Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Are We Not Men?

Just got back from a family road trip up to Yamaguchi Prefecture. I'll have some words and pictures about that later this week, but now that my wife and daughter are sleeping, and I'm showered and drinking beer, I'd like to relate a rather disturbing and disgusting spectacle I witnessed earlier today.

On our way back to Miyazaki we decided to swing by the Costco in Fukuoka to pick up some stuff (now that we're members, and all). It's the "Silver Week" holidays, so I wasn't surprised that Costco (like anyplace else in Japan on a holiday) was wall-to-wall crowded.

Anyway, we wend our way through the aisles picking up items that my wife deems necessary (and value-priced!) to our household. (A penchant for 5-gallon jugs of whiskey and 48-packs of beer has resulted, over the years, in the loss of my "can-deem-something-necessary" powers in our household's political hierarchy. There was also the Amazon CD and book fiasco...) We've got some coffee in our cart, some clothes for our daughter, a case of soup (a subtle victory of mine!), and some other stuff. Not much really.

We wait until we have everything else until we go to the fresh food section of the store (bakery, meat, produce, etc.--stuff we might have to put in a cooler before driving home). This is only my second time at this store, but I think this particular section is generally very crowded, so many people park their carts on the fringes and go in "hands free." My wife wanted to buy some rolls, but the shelf was empty. She seemed sure that they would be putting some more out soon, so she told us (our daughter and me) to go wait by the cart for a few minutes until she was finished. When we left her she was the only person in line waiting for rolls...

After about 15 minutes our daughter started getting a bit antsy, so I decided to go see what was keeping my wife. As I approached the spot where I'd left her a few minutes earlier, I could see a crowd had formed. I could also see that staff behind the bakery counter were basically just throwing bags of rolls over the counter and on to the sloped shelf one by one as they were being prepared, so that they basically slid down into the hands of whomever was lucky enough to be standing in that particular spot. To say there was a "scramble" for these rolls would be a slight understatement. My wife, who's not a very tall woman, and who was still right at the front of the counter where I had left her, was not having much luck. In fact, much taller men were reaching over her and plucking bags of rolls before she could reach them...

Freeze that scene for a moment. I've seen similar scenes with my wife before. These scenes are, simultaneously, a source of pride and frustration for me. I've never seen her jostle for position, when any rule of fairness would say that she has it. I've never seen her scramble or clutch at or fight for anything that she had every right to have in her hands. I honestly don't know if she has some kind of inner zen, or if she's simply "too good" to lower herself to that level; perhaps if it's some combination. I do know that after about a minute--in fact, it's probably exactly one minute-- of that kind of crap, I'm gonna get nasty...

If it had just been women fighting it out for these fucking rolls I probably would have let things run their course. (Hey, I've read The Bacchae!) If that sounds a bit (or very) sexist, well, excuse my sorry ass. I assume that the only reason any woman would find herself fighting tooth and nail over food is to feed her kids. The beer and potato chips are elsewhere... And, as I've already mentioned, some sorry-assed pricks calling themselves men had already interjected themselves into the situation.

I'm still holding back a bit until one bag of rolls comes cleanly into my wife's hands. I say "cleanly" in the sense that she's started to turn around and walk away with her prize. Just then, some asshole, some prick, some fucking piece of shit who no doubt considers himself a hero of modern manhood, some worthless scumbag, grabbed the bag from my wife's hands. She had a good grip on it, so when he grabbed it away the bag actually ripped a bit. And then, and then, he held the bag of rolls up like a prize and actually cried out in triumph.

At that moment I wished for nothing more than a machete so that I could remove that asshole's head and hold it up like a trophy with a shout of triumph. Fortunately (or not, who really knows?), I've been hanging out with my wife too long for anything like that to happen. Instead, I (firmly but gently--ahem) made my way through the crowd, put my hand on my wife's shoulder, and told her not to worry about it, let's get out of here.

The next bag of rolls fell into her hand. No one else touched it.


  1. I admire your self-restraint. I understand your wife though...I can't stand thrusting myself forward in those situations, it seems demeaning.

  2. What tumultuous crowd behaviour over bread! Still, I would love to have your wife's remarkable calm - I know I would've been upset and probably sworn at the bread-grabbing oaf.

  3. god, i hate costco on the weekends and holidays. i'm glad your wife got her rolls in the end, though.