Live from Locohama S1/E9: A foulness in the air

I’m at my other school this week. Away from knife-wielding students and back-stabbing teachers, away from Junior Yakuza and office Menage a trois. I’d love to say it’s a relief, but I love it at the other school if for no other reason than it’s ripe with writing material, enough juice to satisfy my writing  jones. 

Here? Well, the 3rd years students are busy testing, and the 1st and 2nd year students are busy as well, so for the past two days I’ve been sitting around waiting for a story to bite me on the ass. 

Then, just when I was about to throw in the towel and call it a day: Ouch! Right on the keister.

In my office, most of the teachers have school-furnished laptops on their desk. I don’t. I have my neighbor’s (Nakahara-sensei) shit on mine. Since I’m gone two weeks at a time, during my absence he spreads out and I come in monday morning to profuse apologies, as he bulldozes loads of papers and books, soft drinks and baseball equipment (he’s also the coach) off of my desk back onto his own overly cluttered desk. Sometimes my own documents get mixed in with the bulldozed stuff. Things I had spent hours looking for only to discover it was on the bottom of a stack of shit on his desk. 

But, he’s not even the story…not today, at least. 

There are also two computers for general use located in the rear of the office. Teachers not so fortunate as to have a laptop provided to them by the school, like myself, use these two relatively archaic machines. I’m not complaining. I have done quite a bit of quality writing on these machines, and without them (like on those occasions when they’ve been down for maintenance) I would suffer cold turkey. 

Usually I’m alone at these computers. Occasionally, though, other teachers would use them for expediency sake. And, sometimes, the computer tech / computer teacher, Ozawa-sensei, would come over and do techie stuff in order to maintain these two relics.  Ozawa is a really nice guy. He’s about retirement age, and it’s really impressive to me that one of the oldest guys in the office is the most knowledgable about computers. He could be a hacker. I even brought in my computer one time and he de-bugged it for me and he can’t even speak or read English well (my OS is in English.) 

Face masks

 The only thing: well…how do I put this? He suffers (thus everyone in his vicinity suffers) from chronic halitosis. Natto would  be an improvement. The smell is not unlike feces. I’m not trying to make a joke out of this. I have a friend who suffered thusly and it turned out his halitosis was symptomatic of something much more serious. And Ozawa sensei, for all his charm and intellect, is a very sickly looking man. His skin has a pasty powdery-whiteness, like he put on make-up in the dark. And, I think I know what has caused it: it’s his nearly rotted teeth. They are these cruddy, blackening, spackled  looking things. And another thing that places this in the tragedy category for me is that he is well aware he reeks. Even if he tries to mint it, Scope it, Listerine it away…these medcations don’t stand a chance. They are about as useful as mint garnishes on a stool sample; merely decorative. 

Pig Pen

 He wears a mask. Everyday. All day. About two years ago he started wearing it and not a day has gone by that he hasn’t. The mask filters the smell somewhat but only a bit. Like your pants might filter a fart. But, he’s old and so every trip up  and down the four flights of stairs leaves him heaving and snorting and blowing that miasma of his in all directions. The entire area around him has this smell, and this area, this perimeter, follows him wherever he goes, like Pig Pen’s cloud on the Peanut cartoons. 

It followed him to the seat beside me today as I sat at the terminal reading my favorite blogs.  He’s really considerate though. He turned his back to me and tried to breathe that way. But, the smell has long since saturated his entire being: his clothes, his skin, the masks he never removes…it’s merely a courtesy on his part. Like someone fanning a fart away.

But, like the other teachers in the office, I have been enduring this smell for so long that it’s become just another unpleasant yet unavoidable fact of life, like Takahashi’s hazing and Mika-chan’s manic behavior… 

When he finished his business and returned to his desk, taking his effluvium with him, Yoshida sensei came over and sat at the terminal beside me. 

“Konnichiwa,” I said to her. I had made our lesson for this Wednesday already, per our discussion two weeks ago, and she was overjoyed with the results. ‘Much better than mine,’ she’d said.  

“Konnichiwa,” she said, through a smile so strained she looked as sickly as Ozawa-sensei. “Are you busy?”

She peeked at the screen, saw the blog I was reading, ascertained that it was not pertinent to my duties here and gave me a look. A look I couldn’t read at gunpoint. She had a laptop on her desk, so I knew she’d come to speak to me about something. I turned to give her my undivided. 

“Nope,” I said. “What’s up?” 

“Welllll…” she began and my “oh FUCK!” meter went off.  “Do you smoke?” 

“Remember at the christmas party 2 months ago, when you asked me what was that I was smoking?” 

“Ohhhh, yes!” 

“Well, that’s what I smoke…cigars. Why? What’s up?” Where are you going with this? 


Oh geezus, spit it out will you???? 

“Do you smoke in the school?” I almost turned my head to the side when she said it. All of the teachers  who smoke, we all smoke inside the school. There’s a tiny little maintenance room wayyyyy off in the back where we huddle around a coffee can filled with water and enough ash and butts to make me consider quitting every time I see it.  But, was this common knowledge to the non-smoking teachers? I wasn’t sure… 

“No…” I said. “I go outside, why?” 

“Oh no reason…only one of the teachers said you smelled like smoke so…” 

I just looked at her. She looked back. This look lasted for almost a minute. 

“Okay… I smoke, and I smell like smoke, and…?” I asked. “Is that it?” 

She smiled like she was dying of embarrassment. For a second, I didn’t care what she was dying of, I just wished she were… 

“Well…Ummm, anyway, well, I’m so, so, sorry I disturbed you and…,” she said, and made to get up and leave it at that. 

“Should I stop smoking???” 

“Well…no, of course not…but…” 

“I should stop smelling  like smoke?” I asked. Ozawa sensei got up from his desk just then and walked out of the office, taking his stink cloud with him. I wanted to say, ‘if I smelled like shit, would that be acceptable to this mysterious teacher with the sensitive olfactory receptors?’ 

Yoshida smiled a smile of death, not much different from the smile she had two weeks ago after she spoke with the BOE Lady behind my back. The way you might smile when you know that death is inevitable so you might as well go into that dark night bravely. Maybe something in my face or in my eyes made her think about her own mortality. 

“I’m so sorry Loco sensei,” she said, turned, and walked away. 




13 Responses to “Live from Locohama S1/E9: A foulness in the air”

  1. February 23, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Again, this reads like a message for the other party present. A badly-done message about personal smells. From your description there can’t be enough cigarettes on God’s green Earth to touch the smell from the other fellow.

    Twice in one week. Got our shit magnet cranked way up, do we? At this pace you’ll be ready for a switch to the finance industry in no time.

    • February 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm

      You’re killing me Micheal!!!

  2. 3 sunniswagger
    February 23, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Very entertaining as always. Sasuga Loco san desu ne..It must be soo hard for you to resist checking her huh? ganbare!

    • February 24, 2010 at 7:51 am

      Thanks Sunni-san…can’t go around checking people lol. Besides if I do I have to do it in a way that Japanese can appreciate they’re being checked. Easier said than done…living here truly humbles you whether you like it or not. You’re handicapped and have to grow new legs if you want to run around checking people.

  3. 5 WC
    February 23, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    The laptop repair story reminds me of a time when a Japanese customer came into the office supply store (in America) that I used to work in and needed help. I asked them what was wrong, and then just started clicking icons and going at it. About halfway through they were like ‘You speak Japanese?’ Heh. Not a chance. The icons do a really good job of reminding you what the do and you learn to look for them before the text anyhow… And all of the settings are always in the same order. I had worked phone tech support for 6 months, so I could close my eyes and lead someone blindly through the process at that point.

    Now, of course, I’m studying Japanese and it wouldn’t be nearly so amazing a feat. 😀

    As for the experience this time… From your stories, it seems like you are always in jeopardy there… Anything you do or don’t do will be used to scold you somehow. I wonder how they can deal with that as a society?

    • February 24, 2010 at 7:49 am

      WC thanks for the shout…yeah, I work on a Japanese OS at work and it is basically the same so if you know the icons or the routine then you can navigate ok. Only if you are working on something unfamiliar, then it gets dicey ne
      my kanji ability is probabaly not as good as yours…

  4. February 23, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Wow! What a tale. I happen to like certain brands of natto. I cannot conceive what it’s like to deal with that kind of odor you describe. Then to get that little talk.


    Hang in there.

    • February 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

      Hey Darla, thanks for the shout…you never worked or schooled with someone who smelled really bad before??? that’s a wow! I will hang in there, don’t worry. Smells won’t hurt me and these people won’t break me…I hope

  5. February 24, 2010 at 6:13 am

    I feel for the girl in the story.Your smell probably isn’t even her issue

    • February 24, 2010 at 7:45 am

      which girl? The teacher who complained about the smoke smell or her proxy Yoshida?

  6. February 24, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Yoshida I don’t know how yours schools operate but in mine there is one person designated to deal with the foreign menace. And the crazy part is all my orders come from the vice-principal who is the former head English teacher and whose desk is less than 7 feet from mine in the teachers room.
    So everyday my young female co-teacher will be summoned to his desk receive a message from him take 5 steps and then deliver the message to me. I tell her my response , then she has to retrace her 5 steps to give to the vice-principal. This goes on for several trips. Me and the vice-principal have even had arguments this way. I am now going to brush my teeth.

    • February 24, 2010 at 9:25 am

      Yeah, the Koreans and the Japnese apparently are not so different after all…maybe that (and the fact that Japanese soldiers made love slaves out of them , can’t forget that- unless you’re Japanese) is the reason they can’t stand each other.
      Thanks for sharing Blackchild in the unpromised land

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