Before I leave home for work, I fill my pockets (pants and jacket) with all the essentials: my lighter (actually three lighters cuz I always lose them or they die when I need them most), my wallet, my keys, my cellphone, a box of Black and Mild cigars, and my USB memory stick.
On this stick I have all of my lesson plans and other materials I use for teaching, as well as whatever writing I might be working on. I back the stick up periodically, syncing it with my PC at home and the PCs at my schools, but not as regularly as I should.
The other day, however, I ran into a snag. My memory stick was MIA. This happens occasionally and I usually find it the next day strangely right in the place where it ought to have been during the initial search, like some poltergeist was fucking with me. I strip searched my room for a solid ten minutes for that’s all the time I had. I had a bus to catch. The search produced nothing except that lighter I’d been looking for since last week.
I wondered if I’d left the stick at the office. I had used it the previous Friday to make some lessons so there was an off-chance. I’m usually pretty careful with that, though, because some of my personal writing is not exactly the kind of stuff my co-workers would get all “sugoi” (wow, this is wonderful!) over. And I presume nothing about any of them anymore. Especially who knows English and who doesn’t. I’ve been thrown for a loop by a co-worker suddenly breaking into English better than the Japanese English teacher’s enough times to know that you never fucking know. They are all professional educators meaning they are all schooled, and some very well schooled.
But, I wasn’t worried. Not really. I could always wing it, make up a lesson on the fly.
I arrived at the school at 8:15, 15 minutes before the morning meeting was to begin, so I gave the computer area a once over…
“Lose something?” It was the computer science teacher, Ozawa-sensei. He had been watching me casually glancing behind the PC’s monitor.
“Ummm…kinda. I think I might have left my memory stick here on Friday…” I said in Japanese. He knows no English (At least I don’t think so.)
“Doko? Koko?” (Where? Here?)
Oh oh! I heard the catch in his voice and I’d seen this phenomenon before. I cursed myself for saying anything about the stick, but the damage was done and I just had to ride it out.
Ozawa sensei got down on his hands and knees and practically crawled under the computer desk.
“Maybe it fell under here…” he suggested, his voice slightly muffled through the mask he always wears.
“There’s no need for you to…” I was pleading when he popped up from under the desk with dust balls in his hair and on his suit, a great big victorious smile on his face and a memory stick in his hand.
“Atta! Kore ha?” (Found it! Is this it?)
It was one of those grey memory sticks that are available to teachers and are in abundant supply in the supply cabinet. I’ve never used them, though., for I’ve always had my own.
“Chigau desu ne. Ore no stiiku ga kuroi desu.” (My stick is black.)
“Kuroi ka? (Black eh?)
Yoshida sensei must have spied what was going on and came over to offer her help. Any time I speak to a teacher other than an English teacher she feels the need to come over and translate everything being said…she’s just being nice I know, but it really gets annoying sometimes…especially when I understand what the other person is saying. It handicaps me in the eyes of the other teachers as it conveys the message that speaking to me is something that could be done with less instances of confusion if she is present. I guess in the same way a partially blind person who has no love for dogs feels being forced to smell a dog’s ass all day. I’ve told her she didn’t need to do that all the time, as gently as I could; that I would definitely ask for her help if I got into any situations where my Japanese ability wasn’t enough to manage. But she’d get this injured, confused “I don’t get gaijin” look like I’d told her she needn’t be kind to people or to fuck off.
So, I took to letting her do her thing.
Ozawa sensei welcomed her assistance.
“Ah, good morning, Yoshida sensei! We have a problem here. It seems Loco sensei was a bit careless with his USB and may have forgotten it in this area Friday when he left the office…” Ozawa said.
“Oh, I see!” she said to Ozawa, sharing a knowing nod with him. Then to me, “Did you ummm misplace your USB stick?”
I looked at the two of them for a hot moment before surrendering to what I’d learned I had very little chance of stopping without making an even bigger scene.
“I might have,” I said, in English, and sighed. “It’s a possibility.”
She donned that eerie, plastic, nervous “please don’t kill me” emoticon of hers and turned to Ozawa who was waiting, a little impatiently, for the translation. It was almost meeting time after all.
“He says maybe he did, but he’s not sure.”
“I see,” Ozawa said, thoughtfully, actually pantomiming it by massaging his chin as he did so. “Well, I’ll mention it in the morning meeting and see if any of the other teachers have seen it…”
Oh God, no!
But, this train was leaving the station. The chime was chiming and all the teachers were rising from their seats.
The principal and the vice-principal were at the front desk watching the three of us at the computer station, as were most of the teachers. We all hustled to our seats, the two of them bowing and apologetic for delaying the meeting’s start that long-ass 15 seconds or so. A moment of silence passed before the vice-principal said, “Ohayou gozaimasu!”
And everyone bowed and replied almost in unison,”Ohayou gozaimasu” and took our seats.
The morning meeting is a pretty formal affair where all the issues of the day that affect all teachers are discussed in brief. Then the meeting breaks up into three separate meetings, one for each grade. The scheduler opens the general meeting by making all of the announcements. Then he opens the floor to remarks or announcements from anyone who cares to make any. I sat there hoping he would decide not to make a federal case out of my missing memory stick, but when I heard the scheduler say “Hoka wa?” (Any others?) and I heard Ozawa-san say “Hai!” I just closed my eyes.
“Loco Sensei has misplaced his memory stick. He was using it in the computer area Friday. It is not a standard grey USB we teachers use. It is his own personal USB, and it’s black. Does anyone have any information about its whereabouts?”
I plastered an embarrassed smile on my face, the best I could do, lifted my head and looked around at all the appropriately pseudo-concerned emoticons looking back at me. No one had seen the stick.
“Well, if anyone should come across it, please forward it to Loco-sensei. He is a little distressed over it so please let’s help him out, shall we? That is all.”
“I’m so sorry to hear about your memory stick, Loco Sensei…I hope you find it.”
“Thank you Suzuki sensei. Thank you so much,” I replied, trying to feel or at least think about appreciation in order to mold the appropriate emoticon onto my face, the one that I see people here make in a situation where you are responsible for causing others to break with the routine of their lives to do something for your benefit.
Some teachers saw this as an opportunity to show how much they really liked me but were too afraid over the course of the past three years working in the same building as I to ever say so or show me so. Teachers who hadn’t really said anything but the most compulsory stuff were now espousing words of encouragement.
“Keep your head up, Loco-sensei,” said Sakura sensei. Until that moment, I had actually thought she was a little off or something. She works with the Special Ed kids and quite often sits at her desk mumbling to herself, so much so that I thought the Japanese had gotten really progressive and started hiring under the guidelines of it takes one to know one. Or, in this case, to teach a dozen.
“It’ll surface…they always do. Don’t worry!” cried Yamate-sensei through an emoticon that, to me, suggested real pain.
This went on most the day.
That night when I got home, of course, the goddamn memory stick was on my desk next to my computer where I always keep it.
I swear I got a fucking poltergeist in my room!
PS: This is a re-post of a post from 2010