Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.434

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The elementary school I attended had an open house for students’ parents twice a year. My mother had ordered me to answer the teacher’s questions by raising my hand to show off in front of other parents. I was a kid who didn’t answer the teacher’s questions in order to avoid contact with others even though I knew every single answer and usually got full marks in the test. So, an open house was an excruciating event for me because to obey my mother, I had to behave in the exact opposite way to my usual manner. Other kids noticed it and began to find out that I didn’t answer although I knew it. That and the fact the teacher often appointed me as a leader to help other students who didn’t do well at school while I tried not to talk to other kids, convinced them that I had looked down on them. It seemed they told their parents about it. On my way home from school one day, one of the parents of my classmates approached me. I had been used to being spoken to by a grown-up this way. In the case like this, they would say, “You’re the smartest girl at school!” I was certain that this woman would also admire me when she read my nameplate of the school on my chest and started, “I know who you are.” But on the contrary, she yelled harshly, “Don’t behave as you do! You can’t act like that just because you’re smart and your family is rich! Stop being conceited! Do you understand!?” I had never been rebuked by a stranger before. I was only a second-grader and her enmity and her angry face terrified me. She was so furious that her eyes turned white. My eyes were filled with tears. In less than a year, I began to talk to other kids at school. The reason was not the woman, though. I had a crush on a boy in my class and wanted to make a good impression on him. A simple magic like that was enough to break my silence…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.433

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Until the third grade, I had hardly spoken with anybody except for my family and relatives. I disliked people overall and especially despised kids around me. They seemed too infantile to me who was also a kid then. Naturally, I was the most unpopular student at elementary school. An election for a class president was held every term. When I started elementary school, my mother ordered me one thing as the most important thing at school. She forbade me to vote for anyone else besides me in a class president election. She had wanted me to be a class president so badly and believed voting for others in the election was the stupidest thing in the world. There was no need to announce candidacy in the class president election, and the president would be chosen from all students in a class. We wrote a name of a student on a piece of paper, a teacher collected it and showed the result on the blackboard. In every election, three or four usual names of popular students were written on the board along with their votes. And there was always my name with one vote. That was my ballot. I would press myself to write down my own name on a ballot with my trembling hand because of my mother’s order that was more like a threat to me. The result would be always one vote for me, which apparently told everyone that I voted for myself. Everyone would laugh at me. All I could do was not to burst into tears for shame. I just had to do that as my mother would make sure sharply I had voted for myself when I came home. From the third grade, I started talking to other kids and became popular. I was elected to a class president by a landslide in the fourth grade. All students put on a nameplate on their clothes and a president pin was issued to a class president to be put on a square of green felt under the nameplate. In the evening, my mother cut green felt, almost crying for joy. Her vanity was finally satisfied. She made me put on the president pin wherever I went. I knew people must have laughed when they saw me wearing a nameplate with the pin on Sundays, but I had to for my mother’s pride…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.432

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This is a ramble about the bathroom and if you’re reading this while eating, I apologize. I got in the bathroom at a cafe yesterday. Although the cafe was Western-style, the bathroom was Japanese-style. For those who are unfamiliar with it, let me explain a little. The Japanese-style bathroom has a shallow bowl in the floor with no toilet seat. You have to squat down when you use it, which is terribly uncomfortable and unsanitary. I loathe it. When I encounter the Japanese-style, I don’t use it and look for the Western-style that is dominant nowadays in Japan. In the cafe’s bathroom, a towel was hung beside the sink like in the bathroom of a home. Both the toilet and the sink were out of the question for me altogether. I left the cafe and went in the mall nearby which rest room was Western-style. As a germ phobic, I always carry sterilizing liquid and some toilet seat covers that the Japanese bathroom rarely equips. And I have a ritual when I use the bathroom outside my house. I first wash my hands with soap, wipe them with a paper towel, open and close the bathroom door with the paper towel instead of my bare hand, wipe my hands thoroughly with toilet paper, spray the toilet seat with sterilizing liquid, put a toilet seat cover, and finally sit down. During the ritual in the mall’s rest room, the unthinkable happened. I dropped my ring into the toilet bowl! It could have happened to anyone, but why me a germ phobic? Only two choices were given to me; either giving up the ring or dipping my hand into the bowl. And I had to decide quickly, as the train to my home was coming soon and the next train would be two hours later if I missed it. While the ring is a cheap one, I’m also a cheap person. I picked up the ring from the bowl. I washed my hand and the ring with soap frantically over and over, and spray sterilizing liquid on them amply. I consumed the time for shopping and barely caught the train. I wondered if I should have given up the ring. What if I fell into the lava for greed like Gollum in ‘Lord of the Rings’? On my way home, the station attendant didn’t take the ticket, so that I had a free train ride unexpectedly. That may have shown I didn’t fall. I’ve kept washing my hand but it still feels dirty…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.431

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The apartment building I live in is far from the city and only few are permanent residents, among which I am. Others use here as their vacation home. It’s crowded with those vacationers in the summertime and the wintertime. Especially the summertime is the worst for me, as many kids stay here. I use the communal spa of the building and encounter too many ill-behaved kids. They and their parents don’t understand the difference between a swimming pool and a spa. Under a big ‘No Swimming’ sticker, they jump into the tub, splash around, dive and swim. Their parents let them do that happily. They turn the usually quiet relaxing spa into hell. It seems parents have lost a concept of discipline and kids’ manners have gotten worse and worse every year. I thought their bad manners hit rock bottom last summer, but I was wrong. This summer, they reached a record low. Now they can’t tell a spa and a toilet apart. I saw a boy urinate on the floor beside the tub without hesitation as soon as he rushed into the spa room. Instead of reproaching, his mother watched it smiling delightfully. When I got out and put on my clothes in the locker room, an old woman spoke to me and told me how uncomfortable she was to see that ill-behaved family. We agreed on lack of parents’ discipline. A week later, I saw the woman in the spa again. She had got her grandchild visiting and was taking a bath with him. If not urinating, the boy was shouting and shrieking while swimming and diving. The woman, who had talked with me about bad manners, was saying nothing to his grandson and was just smiling, playing with him. Other residents who had seemed clearly annoyed by noisy kids also acted in the same way, once they were taking their grandchildren with them. A fact I newly discovered is that people go blind when it comes to their own grandchildren…

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