Daily Life: Stark Contrast

Daily Life: Stark Contrast

When I was little I was an avid reader of Highlights magazine for children. One of the regular features was a comic strip called “Goofus & Gallant,” where two boys in the same situation responded in different ways. Goofus always picked the “wrong” thing to do, while Gallant picked the “right” thing to do. Even as a very young child, I knew that Goofus’ behavior wasn’t right. He would do things like eat before everyone else was seated at the table, boss his friends around, or refuse to share. This weekend I experienced my very own “Goofus & Gallant” tale.

On Friday I visited my father, and returned home very late. The train was mostly empty when I got on, but at the next stop a group of five or six young men (university-aged) got on. They were joking and clearly enjoying each other’s company, but without being rude or overly noisy. My skirt was sneaking onto the seat next to me, and one of these fellows politely asked me if he might sit there–instead of just plopping down on it. He took a seat facing away from me, and he and his friends continued their conversation.

However, at the next stop there was a pause. I looked up to see all of them staring at me, and the young man next to me broke the silence. “I’m very curious–what’s with the stuffed animal?”

I replied that it was a backpack (they were referencing Monsieur Lait, my usakumya), and immediately all of the gentlemen were intrigued. They wanted to see the straps, see how it zippered, tell me what they had thought it was. The one sitting next to me introduced himself, shook my hand, and started to ask questions. I don’t particularly like speaking to strangers on the train, but they were far from rude and quite unthreatening. I felt uncomfortable only in that I was tired and wanted some piece and quiet.

They asked about my clothing, the young man in front of my announcing to the others that he thought it was some Japanese thing–which, obviously, it is. They were intrigued and posed a few other questions. When they exited the train, they said goodbye and gave a wave. While it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable, their good spirits and kindness (I’m sure they were thinking it, but no-one called me a freak or acted like I was crazy) made it more than tolerable.

This afternoon, after seeing my guests to their car and returning home, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to tip our waitress at lunch in my rush to pay for the check. I hurried over to remedy the situation, hoping that the café wouldn’t yet be closed, and managed to make it just in time! I headed home more slowly, a bit worn out from the panic and hurry.

The weather has been quite nice today, so the bar I passed soon after had opened the front to allow circulations. Five men, older than those who had ridden with me on the train, leaned forward over the bar and started calling to me. One kept going, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” and another waved a camera saying over and over, “Can I get a picture with you? Can I get a picture with you?” I froze although I knew I should have kept walking.

They started to shift as if they would get up from their bar stools and walk towards me, with the man holding the camera looking around for someone to take the picture for him. Another of the patrons–the one who had been doing the calling–started trying to “ask me a question” which sounded suspiciously like some kind of obscene joke or unpleasant pick-up-line. I didn’t remain still for too much longer and briskly walked off.

And that is exactly how not to behave when you see someone dressed oddly. I seem to only get such distasteful behavior from drunk people–they feel the need to yell strange things at me or try to get close to me. I never should have stopped walking–that was a severe error on my part–but I really shouldn’t have to deal with that kind of hassling simply because I am pink and rather fluffy. I would take the young men on the train talking to me endlessly any time over drunk men saying inappropriate things and making me feel unsafe. Ugh! I don’t think I really need to spell out which group was Goofuses and which were Gallants!