Friday, April 04, 2008


Well, it's taken me about 20 years but I've finally regained my belief in Santa Claus. Did you know he's a Japanese octogenarian? Sitting in the priority seating section of the train I was next to 3 little girls who were hiding smiles behind their fingers and peaking at me now and then. I was absorbed in Paul Auster's The Red Notebook (love it so far) and didn't notice the tiny wrinkly man approaching. To my left was a very slim fashionable mother of two young children who were clinging to her legs. Deep in the pages of my book I was totally zoned out after a full day of teaching. I heard a grunting noise and when I looked up I saw that the old man was motioning for the 3 girls to move over and make space. I thought, being that this was the priority seating part of the train, he was trying to tell us young whipper snappers that we should make space for him, a deserving priority passenger who should be sitting there (injured people, the elderly, pregnant women, and parent's with small children). Instead, when the girls moved over, he motioned to the mother with the two small children that they should sit. Of course there was only about enough space for the tiny boy alone. I jumped to my feet, realizing my rudeness, and offered my seat to his older sister. The ojisan (old man) smiled at me and said "Thank you" in English. The little girls looked at him like they had been chastised for taking up space until he pulled some sticks of chewing gum out of his pocket and offered a piece to each child on the bench seat. The girls thanked him graciously, unwrapped their treat, and popped it into their mouths. When they reached their destination, they thanked him again and left the train. Oji-chan (grandfather) turned to me and motioned that I should sit down. "Daijoubu desu" (it's alright) I replied though, at this point, more seats had cleared and I ended up sitting across from Oji-chan and the little boy and girl. He started to engage them in conversation and the children's shy expressions soon turned into laughter and chatter. I couldn't help but smile. That experience was my piece of gum for the day.