Thursday, September 29, 2005

Brushing like she's never brushed before

I have got to stop blogging at 3am. I know the last entry says it was posted at about 1:30am, but that's just when I began composing it; I actually futzed around with it for hour and a half, and finally went to bed shortly after 3.

That morning I got a call on my cell phone. Who was it but Toothpaste Maniac. Since I'm never awakened by a phone call on weekdays, I somehow got it into my head, in my semi-conscious state, that it was Saturday. So I looked at the caller ID display, thought, I wonder why TM is calling, and answered with a cheery, "Hello!"
"Hello," she said. "Are you coming to Yoko-chu today?"
"Umm... huh?" I'd heard her say Yoko-chu (Yokota JHS), but somehow I thought she meant Yoko-sho, the elementary school. Why would I be going to the elementary school on a Saturday?
"Are you coming to Yoko-chu today?" she repeated.
Something was wrong, and I became aware that I was really disoriented—my immediate family will testify that I'm a difficult person to communicate with when I've just woken up. I also began to realize that today might not be Saturday, but I didn't dare ask TM what day it was, because that would only make things worse. I looked at my watch: ten minutes to 9. Then I realized... Tuesday!
"Oh no! Gomen nasai! I'm so sorry!"
TM started to laugh. "Overslept?"
"Oh man, the alarm... I don't know what happened. I'll be right there."
"Okay, because you have a class with me first period."
Ghaa! I have so few classes at that school, to be late to one made my tardiness twice as bad. "Ah! I'll hurry."
"I'll leave a note on your desk. When you get here, please come to class 2-3."

I scrambled to get ready and ran to school. In the front of the school yard was the principal with a couple of administrators, examining a decorative carved stone. Lovely. They wished me good morning, and I gave a sheepish "sumimasen" (excuse me), which they inexplicably found amusing.
Trying to be discreet, I snuck into the teachers' room where only a handful of teachers were. I made my way quickly to my desk to find the note TM had left for me. But one of the other JTEs was across the room using a computer. "Emily!" she sang. "Good morning!"
"Good morning," I groaned. "I'm an idiot."

Toothpaste Maniac gets her nickname from an exchange we had within my first month of teaching. Brushing your teeth after every meal is something that's preached in schools in the US, but we rarely practice it—never, if you went to my schools. But at my schools in Japan all the kids and most of the teachers brush their teeth immediately after lunch. I thought it a bit strange at first (cos newbies tend to think different = strange), and then decided that it was, well, actually a very good idea. So I brought my own toothpaste and brush to leave in my desk at each junior high.

A couple of days after I'd started brushing regularly at Yokota JHS, one of my JTEs came up to me after lunch and gestured to the tube of Crest in my hand. "I haf hiss," she said while brushing her teeth.
Looking down at the tube, I said, "Crest?" I hadn't seen it in Japan, but I remembered that she'd spent several months in England.
She nodded, her mouth still full of foam. "I co'eck hoofpase. I'm a hoofpase maniac."


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