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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007

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Becoming one with the chair


I am a chair. I am a big, soft comfortable chair, fluffy and overstuffed like the ones that when you sit down in, they swallow you whole. And it did swallow me, which is how I became one with this chair.

But this isn't the only chair I have been today. Others were less fluffy, less comfortable, even hard plastic, yet still they proved to be all-consuming. I was even also part of a wall today. I was just leaning on the wall, and eventually it just drew me in, until I was part of the wall.

If you can follow this column so far, you know what it is like to have jet lag. And during the upcoming holidays, should you decide to take a jaunt to the other side of the world and back to visit relatives, this could be you.

No wonder people think gaijin are strange.

Jet lag never used to bother me, but the more I travel, the more my body refuses to return to normal life with me. So this time, while my mind was in Japan, my body was still back in the United States.

I used to wonder why they called it "jet lag" since the condition stems from the difference in time zones, not the actual jet. But I recently learned that jet lag refers to the propensity of your overseas flight to be late taking off (in my case six hours late, four hours of which were spent on the runway waiting). So, my 17-hour flight had become 23 hours. That's a jet lag of five hours.

The day I arrived in Japan, I was fine. I was just going along doing things as normal. Then out of nowhere, I felt a huge weight upon my shoulders and I suddenly felt very sleepy. The shoulders hunched over, the head hung low. My body relaxed completely, giving in to some strange but evil forces. I had soon lost control and was getting drawn into this inward force. The more I resisted, the stronger they sucked me in until I suddenly realized — I'm going to become a black hole! Just in time, I snapped out of it, just like waking up from a bad dream just before you die.

This is how people get abducted by aliens — when they have jet lag. You're just so vulnerable in times like this.

The next day I sat down on the hard, plastic chair and waited for the train. Within five seconds, I had become the chair. The plastic chair had sprouted two more legs, for a total of six, and also had a couple of sprawling arms dangling from it and a snoring gaijin on top of it with her mouth wide open like a dead fish. One with the chair, we really looked more like a giant octopus.

"Don't mind me. I've just been to the other side of the world and back," I said as some locals on the platform started poking me with a sushi knife.

When I boarded the train, it was pretty crowded but I got a seat next to an older woman. I was getting very, very sleepy. That woman's lap was starting to look really comfy. I wondered if she'd mind if I just sort of leaned over and used her lap as a pillow. If I purr, she might think I'm her cat. I decided that the next time I come back from an overseas trip, I'd carry a cat costume with me. Disguised as a pet, I could probably stretch out on the whole row of people's laps. People might even scratch me behind the ears.

But right now, I would have to try something else to be able to curl up in that woman's lap. How about "Ore! Ore! Baa-chan, it's me, your grandson."

I was wiped out, like a kid who had fallen off its bicycle into a puddle of gaping crocodiles. I just sat there and zoned out. I went through all kinds of zones: residential zones, building zones, and no-parking zones. But I lingered longest in the agricultural zone: out to pasture, grazing with the cattle.

But I wasn't there for long. A couple of moos later, I was back in the airplane. Just as my mind was hovering in that dreamlike space when the plane lifts up and the wheels leave the runway, I thought, "Awesome. Mars."



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