Thursday, July 07, 2005


After work, I went downtown again tonight. Ususally I can't be bothered, but we've gotten a bit of a break in the weather and it's not stupid-hot and humid, so I'm taking advantage of it while I can.

I walked into a 7-11 to buy a couple silly mini-cans of diet coke. As I stood at the register, the cashier gestured to my chest area. Just as I looked down and saw some flying ant-looking thing perched on my right boob, the cashier actually reached across the counter and brushed it off me. Twice.

I mean ~ she performed a nipple sweep on me! She didn't get it off the first time, so she did it again!! I looked at her and (couldn't help myself) laughed like Julia Roberts did when Richard Gere shut the necklace box on her outstretched hand.

It got me thinking about touching and personal space. I went to the food court to drink my silly little sodas and observe. I tell ya, it was like sitting amongst a room of Three Stooges. Nevermind the highschool and young-ish couples cuddled up close, I'm talking about the beatings people were laying on each other. Nearby, there was a table of four, maybe university-aged people. Three guys and a girl. It was like they were having some kind of competition to see who could say something that would provoke the other three to hit them. There was back-slapping, arm thwacking, and head whacking. No eye poking though. There were moms chasing their run-away toddlers with the threat of backhands to their heads and actual smacks to their bottoms. There were high school girls pinching and slapping each other between giggles. Everywhere I looked, people seemed to be laying their hands on each other!

I'm still not used to it, but this is a touchy feely kind of place, Do you think? Oftentimes, Extreme Touch-Feel - as in, bordering on battery! My kids know that their hitting/kicking/pinching another student will result in a "yellow card," but yet, every class I'm giving them out for some kind of physical infraction. It's a total a mixed message, I know, when I'm insisting on 'peace and love' every third day, and during the other two, the Korean teachers are hitting them with sticks. I can only try to manage my classrooms, though.

My friend Young-a used to get my attention everytime she wanted to say something to me, by whacking me on the upper arm. I got wise and started switching seats after one arm got too sore, but even then,...I finally had to ask her to stop, and told her that if she tapped me, I would look at her and end up less annoyed and less bruised in the morning. Likewise, I wasn't used to walking arm in arm or holding her hand in the street. I love the girl, but,...

Maybe it's just me. I didn't grow up in an overly affectionate household. I remember my father patting my back when I was about 12 and headed up on a Greyhound bus for a March break visit with the grandparents. As his hand made contact with my spine I felt all strange. What was this person-to-person contact thing going on? It had been the first time in maybe two years he'd laid a hand on me. His belt doesn't count. But I've grown into a fairly affectionate person. In fact, I'm so jonesing for physical contact I'll sometimes let the kids play with my hair for a minute or two longer, while I'm taking attendance, before I ask them to sit down and open their books. It's the hitting I'm not used to. (Considering none of the hitters here are my father.) WTF - I've gotten off topic kinda sorta.

I almost made a new Korean friend awhile back here. I ran into this woman in the supermarket a few times. She was nice and spoke pretty good English. She had spent some time studying in California. She was married and had a cute little one and a half year old baby. One day, as she was inviting me over to her place for dinner, she encouraged her little guy to say "hi" to me. When he didn't, she rapped him in the head with her knuckles!

I never went to dinner. I come from the point of view that it's best not to hit babies in their yet fully formed skulls. I'm not judging her, but....well, actually, I guess I am. And I don't even know what to do with my judgement. It's not an isolated incident, it seems to be a cultural thing where it's funny here, to hurt each other. Yes, yes, Tom & Jerry, Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, Grand Theft Crip Super Shoot 'Em Dead Auto, I know. Pervasive.

But to me, it's not cool.

In Japan, it's almost the other extreme. I took a trip with my friend Mamoru to see his parents. It had been 2 years since he'd been down to Nagasaki to see them, and when we arrived there was no physical contact of any kind whatsoever. Bows were exchanged, but, as Mamoru explained afterward, hugs were just not done. Sometimes, Mamoru shook his dad's paw, but other than that -- nothing. Another cultural extreme. Nothing I could change, but I'd like to.

I'd like to buy the world a home, and furnish it with love. Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves. I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony...

At the very least, I'd like my students to stop beating each other. And me.

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