Apology: Being irresistible to old men

26 12 2010

Dear Japan,

I would like to give you my heartfelt apology for being absolutely irresistible to elderly, gay men and for teasing them with something they couldn’t have: namely, my shiny rear-end.


Elder Swift

Part 1/3

No, seriously, old gay Japanese men kept coming on to me the entire time I was in Japan.

To gay people in general: this is nothing against you guys, I’m just not gay. Straight as an arrow. And I was in the middle of being a missionary! I mean, we could get sent home for kissing a girl, let alone sleeping with some old pervert (again, not a slight against gays, I’m just about to describe some really creepy old farts with wandering hands).

Now, I’m not the worst looking guy on earth, and at the time riding a bicycle for six to eight hours a day and being 19 didn’t hurt either. That’s right, I was in the springtime of youth; a bright, eager young missionary out to save the world from the weight of sin, and spread the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ, and the tacked-on Mormon missive of “a wonderful message for the entire family.

And I was doing it in Japanese.

And I looked goooood.

How couldn’t I? I wore a suit, silk tie, pressed slacks, shiny black dress shoes, and a clean white shirt with a nifty little name tag every single day (except Thursdays) for two years. Two years. Brushed my teeth every morning, noon, and night. Combed my hair, had it cut every few weeks. Acne cleared right up as soon as I entered the Lord’s service. I was on top of the world!

Oh, and I rode a bicycle.

Now, I know a lot of you have seen some missionaries ride by on bikes before, what with their unmistakable helmets, backpacks, and always traveling in pairs and everything – it’s kinda hard to miss ’em. They just look so cool. [/sarcasm]

But have you ever considered what constant friction between a warm body weighed down by two dozen Book of Mormons, while riding a cheap mountain bike for more than a week does to your suit pants?

They were shinier than a red baboon’s butt, that’s what.

So I guess it was understandable, maybe even inevitable, that like some primal mating sign it would attract the attentions of… well, let me share a story.

I have a particular memory of being out “tracting” with Elder Hymie one day, in a part of town I wasn’t very familiar with. You see, tracting is a bit of an art – the idea is to convince your “companion”, or “doryo” (those quote signs were air-quotes, because having a male companion/doryo 24/7 with no breaks and no alone time sounds just as questionable in Japanese as in English) and yourself that you’re actually accomplishing the Lord’s will by performing the most ineffective, unimaginative, utterly soul-sapping style of missionary work possible: knocking on doors and trying to stop people on the street.

(Seriously: If you want to baptize people, get friends and family to volunteer their friends and family. Works great! Instant, built-in support network. Also, find lapsed members who don’t go to church anymore. Reactivate them, baptize their kids! Modern mission presidents have this stuff figured out.)

Tracting had brought us to a rundown looking concrete apartment building across from an equally rundown looking school across the street. (An aside: some Japanese schools, for some reason, “look” rundown on the outside, but are the very models of cleanliness and order inside. I think it’s because they get the kids to clean the building as part of their classwork, and no one wants to volunteer to hang from the roof on a thin rope and clean windows. In America, we hire janitors.)

The sky was overcast and had been sprinkling  a bit here and there, and was foggy with Tokyo’s industrial pollution. The apartment building was one of the open air sort – with concrete walkways on every floor connected by a single staircase off to one side. I always wondered what happened when old or sick people needed to get up those stairs. (Answer: They do it themselves. Slowly. Really, really, slowly.)

Those construction companies were very proud of their tiny ticky-tacky apartments, and even dared to called them “Mansions.” Pronounced “mon-shon.”

That’s right, my friends, they called them Mansions. Some of them were less than 200 odd square feet. And they weren’t even handicap accessible. Mansions. That’s balls right there.

So up we went, knocking door after door, taking turns, Elder Hymie and I. Our spiel went something like this:

  • Ring bell
  • Knock twice (three times sounded too urgent!)
  • When the intercom came on (even the cheapest places had nifty little intercoms) we would introduce ourselves
  • Sumimasen, [Name here, if we could read it from their nameplate]-san! Bokutachi wa Matsu-Jitsu-Seito-Iesu-Kirisuto-Kyoukai-no-senkyoushi-dakedo-subarashii…”
    • Excuse us, Mr./Mrs. [Name here, if we could read it from their nameplate]! But we’re-missionaries-from-the-Church-of-Jesus-Christ-of-Latter-day-Saints-and-we-have-a-wonde…”
    • “No thank you! [Polite form]”
  • Rinse and repeat, door after door

Oddly enough, we didn’t take breaks or anything. Once the work had begun the work had to be finished. Maybe we were trying to prove our endurance, show off, or maybe it was honest belief, or some wistful version of luck-seeking, but once the knocking began we didn’t stop until someone actually had an honest-to-god conversation with us. Idle banter was at an all time low that night, and eventually I just tuned out about halfway through Level 2.

As we got near the end of the row Elder Hymie jostled me in the shoulder and looked back the way we had come. Sure enough, there was some grumpy looking fellow sitting at the entrance to the stairwell (remember, this was all open-air), staring at us intently. He didn’t motion to us, so I hit the doorbell in front of me and tried our luck.

No go.

Oh well, we turned and headed back towards the stairs, and the increasingly agitated looking chubby, elderly fellow who was blocking our way to Level 3. When we got within range he launched into a mini-tirade the moment we tried to walk on by. It was a Japanese verbal assault, which, oddly enough, I was rather happy to hear. I mean, you spend a lot of time as a missionary in Japan being able to speak a decent portion of the language, and having people simply refuse to believe that you could possibly speak Japanese is often disheartening.

Ironically, when they recognize that you do speak some Japanese, they nearly pat you on the head like you’re a good little dog that learned a trick. It isn’t meant meanly either, they just believe that their language is so incredibly hard that no could possibly learn it but Japanese, and maybe Koreans, possibly some Chinese, Taiwanese, Nigerians, Americans, oh wait, yeah, we all seem to do okay.

My elation wore off pretty quickly: this man had either drunk a Sushi bar’s worth of sake, or found some crazy shrooms in the alley between the buildings. It turned out to be Kirin, the beer, I think, his shirt was doused with the stuff, and he seemed obsessed with licking his lips like he could find just one or two of those last, missing drops.

Worse, the beer had combined with old man sweat and teeth rot to become the mother of all bodily odors. It was a stench that I had not smelt since working in the Pet department of a certain, multi-national-conglomerate-retail-store-monopoly-that-shall-not-be-named when I was 15.

Anyways, his line of reasoning went something like this, and he slowed down enough for us poor gaijin (foreigners) to understand: “You guys, you, guys shouldn’t be around, walking around this area ’cause you know how it looks. YOU KNOW, how it looks.”

My god… in retrospect, I realized that he sounded like a Japanese William Shatner. A super-drunk, old, Japanese William Shatner. Well, he talked like Shat, and smelt like he’d Shat, so that makes sense.

Anyways, we were used to this kind of prejudice from a very small minority (most Japanese people were polite to an utter fault), so I tried to maintain my own calm, and asked what exactly it was that we were doing wrong.

“It’s suspic. Suspicious! That’s WHAT it IS!”

He looked straight up at me at that moment and then, motioning forward, leaned in and grabbed my companion by his shoulder.

I remember thinking, “He’s in my bubble. He’s in my bubble!

“You see, it’s like this,” he began, and we were essentially group hugging in a weird huddle by then, “There’s the school, middle school, there you see. I see you two looking for those girls, looking at those young girls. On the track.” He licked his lips again.

We looked over, the track and field was empty, and it was Sunday. This line of logic did not deter him, and he continued, looking right through us towards the track: “They have those bloomers on and shorts and the t-shirts with the NUMBERS and I know, I KNOW you were LOOKing.”

We assured him we were doing absolutely no such thing, that we were, in fact, Christian missionaries spreading the Good News. He seemed surprised, and mumbled “Thought you were maintenance repair, what?”

Then he looked up at us and grinned. It was the toothiest, gappiest smile I had ever seen, and he looked straight into my eyes and said, “So, not interested in girls? Eh? Eh!”

Right then I learned what a group huddle and conspiratorial tone means between three male strangers in Japan.

His hand shot down and swept up, grabbing hold of my crotch and copping the nastiest feel-up of my junk.  I mean, we’re talking nastier than a hillbilly from “Deliverance.” If a banjo had started up right then and someone screamed “Squeal like a pig!” I could not have been any more frightened and mortified.

Worse, he had avoided my balls completely – his target was… singular.

I remember reacting almost instantly, slapping his arm away with my right hand and slamming my left hand into the old perv’s shoulder. I was panicked. It was uncoordinated and I really didn’t mean it, but I sent him spinning into the concrete wall face first with an audible crunch. I had barely even gotten that good of a shove in, honestly, his total inebriation did all the real work.

In that moment, as I watched his body crumple down onto one knee, I could only think I’d broken one of the most sacred rules of missionary work: try not to get sent to jail.

But you know what? The maniac started laughing, and he picked himself right back up, wobbling a little but no worse for wear.

He jumped forward, slapped me on my shiny suited derriere, then danced backwards down the stairwell, cackling all the way like some demented “Bad Santa,” jiggling with illicit joy as he made his getaway.

My companion was in momentary shock and just stared at me. Then he burst out laughing.  A loud, loud laugh that bounced across the street, off the school walls, echoing back to the apartments. It went on for a good five or six seconds. And I, I just stood there, and eventually started laughing too.

So is there a moral here? I’m completely unsure.

Did my super shiny pants beckon the old, lecherous lush to grope me? Maybe.

Any lessons? Don’t send old men mixed signals.

Did I get teased about this by the other missionaries when we got home? Absolutely.

Did my companion bring up the fact that bad things come in threes? Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3!




4 responses

27 12 2010

This is the most insane thing I’ve read all week. So what happened to you? Are you still moromon?

27 12 2010

Brilliant writing! I never had that happen to me, though. Maybe Bolivians were more circumspect.

29 12 2010
Apology: Being irresistible to old men (Part 2) « Sorry about that, Japan!

[…] from my previous encounter (See Part 1) with small, smiling, wrinkly men, you’d think I would have known better than to keep […]

2 01 2011
Last Call for Brodies Nominations! | Main Street Plaza

[…] Apology: Being irresistible to old men […]

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