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The Lesson Of The Cockroach

Author:Wendell Jones, Issue: June 1998, Topic: Household

As the owner of the American Academy, which is a big name for a small school (2 teachers: my wife and I), I have wrestled with the Japanese problem now for 5 years. We operate out of a 260 year-old traditional Japanese country house.

Being I am 58 years old, I find it hard to be flexible and feel that America is and has the best, the biggest, and the cleanest of everything. I love to boast about America and admit it.

During one of our comparative culture classes, I, as usual, was expounding on the superiority of American expertise and know-how, especially in the fields of plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, insulation and insect eradication. To illuminate my points, I told the class how my wife and I recently visited our favorite Japanese restaurant. We go there because they serve very large portions of delicious food at very reasonable prices. It is a tiny place with regular customers, mostly blue-collar working men who treat the place like their own home, laying down on the tatami floor and taking a nap after their meals, reading porno comic books, and watching baseball on TV.

That night, a huge cockroach suddenly scurried across the wall from behind the air conditioner and began making a performance for us to watch. Several of the customers began attacking the vile insect with rubber bands, probably because they couldn't use insecticide in an eating place. The owner/cook watched the spectacle from behind the counter while smoking a cigarette and dropping ashes into the food. Needless to say, the cockroach was much faster than its rubber band-wielding assailants and disappeared safely back into its refuge.

I told my class that such a restaurant, if it were in the U.S., would be closed down by the health department within hours because of its dirty, unkempt condition. During my lecture, one of my students asked to be excused to go to the bathroom. I might explain that our toilet is one of those waterless, flushless, hole-in-the-floor types with a samurai urinal. The student returned a few minutes later loudly and excitedly explaining that he had just killed a huge cockroach in the toilet, using the spray insecticide available on the shelf. Was my face red! 'Well, class, let's return to the discussion of how America is superior to all things Japanese.'

Cockroaches don't know the difference between an American School or a Japanese restaurant. They aren't prejudiced and they taught me a lesson that night that I shouldn't be either. America has some to the biggest things in the world (such as the Empire State Building), but it also has some of the biggest problems in the world too, such as the homeless, drugs, abuse and red-neck English teachers in Japan like me who are poor ambassadors for their country and who fail to point out the good things to be found here in Nippon.

(Editor's note: This article was written by Wendell about 5 years ago and presented in a thank you letter to the Alien Times as the Jones' set off on a new adventure in retirement back in the U.S. We wish them well in their new home.)

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