Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fringe Benefits

The teacher’s room of an English conversation school. 9:25 PM.

Four Japanese teachers and one foreigner scurry around the cramped teacher’s room, marking attendance sheets, putting away lesson plans, pulling off nametags, and making phone calls to no-show students after the end of another workday. Amidst the commotion, another breathless gaijin enters waving his hands, his unkempt hair and cheap suit tousled by the exertion of the day. He addresses the teachers from the doorway as if they were a crowd of hundreds.

Gaijin: Attention everyone! I have an important announcement!

All eyes turn expectantly towards him fearing some disaster: a visit from the Head Office; a student who’s failed to renew his contract; or worse, a grammar question that even the foreign teacher cannot answer.

Gaijin: A student brought us three bunches of delicious Yamanashi grapes on Monday, purely out of the goodness of her heart. I helped myself to one of them last night and—I must warn you—they were the most delicious grapes I had ever tasted. (The others slowly go back to their work.) There are now two bunches of these famous purple mouth-watering Yamanashi grapes left waiting in the kitchen. These grapes are the size of ping-pong balls, and I myself can guarantee that they will not disappoint a single person who ventures to try them. Is anyone interested in taking them home?

Teacher #1: Nope.

Teacher #2: (shakes head)

Teacher #3: You can have them.

Teacher #4: No thanks.

Gaijin: (turning to his Western coworker) Matt?

Matt: I guess I could, but I took some grapes last time and they just went bad in the fridge. I’d rather have you take them all than have them wasted.

Gaijin: (in disbelief) All right, is it really okay if I take both bunches home? Is anyone else even remotely interested in them?

By this time everyone is completely ignoring him as they finish out their day’s work. The gaijin shrugs and goes to collect his prize.


You would be amazed at how often this happens. Fruit in Yamanashi is so ubiquitous that people have long grown tired of the mammoth peaches, grapes, and cherries that the farmers harvest and hawk on the roadside every year. I assure you that I intend on taking full advantage.