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Published:August 20th, 2009 09:50 EST
Stranger In A Strange Land Called Home

Stranger In A Strange Land Called Home

By Geoff Dean

"You can`t go home again", it is sometimes said, although I would modify this to, "you can go home again, but probably would be better off not to."

I recently visited Indianapolis, my birthplace, the town where I grew up, went to school, and which I left behind some twenty years ago. Nothing personal against Naptown, mind you, but so things go and so things went. We both managed pretty well without each other; it was an amicable separation over irreconcilable differences. We just didn`t bring each other flowers anymore and it was too late, baby, oh, it was too late and there was just too much, too little, too late to ever try again. I went to Tokyo and Indianapolis didn`t go anywhere.

Be that as it may, I visited the city from time to time, to see relatives and to show that I bore no grudge. My latest reminded why I had once loved this town and why I love it no more and why I can nonetheless not bring myself to hate it.

I visited a horse race track near the city for some pointless and fruitless gambling. Dinner was served with this debacle and I ordered a salad and some hot tea.

 The wait person, appropriately named, kept me waiting for quite some time. When I mentioned this, she half-apologized, while pointing out that someone had not shown up for work and she was swamped and was doing her best. It almost seemed as if she wanted to blame me for jumping all over her, by daring to ask her to perform her job in timely fashion.

 Tokyo wait personnel do not make excuses, do not half-apologize, and do not complain about fellow workers to the customers. Of course, this wait person could not have known that or cared if she had known it, and there was something almost attractive in her blatant Hoosierness.

Chastised, she soon, and by that, I mean, not very soon at all, brought me my salad and my tea, or more accurately, a large pot of hot water and a cup. Search as I might, I could find no tea bag, nor could I find anything in the pot other than water.

 Accidents do happen, I recognize, so I mentioned impetuously that there seemed to be no tea in my tea, as she scurried by. She made a face that suggested that she was none too pleased to be bothered again by a trouble making customer, a very American, very non-Tokyoite facial expression.  In Japan, proverbially, it is said that the "customer is God." In America, I had heard that the "customer was always right" but she apparently thought that customers "were meant to be seen and not heard."

 When she returned to the table the next time, she literally threw two tea bags at me. In fact, they bounced once on the table and settled nicely at the edge of the saucer. She might be rude but she had good aim. Without a smile or a "Sorry to keep you waiting" or anything approaching an "Enjoy your meal", she was off to abuse another table full of customers.

It might have ended thusly and I would have left the "downs" lighter in the wallet and bemused with the comical rudeness of the staff if she had not come by to clean up the dishes with a "Did you enjoy your meal, hon?" that was disarming and charming and a blatant play for a tip. I gave her a big one, too, I might add and she deserved it. She had reminded me of what Indianapolis was and was not, what I loved and did`t, why I left and what drew me home and what kept me away, what twenty years abroad had changed as well as what never would. I could have kissed her, right then and there, except, of course that I couldn`t.

All I can say is "Thanks, hon!"