You Are What You Eat
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that kids can be little cesspools of germs and disease.
I don’t know why I forgot this, it certainly held true when I was a kid. We didn’t have the proper shame levels or appreciation of filth that we do now as adults. Something itchy down your pants? Well, scratch away! Front or back, it doesn’t matter. Out of tissues? Your hand is not only an acceptable substitute, your fingers can get to those hard to reach crevices that Kleenex just cannot. Washing your hands after using the bathroom? Pfft. And really, that only scratches the grimy, nasty surface.
I’d sort of forgotten about all this, but I was harshly reminded one day in an ichinensei’s class. I was standing near the front of the room when I noticed a girl on the far right picking her nose. Not the discreet “oh, let me just scratch my my nostril here – oops, a finger slipped in!”, not the skilled Ninja Thumb Penetration maneuver, no. This was full on Pointer Finger Excavation. She finished with one nostril and went right for the other one as well. I suppose this wasn’t too bad, I mean everybody goes gold-digging at some point. Most of us just prefer to do it in the privacy of our own homes with at least some tissue paper nearby, not right smack in the middle of English class.
It turns out though that this girl was hungry more than anything else, as she proceeded to take the fruits of her labor……………and eat them.
Fortunately, I’d skipped breakfast that morning. Had I not, I would have projectile vomited over the remaining 34 kids who weren’t eating their boogers right in the middle of English class. Man that was the foulest thing I’d ever seen since Paris Hilton’s debut music single. This was a whole two periods before lunch, and not only did I skip lunch, I barely felt like eating dinner too. (The New Azrael Diet Plan – just watch some kids eat their own boogers. See if you still want to eat that cheesecake for dessert) This girl could grow up to be the hottest Japanese supermodel, and still all I’d see when I look at her is a little girl chowing down on her nose goblins.
And yes, I know I’m being squeamish. And yes, I don’t give a flying fuck. She ate her boogers, man! All possible cries of “man it up!” go right out the nearest window. And if you disagree with me, next time you go fishing for slime fish, I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU to eat one.
Anyway, in that class, we played an interview game, where the students are supposed to get up and ask other students “What’s your favorite food?” The students were supposed to definitely ask me at least once. I was dreading having Booger Girl come up to me. Not even for the question (although having to ask a girl who just ate her own boogers what her favorite food is does reek of irony), but for the fear she might touch me with those boogery slobbery hands. And give me her paper that she’s handled with those fingers, and breathe her Booger Breath all over me. Ick, to say the least. Fortunately, we ran out of time before Booger Girl could interview me. …YES! Buzzer-beating victory! Saved by whatever God it is that saves a person from nasty-ass shit (incidentally, where was this God when I was dating my ex?).
As this was my last week ever at this school, this would be my last class with these students. At the end of class, the students would pass me goodbye notes that they’d written last week. Usually just the class rep would stand up and give me the notes in a gift bag. So at the end of this class, the teacher says “Okay, it’s time to give your goodbye cards. Class rep, could you please stand up?” More than the goodbye cards, I was just relieved at having dodged an encounter with Booger Girl (who now, by the way, was picking at a sore above her mouth). Cause, you know, in the three years I’ve been here, these things almost NEVER go my way, don’t they? Finally, just once, I got off the hook. Well, I suppose I wasn’t in the clear yet, there was still the class rep and the goodbye notes, but c’mon. In a class of 35 kids, what were the odds that out of the 34 kids who didn’t just eat snot that none of them would be the class rep? That’s the kind of shit that only happens in sitcoms, right? I had a 99.97% chance of success/.03% chance of failure here. Honestly, that kind of thing would be beyond God simply hating me, that’d be some powerful, divine forces conspiring specifically against me. I mean..
…Booger Girl stands up.
…Wow. They say karma is a bitch, right? For something this statistically impossible to happen to me, over and over again, I figure either I was Napoleon in a past life and I’m still writing karma checks, or I’m paying in advance for a life later on that will include me inventing cloning technology and somehow getting a sample of Jessica Alba’s DNA. You know, I would even accept this kind of thing if I actually had looked down Melon Tits shirt those three years ago, but I didn’t! I had literally like a trillion bajillion chances to do so, but I averted my eyes as a gentlemen would. Three years later, God rewards me by making a snot-eater the class rep. Thanks, Big Guy. If no good deed goes unpunished, then next time, I’m gonna look at those 15 year old melon tits.*
Booger girl reaches deep down (eww) into her desk and pulls out the bag with the farewell letters. She comes up to the front to present this bag to me. This bag, which contained all the heartfelt goodbye wishes of a class of young Japanese schoolkids…and heaven help me, I did not want to take it. All I could think about was how the hands that were handling that envelope now, earlier had not only gone fishing for boogers, but scarfed down today’s catch. And God knows what else she’d done when other people WEREN’T looking at her! I took the envelope cautiously, and made sure to wipe it down and bless it with holy water as soon as I got back to the teachers room.
It would seem though that nostril excavation isn’t limited to just schoolgirls though. Ever since this day, I started noticing a LOT more nose-picking here in Japan. It’s especially prevalent among salarymen on trains. Again, there’s no discreetness or subtleness about it – they just plunge right in and start digging. One guy took the fruits of his labors and was rolling it around in his fingers for a good 20 minutes before finally flicking it on the ground. A little something to think about next time you hold one of the handles aboard a train in Japan somewhere.
I haven’t seen any salarymen eat their boogers yet…and the day that I do is the day that I leave Japan. I don’t even mean book a plane ticket, I mean walk straight off the nearest shore and just let the currents take me where they will.
*I say that, but really, I’m all talk. No matter how big or round of soft-looking they might be, I don’t want to see 15-year old girl tits. Hold off your emails to Chris Hansen and Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” (although, if that show ever did come to Japan, they would never run out of footage, EVER). I only want to see the tits of women around my age, give or take a few years. Is that so wrong!? Why can’t more women who aren’t 15 (and my students) open up their shirts around me, show me a little skin. Instead, I get booger eaters. Shakespeare couldn’t write a better tragedy.