Yesterday I went to the library to do some work. I thought it might be a nice and free alternative to paying $5 for a cup of mud-like filter coffee and 2 hours at a table. I set up my laptop at a nice spot near the window and was just about to get down to work when I noticed a sign:
- No Mobile Phones
- No Food and Drink
- No Portable Electronic Games
- No Calculators
- No Office Equipment
Always anxious to make a positive impression to locals of foreign residents in Japan, I thought I better check with the librarian to make sure that “Office Equipment” did not include laptop computers. Surely it wouldn’t. After all, what serious student nowadays studies without the aid of a laptop or iPad or something? That sign must be there to prevent people from bringing in their own fax machines and making atonal sounds at the nice table near the window.
Me: “I’ve brought my laptop from home. It’s ok to use it in the library isn’t it.”
Librarian: “I’m terribly sorry.”
Me: “You mean it’s forbidden? Really?”
Librarian: “I’m terribly sorry”; now looking ashamed of this meaningless rule.
Librarian returns to typing on her Office Equipment.
No wonder the library is empty! They turn away anyone who doesn’t think it’s 1975. Dejected, I got on my bike (literally and metaphorically) and followed the footpath along the river until I saw this.
I stopped to take a photo on my phone and these two middle-aged ladies (who I’d just overtaken) walked past and straight towards the snake. They were moving so confidently that I thought they must’ve seen it… after all, it was right in the middle of the path – how could one miss it?
“That’s unusual”, I said.
“Seeing a snake, here, in October.”
They froze for a second or two, quietly freaking out. A little knowledge is dangerous: they now knew only that a snake was somewhere nearby without the vitally important data of its exact location. I watched them closely and I could pinpoint the exact instant that their eyes had locked onto it.
A few seconds later I looked back over my shoulder to about 5 meters behind me, where the two middle-aged ladies now stood.
“Do you think it’s poisonous?”, I asked.
“No. But I hate snakes!”, one of the ladies replied.
“I’ve lived here all my life and this is the first time I’ve seen one.”
We watched the snake, apparently now having gotten cold feet, slowly disappear into the adjacent playground.