Sunday, October 08, 2006

Designated carpool

Last week we had the sports festival at school. Last year, I was excited to see all the kids out in their teams with their different colored shirts running around. This year, I stayed inside and read so I wouldn't get sunburned. Some things get old quickly.

It's quite a big event though; all of the students at the school have to participate in some capacity, and it goes on for the entire school day. The P.E. teachers have to plan and run the whole thing, so after a long day of work, they do what people do in Japanese workplaces everywhere - go out and get drunk. And I don't mean "a few beers with the boys" drunk, I mean "passing out in your suit on a bench in the train station" drunk.

The next morning, after getting out the shower I notice I got a call from my neighbor, one of the aforementioned teachers. I'm surprised because - though I often call him when it rains to get a ride to school - he has never once phoned me. I call him back.

Me: Good morning!
Teacher: RUKAS~! (He seems to really love yelling my name like this) Good morning.
Me: You called me?
Teacher: Ah...yes. I was going to ask you, can you drive a car?
Me: Huh? Yeah...Why?
Teacher: So, last night, after sports day, I had a drinking party with the other P.E. teachers...
Me: Ah, good work on sports day.
Teacher: Thanks...well, I had a bit too much to drink last night.
Me: Well, are you okay?
Teacher: Yes, but I'm still a little drunk, actually.
Me: (Pause) Umm, okay...
Teacher: So, would you mind driving me to school in my car?
Me: (Pause to laugh really hard)...Sure, no problem.

So, I go down and he's sitting in the passenger seat of his car with the car running, waiting for me. I jump in and we head off to school. He tells me he got home really late the night before after too many beers, and decided it wouldn't be safe for him to drive himself to work. On one level, I think this is responsible and admirable, as drunk driving is alarmingly commonplace - both in frequency and level of acceptance - in Japan. Of course, on another level, he is going to work drunk. And on another, more hilariously terrible level, he is going to teach at a school drunk!

I laugh about this the entire trip, even more as he keeps giving me directions on how to get there; I feign surprise and gratitude when he tells me where to turn to get into the parking lot. Sure, it's ridiculous, but I'm thinking about this too much as an American. There, this kind of thing would be considered alcoholism and could get you fired. Here, they hold drinking parties at least twice a term which all teachers are required to attend - and the hundreds of bottles of Kirin there are all paid for by the school.

In the end, I just laughed and told him to just stand out on the field during class with his sunglasses on and his arms crossed till he sobered up. After all, he's just a P.E. teacher; that's basically all he does every day anyway.

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