last night at Pisolino’s in Hyogo-machi (I’m still full from that meal, by the way).

Around the end of August, my boss asked me if I would meet with some woman and her daughter who were interested in America and whatnot, and I, not having anything else to do, went ahead and agreed. It turns out that the daughter was a middle-school student who one day just decided she couldn’t deal socially and was never going to school again. I don’t understand why such things are accepted in Japanese society, but I’m not a psychiatrist so I’ll keep my comments about the sad state of parenting to myself. Anyway, the mom had decided that since the daughter wasn’t going to school, she should meet as many different people and experience as many interesting things as possible, which to me sounded pretty great.

It was actually about a month or so before she finally came out with it and asked me to teach her daughter English. Actually, what she said was that since her daughter has this condition, its hard for her to do one-on-one lessons, and that they would appreciate if I did a few one-on-one’s with her until she got used to it so she could go to Nova or something. Feeling awful for the daughter I said I’d think about it if it’s a few short times, and its only the daughter, and she does eventually go to Eikaiwa classes. That night I got an email from the mom that said (in rough translation) “Tonight I was taking a walk with my daughter near Kencho and saw a group of ALT’s. I wanted to talk to them but was embarrassed that I couldn’t speak English. It was then that I felt that I really needed to learn English. Nirav, would you please teach me English, too?” Well, that is the single most piss-poor reason for "needing" to learn English that I've ever heard, so no, I’m not going to teach you English so that you can harass ALT’s on the street. Nor am I interested in giving free private lessons.

Since I turned her down I didn’t get any further contact until yesterday, when I was leaving my office to go to a meeting, and she was waiting outside the building. It wasn’t so much “contact” as her staring at me while I said “konnichiwa.” After a few tense moments of being stared at, I decided it was time for my meeting. Suffice it to say that I was weirded out.

So why, you ask, is this post entitled “Phantom of the Opera?” This woman, for some unknown reason, wears a surgical mask everywhere she goes. Hence the name. You may see (and be harassed by) her on the street. Turns out that Jeff did.

PS I really love it when random Japanese people harass you and tell you about the other people that they've harassed. Last week I was harassed by somene who told me all about how he had harassed Caleb and Matt on their way to Karatsu for some surfing. Great, dude.