I always know it’s time to head back to the U.S. when I start teaching unsolicited lessons on politeness to strangers on the sidewalk.  Last night when returning home, an older woman crossing my path decided to stop just as I was about to pass.  In New York, her behavior would be considered rude, thoughtless and deserving of violence.  In Tokyo, her behavior is common, irritating but still no less deserving of violence.  So I did what anyone who hates older ladies who don’t watch where they are going would do and said, “Sumimasen, Bitch!” right after I knocked her on the back with my shoulder.

Sumimasen means excuse me in Japanese.  It’s a very useful phrase here in Sushiville.

“Sumimasen, get the fuck out of my way!”

“Sumimasen, I’d like another beer please.”

“Sumimasen, I said sumimasen so now you have to be nice to me you arrogant little prick!”

I’m going to the airport now.  Maybe I’ll get one last chance in 2007 to say sumimasen.  With the bags I’m carrying and the mood I’m in, something tells me I’m going to get to say it more than once.

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