Tuesday, May 06, 2008

While the cat's away

The Man has been away for a few days, and I have been having a social life. On Saturday I went to a barbeque party. And to a pub.

It is a little worrying when you meet a new person and the first words out of his mouth when he shakes your hand are,

"BadAunt, eh? I've heard all about you!"

It is especially worrying when the person shaking your hand is a big scary-looking bloke with a shaved head. That is what happened to me at the barbeque party. It was his barbeque party, but I hadn't actually been invited by him. I had been invited by someone else, who was invited.

But the barbeque party was open to all, he told me, and I decided not to worry about what he'd heard about me. Sometimes it's better not to ask. Instead, I relaxed and enjoyed myself. The weather was wonderful and there was a good turnout – lots of colleagues, and those who had children had brought them, too. In fact the big bloke is also a colleague, and even works on the same day as me, but he told me he is teaching sports students in the evening which was probably why I hadn't seen him before. ("I once spent a whole semester teaching a sumo wrestler how to write his name in English.")

Later in the afternoon a surprise guest appeared, a woman who used to work at the same place but left a little over a year ago. She was back in Japan for a visit, and it was wonderful to see her again. In fact it was so wonderful that as it grew dark and we were leaving I let her drag me into a taxi and take me off to a pub she used to frequent when she was living here.

I never go to pubs here, or at least not the English or Irish pubs that are so popular amongst expats. The last time I went to a pub was at least ten years ago. The main reason I don't go is the music. It is TOO LOUD. What is the point of going to a place to spend time with a friend and then not being able to have a conversation? My friend has a powerful voice. I was able to hear her, but only if she shouted very loudly in my ear, and she could not hear my answers. In any case, she circulated, greeting old friends and having snatches of conversation between songs, and I sat at the bar and nursed my one drink. I made it last. I did not want to end up both deaf and drunk.

The place was crowded, and I was lucky to have a barstool. That was courtesy of the big bloke, who was already there when we arrived and who seemed to think I was a fragile flower who needed taking care of. (Either that or I look elderly and frail. I'm not sure.) He pinched the stool from someone who was unwise enough to go to the toilet leaving it unguarded and wise enough not to complain when he came back and saw who had taken it.

I then spent the rest of the evening being flirted with. That was a bit surprising, and I have to admit that I'm not really sure that those guys really were flirting with me. I am out of practice. It is possible that they were actually asking me how many grandchildren I had. I couldn't hear what they were saying. They all had a lot to say, though, and didn't seem to mind that nobody could hear them. Do frequent pub-goers learn to lip-read? Is that the secret?

In any case, they seemed to be able to understand what I said, or at least bits of what I said (not much – I do enough shouting at work) although one of them apparently got the impression that I was a pill-popper. "Don't do it!" he shouted in a lull in the music. "Don't do pills!" He was waggling his finger at me. "You should stop! Those things will kill you!"

Then the next song started and my attempts to set him straight were reduced to meaningless gestures. He spent the rest of the evening shaking his head sadly at me and looking worried.

The big scary bloke (who turned out to be quite a gentleman) apparently decided I needed some protection, so nabbed another stool (there were a lot of weak bladders in that pub) and pulled it up beside me. We had a long conversation during which he did most of the talking while I nodded and smiled encouragingly. I don't know what it was about. I only heard bits between songs. Did he really say he used to be some kind of criminal? Maybe I made that bit up.

Eventually I decided my ears had been assaulted enough for one night and slipped away, hugging my friend goodbye and then escaping the grasp of a very short, sad-looking bloke who apparently thought I was going to be his new best friend and also wanted a cuddle. Walking back to the train station I was still feeling fantastically beautiful and popular when I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirrored pillar and was brought back to earth with a thud.

Two days later my ears are still ringing and I still don't have a clue what all that was about. It's a long time since I sat on a bar stool surrounded by men wanting to buy me drinks. In fact I'm not sure that it has ever happened before, and it was a bit confusing. Are there a lot of desperate gaijin men in Osaka? Or are they just particularly kind to older women? If only I could have heard what they were saying! But perhaps it is better for my ego that I couldn't.

I'm hoping to see my friend again before she leaves the country, but not if she wants to go to a pub again. It was interesting, but that was enough pubbing for me for at least the next ten years.


Keera Ann Fox said...

Been there, done that, including having to duck huggers. A perfectly normal evening, including smiling through unknown conversations during diabolical decibel levels and the ego-crushing mirror.

And that is what is so wonderful about men. A woman can look like shit and they still want to take her home.

Just make sure to slip out and go home before daybreak. They got their inspiration for those fairy tales about trolls shattering in the rays of the morning sun from somewhere, you know.

Hebron said...

As a young twenty-something male who has seen the pub/club lifestyle at least once, I can say one thing:

Those places are for people with too much money and little sense.

Seriously. Everything a person can get from a pub I can get from my house. Except for meeting new people, but since I dislike people at the best of times, that doesn't concern me.

When I want to drink, I'll do it at home with a nice comfy couch, good quality company (I should know. I invited them over!), well mixed drinks, good music at an appropriate volume, and even the possibility of a card/board game or two. And what's more, I don't have to worry about driving/paying for a taxi, and my beds right there!

Oh, Do I hearst someone protest "But Hebron! How wilst thou find a lady friend to bed with if thy roots remain in the hearth?"?
Well, dear friend, the girl I could find at a bar probably isn't what I'm looking for in a girl.
I'd probably have more luck at a lan party.

Besides, $7 for a beer? $10 for a shot? $20 for a glass of lolly water? BAH! It's cheaper to buy the bottle at pour it yourself :P