It took my wife a year to train me to take a shopping bag with me when I went over to the konbini to buy lunch. It was all I could do to remember my shoes and what I was supposed to buy when I got there. And when I got there, I usually realised I’d forgotten the bag. But eventually, like Pavlov’s dogs – only different – I was conditioned to hear the call for lunch, and automatically pick up a shopping bag.
What has taken slightly longer is training the staff in the konbini to stop trying to give me another bag every day. Along with chopsticks, spoons, forks, and wipes that I don’t need.
I stood at the cash register, counting out money, the bag tucked under my arm, and keeping my left eye on my money, I’d have to swivel my right eye – chameleon-like – to catch them as they grab a plastic bag. I’d tell them I didn’t need one. They’d express surprise, then thank me, then apologise. I tried variations on this which involved opening the bag obviously while counting out my money, but found that not only did this do nothing to dissuade them from thinking I might like another bag, it also required three hands at the very least.
After two years of standing at the till going through this Groundhog Day routine, I was shaken out of my complacency today. I chatted with the cashier about the weather – good, safe, conversational ground for the English and Japanese – and then something peculiar happened. We just stood looking at each other waiting for someone to do something.
I realised that the routine had been thrown to the wind – she’d overcome her reflex to reach for a bag. Unprepared, I stood there, gormless, with my MyBag (yes, ‘my MyBag‘) under my arm (no, not ‘my MyArm’), until my brain creaked back into action.
When I stepped outside, it was no longer raining. The sun was even making an effort to shine.