Andretti-san- fastest driver in the East, cultural guide, and Japanese sensei- is also a self-professed otaku– someone obsessed with electronics and gaming to the exclusion of all other interests and activities. He and I have debated the validity of his membership in the ranks of otaku based on his possession and daily usage of an introductory model of the flip phone. Any bona fide member of the otaku gang would have upgraded to a stylus version with gaming capabilities ten years ago. Our conversation usually spirals downward in to a wasted explanation of graphics and speed always ending in cheap.
Twenty five to thirty years after Andretti-san`s phone was released to the market, he saved enough Docomo points to get a smart phone. Free.
On Day 1 of the new phone, he held it aloft in the morning sunlight filtering through the windshield. Angels heralded its maiden ride about town with rapturous praise and joyful sounds.
Ouisar-san “Oh good- now we can text each other instead of sending emails!”
Andretti-san “What`s that?”
O- “You know- sort of like instant messaging on the computer- a way of sending a message quickly. I`ll send you one- give me your new phone number.”
=====Hi it`s me test test test======
Chimes went off where the new phone was hidden. He reached for the glove box and the car swerved in that direction.
A- “What does this mean?”
O- ” A test- like when NASA calls the space shuttle,` Columbia, this is Houston- do you read?` This is a TEST to see how it looks when it comes through. Ok- you send me one.”
He switched to indirectly driving the car-which means only his knees have any sense of the road as they steer the car. His eyes, brain and hands were otherwise engaged in creating a text message. A man threw a garbage can in our path and jumped out-of-the-way as we careened down the back street. Andretti-san doesn`t worry about collateral damage or obstacles coming in contact with the car unless it leaves a mark.
A- “Why do this? Email is fast. ”
O- ” This way you don`t have to scroll through contacts, address it, blah blah blah. Just type a couple of words and send. Fewer key strokes.”
A- “Just call- easier.”
Employing a cell phone in public is considered the height of rudeness as it disturbs those around you. Although Andretti-san has no qualms about doing whatever is necessary to benefit a member of the Clampitts, I would still prefer to put my best foot forward. Certainly in times of emergency it can`t be avoided however, most Japanese wouldn`t consider my potential phone calls as legitimate emergencies:
“Help- the lady is not speaking the same Japanese I speak!”
“How do you say ` A pink Size 32 A bra` in Japanese?”
“The bank manager says the bank can only do business with Spouse, can you come in and pretend to be him so I can get this done today?”
The second day he discovered YouTube on the phone. He pulled up, “Staying Alive” from the BeeGees. We bull dozed through a school crossing as we competed with each other for best John Travolta impersonation. The sound of bikes hitting the pavement and teachers yelling never broke through our disco inferno.
Next came a medley of 70`s hits including Donna Summer`s “Hot Stuff.” How did a generation of polyester wearing dancers avoid laughing when Donna announced her immediate need for some hot stuff? An immaculately clean black car with tinted windows slid in to the parking deck of the only International grocery store in Tokyo. Everyone stopped, turned and hoped to see if the current celebrity about town- Johnny Depp- would emerge from the car as it blared “I Want Some Hot Stuff” and screeched in to a front row parking place.
But I got out.
As I walked the dairy aisle, I saw several store employees checking the refrigeration unit trying to identify the cause of the vibrating eggs.
Within a few days, Andretti-san had downloaded all the songs from his youth minus a few of which he could not recall the artist or the words.
A- “Ouisar-san- do you remember this song? `da da da da da da da` ? It was song by a female R & B singer in the 70`s.”
Unable to narrow it down based on the information presented, I downloaded “Sound Hound” and instructed him to hum a few bars.
“No Close Matches”
After several tries, we realized that Sound Hound responds better to melodious humming versus the “dadada” type. It highlighted several current artists from the Middle East of whom we were previously unaware. After a full day of listening to various musical genres- none of them from the 70`s American era- we moved on to one I recognized immediately.
“Shame” by Evelyn Champagne King.
Since his new high-tech phone responded to voice commands he instructed it to download, “Errerin Champagne King.” Either the phone did not understand or could not hear due to my background laughter.
O- “Maybe your phone only understands Japanese.”
More knee driving, followed by me hitting the imaginary brake in the back seat, which resulted in the slamming on of brakes to avoid the truck stopped in front of us. He entered her name using the Japanese phonetic system.
By now the police were tracking our progress through town by following the periodic bursts of honking, yelling and brakes screeching which occurred whenever Andretti-san played with the phone.
A- “Nope. I`ll try it in English – pronounced the way Japanese people would say it.”
He tried it again, ” Eb oh reen oo Chom pan keeng oo.”
Burning, you keep my whole body yearning
You got me so confused
It’s a shame”
In the meantime, bystanders have reported seeing a person recklessly driving a black car slinging either a passenger or ventriloquist`s dummy to and fro in the back seat. Observers can not confirm if the driver is male or female due to the high rate of speed with which said driver travels. The police have asked Tokyo residents to watch for this unidentified road hazard at the sound of oncoming screeching tires.
Next week Andretti-san will revive the 80`s on our weekly trip to Costco.