The Same, Yet Different
A few weeks ago I was in the U.S. celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday. When I’m there, I like to stock up on things I don’t get in Japan – a few things like my hair products, some American-style medications, and some paper goods. I thought it would be a good idea to go to Costco near my parents’ house to get the stuff. My mom thought it was a great idea and gave me a few things to pick up while I was there. There were a total of perhaps ten items on the list – not very many at all for a Costco trip.
I got there and managed to maneuver my dad’s little convertible into a parking spot far from the building. I noticed that people tended to hang around cars parked close to the entrance that might be leaving in hopes of snagging their parking spots once they left and to me, that’s a waste of time, so I just parked pretty far and walked right inside.
Once inside I took a deep breath. I do go to Costco in Japan, but only about once every six or eight weeks or so. And like most things that are in both the U.S. and Japan, the Japanese version is slightly different from the American version. For example, the American ceilings are much higher, the whole place has bigger square footage, and it’s noisy. In Japan, it’s quieter, but more crowded. I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but somehow there can be crowds and quiet at the same time here; Japanese are pretty quiet people. Well, the Costco in Boynton Beach Florida was nothing like my Costco in Kawasaki, Japan.
I got about halfway through the list and couldn’t find the batteries my mother needed. I couldn’t find the tissues either. It seemed like a huge trek to go back to the other side of the building to look on the right side when I was already all the way to the left. There was music playing in the background and a ton of people talking loudly. The worst part of going back to the U.S., I find, is how many conversations I can overhear. I don’t speak enough Japanese to always understand everything around me, so I often live inside my own head. All the noise is incredibly distracting.
What did I do? I panicked. I found it hard to breathe. I trembled. I fumbled for my phone and dialed my parents’ house. “Mom, I can’t do it!” I cried, rooted to the spot.
My mom, to her credit, just went with it. “Just drop everything and come home. We’ll go back together tomorrow,” she said. She encouraged me to just take a deep breath and get out.
Well, that did it. I hung up the phone and took a deep breath. Right then, a Costco employee walked right past me and I flagged him down. Bless him, when I asked him for the 3 items still on my list, he just took me to find all 3. With every item on the list ticked off, I braved the check-out lines. Of course the check-out lines were no mean feat; they are never fun. But I closed my ears and just waited until my turn. Luckily they had self-checkout, a great invention that has not yet made it to Japan. Those lines are always shorter. I was out in record time and at my parents’ house not long after.
My mom was surprised that I was able to get all of the items after all. I told her it was a matter of self-management, and not panicking. Japan and the U.S. are different, even when the store name is the same. No reason to panic.