Pandabread

This being winterbreak, naturally my sleep cycle has become totally disrupted. The first day of my break I made the mistake of staying awake until 4am, then waking up at 3pm the next day. This has led to an increasingly bizarre sleeping pattern which I attempted to fix yesterday by trying to sleep for 24 hours straight. Unfortunately, this plan didn’t work out quite as I had envisioned and instead had some unexpected repercussions.
Look at what my wonderful student baked me!!! (the bread not the panda)
You see, here in Japan, banks exist in a unique state most people would refer to as “prehistoric”. Those of us accustomed to modern Western conviniences such as internet banking, 24-hour ATMs and more importantly, tellers capable of completing simple withdrawl transactions without needing to consult three other tellers and several rule books are often shocked when we first encounter the lumbering dinosaur that is the Japanese Banking System.
To illustrate my point, I would like to share an anecdote regarding my experience with Japanese ATMs, which is vaugely related to something I meant to talk about above, but have now forgotten. You see, in most parts of Japan, ATMs tend to be open for very limited hours. Here in K-town, those hours are generally 9am-7pm, though that varies by bank and location. Now, there is an additional wrinkle to be introduced. While there are ATMs located in the usual areas (shopping centers, department stores), the vast majority of them are actually located in the lobby of their respective banks. (Banks, mind you, that to the best of my knowledge are seemingly only open ever 1st and 3rd wednesday of a month, provided the planets are aligned correctly, and if it’s even remotely close to a national holiday – fuggedaboutit!) Furthering the intruige, virtually all bank’s have a guard posted in their ATM lobby from the start of the ATM hours until they close at night.
Mr. Panda wastes no time in digging into the yummy loaf…
Now, being familiar with the Japanese penchant for providing superfluous jobs simply for the sake of having people do something, I have to admit that the first time I walked into my bank’s ATM lobby at 6pm to encounter a crotchety old man apparently in his late 70′s wearing a blue nylon guard uniform and a perfectly cocked hat sitting at a desk examining his fingernails, I didn’t really bat an eyelid. After all, this is Japan, and what would happen if we didn’t provided unneccesary employment for people who don’t really need it? I mean, besides the economy pulling itself out of the toilet overnight…
However, one day, curiousity got the better of me, and as I went to the ATM with a Japanese friend, I sort of motioned over to the guard with my head and inquired what, exactly, was the purpose of keeping him around? I mean, he looked like he’d much rather be fishing.
To which my friend replied, with a completely straight face:
“Oh! That’s so people don’t steal the ATMs!”
*blinks eyes rapidly to clear confusion*
At this point, I should mention a couple of things. First of all, the ATMs in Japan are not like the ones back home. They are HUGE, and furthermore, built very solidly into the wall. In addition, this bank just happens to be located by the busiest intersection in the entire town, a confusing collision of streets and crosswalks appropriately named “The Scramble”, in large part due to the fact that every minute, 8 different streams of pedestrians attempt to cross in between 4 different streets filled with angry honking cars.
Having polished off the entire loaf, he gets on the phone to tell his friends!
“Soo….. what you’re saying is… If a heavily armed crew with enough guts and bravado to try such a brazen plan broke into the lobby of a bank situated on the busiest intersection in town with enough manpower and hardware to forcibly remove one of these huge ATMs from the concrete wall, and somehow load it onto a vehicle capable of transporting it, that the 76 year old guard over there with shaking hands and a cough that’s starting to worry me is going to be able to stop them?”
Silence follows as the immense weight of the inescapable truth of panda logic sunk in my friend.
“Hmmm… you know, come to think of it, I guess that really doesn’t make sense!”
ANYWAY…. what does this all have to do with the exposition of my story? Quite simple. Among their less-than-charming trait of shutting down in the evening, Japanese ATMs also posses one other particulary infuriating trait – they’re closed on all holidays. In other words, they’re unavailable at exactly the time one might need some money.
One of the periods when the ATMs shut down is a three to four day period around the New Year’s holiday. While the exact timing of this closure varies from bank to bank, it’s generally from around December 29th/30th until January 2nd. If you are unlucky enough to forget to withdraw sufficient funds before that point, it’ll be a loooong, hungry holiday season for you.
Now Panda, being an infinite treasure trove of useless bits of Japanese cultural knowledge, was actually aware of this fact in advance, and had planned to go to the ATM yesterday to withdraw some money. Unfortunately, my lethargic plan to sleep for 24 hours straight had the unfortunate side effect of making me sleep throughout the entire time the ATMs were open yesterday – the ensuing horror at my inadvertant mistake was compounded by the discovery that:
a) I had no money in my wallet
b) more pressingly, I had run out of toilet paper
Shaken by my realization that the ATMs were now most likely closed for the next four days, I eventually drifted off into an unsettling sleep around 6am this morning, vowing to to wake up at 9am to go see if the ATMs were by some miracle, still open, or if I had just screwed myself very, very badly.
My slumber was interrupted by the rising ringtones of my cellphone right around…. *gasp* 12 PM!!! I lept out of bed, disoriented and drooling all over myself, as I stumbled first towards the door, then towards my alarm clock (which I must have shut off in my sleep) and then towards my ringing cell phone.
Six totally hand-drawn Panda nengajyo. I should have bought a stamp…
Unsure of how to proceed, I answer the phone. It’s one of my adult students, and she asks me if I can come down to meet her at the local market, as she has something for me. Still groggy and out of sorts, I agree, figuring that the ATMs by the market have the best chance of still be open. Managing to sort out some clothes that would be presentable in public, and taking a moment to freshen up in the bathroom and wipe the dried drool off of my chin, I stumble down to the market.
Epilogue: First of, the ATMs were still open and I managed to withdraw some of my meager panda savings to see me through the next four days. Secondly, my dear, sweet student baked me some absolutely delicious home-made bread. While they may not call me sexy and offer to come to my home to clean it or cook for me (unlike Kitty’s students!), they do make me realize that sometimes teaching can be a wonderful profession. Even more wonderful when the bread has delicious cheese baked right in…!! oohhh YUMMAY!! :) *drools* Thirdly, I finished my nengajyo and sent them off.
That makes panda 3 for 3 on the scoreboard! What a productive day! (at least by my standards)
Now listening to: “2Pac/Notorious B.I.G. – Running (Dying to live)”
(“Pac is a strong dude yo, i know dudes, / You know what I’m sayin’… / So when they was like “He got shot!”, / I was more like “Again?”, / But when he, when he died, i was like “Whoa!” / You know what I’m sayin’, it kinda took me by… / And even though we was going through our drama, / I would never wish death on nobody”)
5:02 am

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