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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Modern Technology Vs The Semi-modern Man

Last week, I went back to work for the first time since late December - off burning off the plethora of vacation time I had left over from 2017.

Our magazine (and sister magazines) had moved into a new building that adds an additional 20 minutes to my commute on the way home, but only five on the way in. Toronto traffic is worse than LA traffic.

Anyhow, the lunch area has a sink and faucet... a faucet that confounded me.

It looks like this:

The handle looks like it is pulled down from an upright position to get the water going... only no water comes. It doesn't come when you push the handle upright.

There is a button on the faucet itself near where the water comes out. I push it, move it up - that works, but no water.

So I pull that handle down again... still no water.

I stared at it for 47 seconds and give up, figuring I can wash my Tupperware of the morning's cottage cheese out at home.

I slapped at the faucet handle in disgust as I prepared to leave, and the water came on.

Apparently you push the handle to the side to get it to come on, and forward to control the amount of water. Fawwwwk.

Later that afternoon, I went to use the washroom, and when done - being a righteous dude - I went to wash my hands. Now... I have been in this office for four days only (Monday-Thursday), and do know how to use the sensor-driven faucet there.

I got the hands wet, and throw my hand to the right to get some liquid soap from the dispenser, also motion sensitive. Except I moved my hand away too quickly and it dropped to the faux marble counter.

Still righteous, I grabbed a paper towel that automatically dispenses when you pull away the one that is there.

With a paper towel and swiped down at the dropped, frothy white soap on the counter wiping it up - except I triggered the automatic soap dispenser again causing another spoltch of soap to fall on the counter.

Bemused, I grabbed another paper towel, and swiped at the second glob of soap on the counter - this time quickly.

But not quick enough. Not only did I not get all of the soap I had spilled before, but now the pile was getting bigger.

So I grabbed another paper towel... those suckers get wet quickly, and that soap was quite frothy as it now covered my slick right hand.

I swiped again. I got it all, but another glob of soap dropped.

Doing my best Curly, and slapping my face and gyrating my hips and stamping my feet, I now had soap on my face, soap on my hand, and soap on the counter. Raving? I sure looked the part.

I grabbed another paper towel after disposing of that wet mess in my hand, wiped myself down, threw the paper away and grabbed another paper towel.

I swiped at that pile of soap on the the counter so quickly that the sensor didn't react. Faster than the speed of light, I guess. Call me the Flash.

Wrong Flash.
Thankfully, at the lunch room and in the washroom, I had my mechanical breakdown by myself... because I wouldn't want anyone else to know - you won't tell, right?

Modern World: 2 - Andrew: 0

It made me harken back to those early days in Japan when I arrived in my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan back in August of 1990.

If you think I'm mechanically inept now, imagine what I was like then? It's a good thing I was soooooo good looking. Riiiight.

Upon arrival, two men - Mr. Kanemaru and Mr. Hanazaki from the Ohtawara Board of Education office who were my de facto bosses - gave me a tour of my three bedroom place and tried to explain to me in their Japanese-heavy accented English what everything is.

The bedroom, couch, sliding doors, bathroom and washroom I understood... same for the fridge and the microwave (more or less).

The rest... uhhh... I had never lived on my own before, never done laundry, cooked, did know, the whole spoiled child syndrome and a mother who enabled me. On the plus side, it makes for better fodder here in this blog.

The microwave had weird settings on it... such as one button for warm milk, one for warm sake (it had separate settings for single, two and four cups of sake, but not for three)... things like that... and it also doubled as a convection oven. I didn't and probably still don't know what "convection" means in this case, but I did use it to make my own lasagna once a month for three years.

I'm not kidding about the sake buttons.

They showed me the gas heater which I had to turn on if I wanted hot water for the kitchen sink, a hot shower, and for the laundry machine that also acted as a dryer.

That thing scared the crap out of me. For a week after, until Matthew showed up and I asked, I noticed some tube dangling from it and was afraid to turn it on. Fortunately (??!!) it was 35C everyday and night, so a cool shower was fine.
The gas water heater (right), on the wall in my washroom area.

The stove and oven features were easy enough, as I had used those to make eggs and cook mini pizzas back in Toronto.

They then pulled out the cooking implements... and dammit all, but these Japanese men had no clue how to use them either. They could describe them and what they did, but they couldn't tell me how to use such things as the pressure cooker or rice cooker or even the tea thing. The kettle I knew, and used that to make tea... I think the other was to hold it and keep it warm.

Anyhow, they said they would have some women from the office come by the next day to show me how it all worked.

Sexist? Sure. But who was I to judge at that time.

The two women came over, one young and one older - and with very broken English attempted to show me how things worked.

The main problem was - and I bet it is for any newcomer to Japan - is that I had never heard Japanese or Japanese English before.

There is an accent and a way of pronouncing English words that made them sound quite foreign to me. Sorry, but it's true.

For example... my three bedroom apartment is called (in katakana Japanese) "apaa-to". Whatever they meant, there was no "ment" in that phrasing of the word.

Needless to say, I never did learn how to use the rice cooker or steamer. They tried, but I never understood enough of what they told me, and didn't know how to cook anyhow.

Keep in mind, this is 1990 - before the Internet as we know it came to be.

While I was the kind of guy who could take apart a VCR and put it back together again, technology and I were never on the best of terms.

It's why I hesitated until 2009 before getting into blogging. I had heard of it, knew what it was, but was afraid I wouldn't know how to get it to work for me. I now have nearly 3,900 blog posts here, another 200+ on my Pioneers of Aviation blog, and several hundred more on two other blogs I had created.

The point is... I don't know what the point is.

My 12-year-old son asked me why I didn't use two hands with the soap dispenser. One to wipe up, while the other stayed under the dispensing part to catch the soap.

Different strokes for different folks.

Japan can be a daunting place for those lacking the necessary survival skills.

We tend to focus on the communication aspect - no one to talk to - so lonely... and while that is huge, so too is the fact that we might not know how to use a train station ticket dispenser, or how to cook or do laundry, or even how to shop for food.

I once bought a container of what I thought was chocolate milk... because what else is sold in a container that looks like that? Turns out, that in Japan they sell various cold teas in that format. It ruined a perfectly good bowl of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.
Kellogg's Corn Frosty (aka Ko-n Fu-ro-su-tei). They're grrrrrr-8!
 Nearly 30 years later, sometimes technology continues to befuddle me. Don't even get me started on my iPhone... my first portable phone ever that I only got last February so I could be in contact with my baseball team in case something came up.

I can work it, but probably don't use it to its full capabilities... but I can play Sudoku on it while in the washroom at work.

Andrew Joseph
PS: The wrong Flash was Flash Gordon. I was, of course talking about The Flash.

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