No tooth, no bite [part 1]
One of the greatest perks of military service is free medical care, but until recently I hadn’t really taken advantage of this. The only time I ever go to sick bay is for some sort of vaccine, like the flu or anthrax. However, due to an unlikely series of events, I’ve gotten several thousand dollars worth of intensive dental care within the past couple weeks, and it didn’t cost me a dime. I didn’t even have to schedule appointments. Anyways, it all started the day before Thanksgiving…
Finding housing is a very pressing concern for many of us who are new to Japan, because until we do so, we have to live on the ship. A girl who works in my shop was probably the first person I know to actually move into a new apartment, and as such she wanted the rest of us homeless sailors to have a place to enjoy Thanksgiving. The actual party was the day before Thanksgiving, and I made sure I had a good excuse to get out of work early–I was going to see a few potential homes. Time for a digression, because this was actually an interesting experience.
The real estate agent who showed me around didn’t speak the best English, so as soon as I revealed to her that I spoke a little Japanese she insisted I try to use it. The conversation was kind of broken, and I had to ask her to repeat herself indefinitely, but it was amusing. Somehow we got onto the topic of women, and I mentioned how I had met two Japanese girls so far. She asked me if they knew of each other, and as soon as I said no, she started punching me in the shoulder (jokingly) and calling me a “bad American boy.” I intuitively understood why she was doing this, but acted innocent, and she explained herself, “but if one girl falls in love with you, but you choose the other one, she will be so sad! Heartbroken!” Needless to say, I was highly amused by this, and so was she. I proceeded to give her a breakdown of the comparative advantages of each girl, referring to one as ‘A’ and the other as ‘B’.
The agent showed me two different houses, and much like the two girls, there were different advantages to each. One was a bit older and smaller, but had a cozier feel to it and was right next door to a convenience store. It was also cheaper, but the way that my housing allowance works, this is actually not an advantage. The second house, which is the one I ultimately chose, was very spacious and had an immaculately tended backyard. Afterwards, while riding back to the office, I called one house ‘A’ and the other ‘B’ in an attempt to make a joke… fortunately, she understood and gave me a few more playful punches.
So, having chosen a new home and started the process of getting a lease, I felt pretty damn good when I showed up for the party that evening. The hostess was notoriously flaky, and when we arrived at 7:00pm, the exact time which she expected us, there were about six people already there who had eaten all the food. So we take a walk to the local grocery store for victuals and beverages, and learn a very valuable lesson there: only buy alcohol on base. The prices on base actually seem kinda cheap compared to what I remember from the states, but at the Japanese grocery store we paid 4800 yen for a case of beer… which, at current exchange rates, is over $50. In any case, we kicked the party up a notch by starting a game of King Cup, but it became a debacle after two rules were decreed that required everyone to say “I like pussy” before every utterance and “in the butt” after. The punishment for violators was a drink, but it was more or less impossible to enforce, so everyone just started drinking constantly. That’s a recipe for a good time, right?
The trains stop running around midnight, so at about 11:00 we pack up and move the party to the Honch. More drinking ensued, and just before heading back to base to sleep it off, we decide to grab some pizza at New York Pizza. The guy who sits behind the counter is 100% genuine New Yorker, and likes to puff on a hookah with customers and shoot the bull. So, here I am, happily enjoying my slice, savoring the only form of tobacco I can stand to smoke, when I feel something hard in my mouth, like a pebble. I quickly realize that the hard object was formerly attached to my mouth as I frantically tongue the gaping hole in the front of my grill. Spitting it out into my hand, I realize that nobody seems to notice and tap my friend on the shoulder to show him. Hilarity ensues. We all decide that this would be a great time to return to base, and on the way I drop the tooth at least three times.
I assumed that there was no way I could possibly get the tooth worked on over Thanksgiving weekend, although I later learned that if I had walked into Dental with my tooth, even on Thanksgiving Day, they would have been obligated to do something. In any case, I go the rest of the weekend and in the process gain a few more nicknames… My father tells me that now I look more like a native Kentuckian, and probably fit in better amongst the jacked-up grills of the Japanese.