Monday, July 30, 2012
Tales From Japan "The Shoes"
A tale told by Patrick Baylis
We win Worlds. Beau toes the line for the winning goal, we celebrate, clap hands, do the spirit circle, and are getting arranged to get our medals when I get pulled aside by two very nice Japanese men who have a clipboard with my name on it. I have been selected for drug testing! They tell me that I'm allowed to continue celebrating with the team for a little while but that "we will be watching you" and that "you should not go pee on your own." And they aren't kidding - the guy literally comes into the locker room and watches me during our post-game huddle. He even joins in on our Revolver/USA cheer.
So instead of celebrating with my team after winning the single biggest tournament I will ever play in, I get to hang out in some back rooms filling out forms, listening to incredibly tedious and detailed instructions, and, of course, peeing into a little cup while a Japanese man stares at my junk. I am happy to report that there is no chance in hell I have stage fright issues, because it flowed freely and easily my friends. The whole process was made much more tolerable due to the fact that, again, they are really, really nice, but I still would just as soon not be there. So the drug test finishes up in what I thought was a long time but apparently was one of the fastest at the tournament (I heard the Canadian guy had to be there for five hours - first he was too concentrated, then too dilute, then too out of pee...) and I go back out to the fields to realize that pretty much everyone has gone home. Fortunately I still have my backpack, so I have money and clothes, but, as I soon realize -- no shoes.
Thus begins my quest. The field site is huge, and we warmed up in a couple of different places that day, so I start the search at the finals field to no avail. I then go back to our second warmup site where there is now a soccer game going on and start poking around the sidelines of some very confused Japanese fellas. I managed to explain (with various hand gesticulations, etc.) that I'm looking for my running shoes and they smile, look around, and shrug. Except for one of them. He gets up, tells me his name is Yama-uchi (I think), and tells me that there is a lost and found. I think he's going to tell me where it is, but instead he just starts taking me there. It's halfway across the complex. We get to the lost and found, but my shoes aren't there, but they tell us there's ANOTHER lost and found. I say, "Hey, great, thank you for the help, I can just go there on my own, you go back to your game," and he smiles and nods. And then keeps walking with me. So it goes for about half an hour - we walk around to various lost and founds (there are apparently four on site), Yama-uchi walks with me and we engage in awesome broken conversation. Our favorite joke is that we agree that I traded a gold medal for my shoes, which is clearly a worthy trade.
This seems like a long time to look for shoes, but I have literally no other shoes for all of japan (cleats excepted) so I persist for a lot longer than I would have. And I like talking to this guy, and hey, I can't get rid of him anyway. But eventually I just want to get back and party with Revolver so I give up on the shoes, and tell the guy thank you very much but I'm just going to go home. He stops smiling and gets really distressed at this point.
"No shoes on train!"
"Hm, okay, I guess I'll just wear my cleats?"
"Spike-u! No wear spike-u on train!"
"Well, I don't think they can stop me so I'll just give it a shot."
Then there's a pause, and he kind of looks at me. I start to thank him one final time for his help, and then he looks down, looks at me, and takes off his shoes.
"Take my shoes"
"Take my shoes"
"No no no no, I can't take your shoes, that's crazy"
"Take my shoes"
The above is the beginning of a 10 minute argument about whether or not I should take this guy's shoes. At first, it's unthinkable: I literally try and walk away twice while smiling and thanking him (without the shoes) and he grabs me both times. I also try to offer him money, a jersey, whatever, and he won't take it. Think a few rounds of this - me saying I can't take the shoes, offering something, him smiling and refusing, me looking down at his shoes, him pushing his shoes closer to me, me looking back up at him in disbelief, me saying I can't take the shoes again, and so on. Eventually, I give up and leave. With his shoes. On my feet. He is now barefoot, and goes back to his field, but not until after he apologizes for his shoes not smelling good.
I'm still in a total daze from the experience as I start to head for the bus, but realize I have a warmup that he'll might accept (he wouldn't take the jersey because "you won in it"). He's not at the field anymore, so I go to the attendant who was with us earlier, assuming that this guy must have been a regular/really invested in the field complex to be so nice to me. The attendant said he's never seen him before in his life, and won't take the warmup on his behalf since he knows he won't see him again. So I sprint around the field that I met him at one more time to see if I can find him, fail, and go home. With Yama-uchi's shoes.
Posted by Greenough #99