Warning: Certain gestures, habits, and customs routinely incorporated in to daily life at home, residents on foreign soil may view as rude or insulting.
The Deacon sat waiting patiently in the library at a metal folding table, his chair on one side, my elementary issued chair on the other, the spacial arrangement a reminder of the hierarchy in place and a tip to the agenda for the 30 minutes ahead. I sank down. My chin resting on my knees, knuckles resting on indoor/outdoor carpet covering the floor. The lecture on the importance of Confirmation and all other forms of religious instruction commenced. I, being a parent of a child about to be Confirmed, and THE teacher of the Confirmation class, didn’t see myself as the true target audience for his diatribe. Since he was not interested in my Offspring, my evolutionary teaching techniques, my ability to hold 25 kids in the palm of my hand while teaching the riveting details of Catholic doctrine through bribes, games, and pin the vice on the disciple, he lost me.
My mind started to free associate. It freely associated to several topics. One of which was the mud clod stuck on my shoe. I can only attribute the following action to the mind numbing droning sound buzzing from the mouth of the deacon causing my brain to short-circuit, sending misfired signals through synapses. Being a species with higher reasoning capabilities, I employed the use of a metal bar underneath the table as a tool to scrape the dirt clod off my shoe. It fell in smaller clumps to the floor. I blame the Deacon for reducing me to this child like behavior. He didn’t notice as he was thoroughly launched in to parental involvement at mass.
The smell of dog poo wafted up from underneath the table.
The Deacon must have been used to noxious odors for he continued unperturbed. Years of smoking and allergies have rendered my olfactory glands all but useless and what remains are virtually senseless after motherhood, however, this poo once unclumped was powerfully pungent. This presented quite a dilemma what should I do now?
I did what most children from dysfunctional homes would. I ignored it. It certainly was unfortunate for him, and the remaining parents, that the dog poo was left under the table. Unsure of exactly how to remove the dog poo now on the floor, underneath the table, in the library, I left it.
Without looking, I can assuredly announce, all guide books and Culture Experts would advise against tracking mud and excrement inside any sort of building, sacred or otherwise, even in the United States. I would also advise against it based on my new nickname, “St. Pious Poo Shoe,” which has stuck, not to be shaken, or wiped clean.
Similarly in Japan, there are several such taboo activities. Like blowing one’s nose in public. I have chosen this as the first to highlight due to the complexity of this seemingly innocuous issue. I read in the guide books and Culture directives:
“Do NOT blow your nose in Japan. It is considered EXTREMELY rude.”
However, in direct contradiction to those statements, please observe this extensive display of women’s handkerchiefs at Mitsukoshi- an upscale department store in Japan:
Who knew, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Celine make such things?
So what does one do with these precious, and expensive, pieces of cloth? Cloth napkins don’t exist here. In their place, are small, non absorbent, pieces of paper that are placed on tables in some restaurants- but not all. The issue with these “napkins” is they’re useless as the paper isn’t absorbent and are too small to use as napkins. Women use “Handkerchiefs” and substitute as napkins.
Andretti-san, truth seeker and cultural guide to the Clampitt family, disagrees with this Japanese lore. He advises that nose blowing should be discreet and performed in an unobtrusive manner to those in close proximity to the action so that sound- not the act itself- is not bothersome.
This continues to be problematic as I am an aficionado of the hankie; a love borne out of necessity not fashion. When I run, my nose does too. Where other runners strap on a water bottle, I tuck in my hankie to wave in the wind.
While I believe Andretti-san, I’m afraid to go against Lonely Planet. Nike+GPS has informed me that stopping, hiding, and blowing my nose, costs 3-4 minutes off my 4 mile time. Hummm. Do I risk the blow?
Let’s face it, with the number of mistakes I’ve racked on the Culture Lesson guide, I can’t afford to push on the questionables. But then, I know a few of you have a couple of stories you could share…