Tonight, I stopped in at an udon restaurant that is a similar style to Luby’s (pick up a tray, grab side dishes as you will, and order the main hot dish fresh when you get to that section, pay at the end of the sliding bar line) for dinner. I initially hesitate, figuring out what I want to eat. As I decide upon something, I realize that I don’t know how to say what I want, because the first half of the name is written in kanji. If it had been reversed, with hiragana first and kanji second, I could have faked my way through. However, how does one start a word/name with only the end of it?
So, I figured I’d just stumble through verbally, and eventually get someone to lean over the counter a bit to see which picture I was indicating. As I arrive at the ordering section, and attempt to do just as I had planned, explaining that I can’t read Japanese, but I want this one, please, the man in line behind me does me a solid, and reads aloud the name of the dish for me.
Now he totally didn’t need to do this, as the restaurant worker easily leaned forward to see the picture anyway, but he, for whatever reason – and I word it this way, because this has not often been my experience here, having people be oh-so-willing to help out the foreign girl – decided to help me. Therefore, despite my terror of getting caught in a language mess of trying to explain and risking not getting my way, I told the lady at the register to put mine and the man’s meals together. She seemed a bit caught off guard, but accepted my request, likely assuming that I was actually here with the guy after all.
I paid, accepted my change, thanked the cashier, thanked the man once again as he walked up next to me in line once again, and walked off to my seat around the corner.
A minute later, I went to get some tea from the water and hot green tea dispenser, and saw the man there getting water for himself. When he saw me, he did the Japanese “Oh!”, though a bit subdued, and thanked me in a very fumbly sort of way (I imagine he isn’t quite accustomed to such a scenario, based on his general appearance and fumbliness.), opting to use the version of thank you that literally means “excuse me”, and bowing as best he could holding his tray and water. I told him that it was nothing, and thanked him again for the help.
Still sitting at my seat a while later, watching a small spider tiddle across the countertop, I notice the man coming over to me, and I look up at him. He thanks me again (and again in a very fumbly way), looking a bit embarrassed, and bows a couple more times (which I return with a smile and bow) before leaving the restaurant.
It was quite simple, but I found so much culture in the situation, I wanted to share it. Plus, this older guy was, in a grandpa sort of way, so cute, I wanted the memory to live on somehow in others.
So, thank you, again, old man. Really, I appreciated your help, and gave you your meal easily and with delight – it was almost an honor for me to have provided you this token of my gratitude. Thanks. 🙂