Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, March 15, 2010

Over the Safety Net

"I'm not going! There's no f*****g reason why I should do this!"

I was livid, and my poor wife was getting an earful of my bile. I was already plenty fed up with those "open class" events at my kids' schools. It's bad enough that they always hold those things on weekdays, i.e. attending means taking time off from work. There are just so many things about them that can send the liver into overdrive, from the usual social bowlshyte to all those really rotten kids with even more rotten parents. I'd been to the one at my son's school only a week before and had come away with my guts twisted in a knot. Now it was my daughter's school. Normally it would be my wife's turn to go, but she was really busy, and I already had the day off for other reasons. I was perfectly (well, maybe not perfectly) content to grit my teeth and go so as not to disappoint my daughter (and not to get our quality as parents re-ranked by the PTA as "slightly worse than a praying mantis"). But then I was told something that instantly changed my whole perspective: It was NOT going to be an "open class" event. It was going to be a volleyball tournament between the kids and their parents.

As far as I was concerned, it might as well have been a mass mutual root canal session. To say I'm not athletically inclined would be an understatement. There was also the fact that I hadn't played volleyball for at least a decade. Top that off with the usual "gaijin in the crowd (of idiots)" crap, and you can see why I felt that a tour of duty in Afghanistan sounded much more attractive. I made my feelings on the matter painfully clear. I wanted nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Unfortunately, my daughter took my loud refusal personally, and her feelings were quite hurt. That in turn made me feel (and look) like a lower form of rat. There was only one way for me to reclaim my human status, and that was to go. That's exactly what I did. And I ran into annoying crap from the very start.

I found my poor, languishing sportswear without any trouble, but the only pair of gym shoes I had were old ones I'd retired from use at Ye Olde Academy two years before and had already worn outside. The Japanese tend to be anal about wearing "dirt shoes" inside any kind of facility. I didn't have much choice, though, so I just wore the old "tenny runners". Sure enough, there was a footwear-changing area just inside the gym entrance and a sign saying, "'Dirt shoes' strictly prohibited." There were slippers provided for those without dirtless footwear, but I wasn't about to try to play volleyball in those things. I therefore played the stupid gaijin game and walked right in. Nobody paid any attention. However, I then had to deal with the usual social bowlshyte. You can always tell where I am in any of these PTA events: either look for the gap in the crowd or see what direction the Japanese parents are all moving and go the other way. Part of me doesn't give a damn anymore, but part of me still gets really annoyed, especially since I've known so many of these parents for so long. Still, I had a few surprises in store.

The volleyball tournament got underway. The opening greetings were intoned, the rules were explained, the students were separated into their teams and sent to their courts, and the parents were asked to do the same. Nobody moved. Several of the mothers sat and yapped among themselves, totally oblivious to the event. Others just sat like statues. The teacher in charge of the event practically begged (between anxious giggles) for volunteers among the parents to come out to the courts. Still no motion. Finally, I said (in Japanese), "What is this? Don't you feel sorry for the students?" Then I headed out to one of the courts myself. After a few seconds of hesitation others followed. Finally we had all the positions covered, so play could begin.

That's when I really surprised myself. I and my body both still remembered how to play. Sure, it was "soft volleyball", i.e. we used big rubber balls instead of the real thing, but that just made it easier for me. I couldn't jump high enough to smash, let alone spike, but I could still receive, set, and serve. It was also possible for me to aim my shots at weak spots. I admit that I had a great time out there, though my body was seriously complaining when it was over. I also had bruises in various places from landing all wrong after making diving saves. I didn't care; I was having fun. (There was one other gaijin there, too. He was the school's native English-speaking teaching assistant, an Australian who said he'd never tried volleyball before. He seemed to be having a blast out there, too, though he came away with torn pants.)

Apparently I earned a bit of respect; after the first round was over I found myself being invited to join other groups. However, I wasn't chosen to join the "all-star team" for the exhibition match against the volleyball club members. (The club captains chose their own mothers, who then chose their friends.) That was fine. I put in my two bits, earned a few brownie points, and came away with my reputation elevated ever so slightly even despite my wearing "dirt shoes" in the gym. I can certainly live that...even with the bruises and sore muscles...


In other news, I have a new tune to share, an instrumental called "Floral Aura". You can listen to it in the player in the right-hand margin (or after I get it linked directly). Details can be found on my Minstrel's Muse site.


  • I play volley ball, and other sports, by using my face as a stop block.

    I'm not going any where near your lawn!

    Glad you accidentally had fun:)

    By Anonymous Dave, at 4:58 AM  

  • I didn't think you could choose your own mother...must be a volleyball in Japan thing.

    I will listen to the tune in the morning...too many sleepers right now.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 1:47 PM  

  • Ditto on the sports thing...all day/night (not kidding) Winterguard competitions make tooth extraction look fun. At least you can sit by yourself in the stands and get a break sometimes. Soccor/baseball team events make me postively suicidal. Besides my active disinterest in anything related to sports WHATSOEVER...the main topic of conversations are limited to: complaining about Obama/taxes/etc....(while the majority non-working wives drive HUGE SUVS around and spend money like water on outrageously expensive designer purses, fast food, and toys to shut their kids up)....or gossiping about the other families on the team. Ok rant over..

    By Blogger ladybug, at 8:45 PM  

  • Good for you. I think it's great to have parents participate. (With my luck I'd tear a rotor cuff the first time I went for the ball.) The Buddhist temples on Maui used to have sports days, held at high school. The most fun event was a massive tug-o-war on the football field with all ages participating.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 7:34 AM  

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