Walter White, McDonalds, and a Taxi Ride (in Japan)
Anthony and I are nearing a month away from domestic soil…
That’s actually not true. We were in Guam for 11 days. Guam is a United States territory. I’m not sure why I’m still typing and explaining myself when the backspace/delete button is within reach with every key I continue to press. I should just delete and stop this interjection. But, I’m 100 words in. I’m pot committed. It’s like committing to a chick at a bar around midnight. It’s dark, smoke-laden, with a few hours til close; you got her locked up. You’ve put your time in. You’re not going be deterred and back up the trucks at 3 am when she waddles to your bed and reveals a gimp. No, you’re all in. You ride it out. I’m not deleting it.
We have been away from home for about a month now.
Certain habits have been developed. Some involve his baseball and some involve my routine (lobby hotspots, lady bell-hops that smile at me, soft serve ice cream, snorkeling, origami, etc). As individual and separate habits have been developed, so too have a few of the mutual variety: Walter White and McDonalds. I’ll elaborate.
Walter White is the protagonist for AMC’s famed show, Breaking Bad. Excluding an affinity for crystal meth, Walter embodies everything I want to be. He is intelligent, pragmatic, and grows great facial hair. Anthony is as much of a fan as me, if not more. Plus, the rest of the show is nails. If you’ve never watched it, you should. It upsets me that you haven’t. What’s important though, is that we’ve gotten into fastidious habit of watching Walter each night at the hotel. It is an enthralling show that provides a small feeling of American familiarity. As this foreign experience has been amazing, full of cultural experiences we relish, it is nice having something familiar to hold part in. It is also necessary, as basic Japanese cable consists of 8 basic channels with 8 basic programs featuring 8 different obstacle courses.
Last night, before Walter really started meddling in some shit, we were both met with an urge for McDonalds. The same way something that is familiar becomes even more appealing, like Breaking Bad, the urge for American delicacy took hold too.
So, as is commonplace back home, when you crave something late night, you resort to fast food. McDonalds is an establishment that is everywhere. We sought that to be our best, most convenient and satisfactory option. Anthony checked his phone. 2.6 miles away was the closest McDonalds. We paused Walter, as he chastised Jessie, and made for the lobby.
Quick note: I am in no way making fun or ridiculing the Japanese for their inability to speak, or attempt to speak English. God knows I couldn’t do half as well in their language. They are amazing people who have been nothing but courteous during my time here, especially Yuki (please message back if you see this). It’s just, it was funny to us as we tried to communicate and navigate our way.
I approached the front desk because it was late and taxi cabs weren’t readily available. The attendant smiled and bowed. I asked if he could ready a cab. As cab is familiar and known in Japan, he was on the same page. Next, though, he needed our destination:
Hotel Attendant: “Whey-ju-go?” (Where are you going to?)
(He made a running gestures with his finger. That was prudent and helpful, as I realized what he was saying.)
Me: “MAKE-DONALD” (McDonalds).
(He didn’t quite get it. He was close. He took a piece of paper and asked me to write. Again, very smart and intuitive. I wrote it out, utilizing an all caps font. Immediately he smiled.)
Hotel Attendant: Smiling, “Hham-booga” (Hamburger).
(He smiled and I smiled back. I gave him a thumbs up. He quickly called a cab and ushered us to a set of lounge chairs.)
Within minutes a cab arrived. Upon entering the vehicle, a friendly elder man greeted us with a smile and a familiar joint annunciation of “mic-don-alz” (McDonalds)-“ham-booga” (hamburger)! We nodded, gave an affirming thumbs up, and he departed.
Anthony and I conversed about the way the previous dialogue exchanges had just been executed. It was neat stuff and we really appreciated their efforts. Our banter was pleasant because we knew we were less than three miles away and mere minutes from the gentle pairing of “Mchicken-to-Walter White”.
The amiable driver prodded his navigation, typing into Japanese characters, until a dual Japanese/English screen appeared revealing the destination. In the top, center portion of the navigation, firmly upholstered to his dashboard, were the words “distance” and “ETA”.
It read as:
Distance – 23 kilometers (14 miles)
ETA – 34 minutes (34 minutes)
The cab driver, assuming nothing, proceeded forward as the light illuminated green.
Quickly, and obviously, Anthony and I began discussing our options. We didn’t have many. Both of our phones were on airplane mode. They do not function without wireless internet. We couldn’t use our English to Japanese translation apps. I tried grabbing the driver’s attention. I tried pointing at his navigation screen, saying “CLOSER?” … “HAM-BOOGA, CLOSER?” Nothing. I tried a few more times. He gave enthusiastic and friendly thumbs up. He was excited and said “ham-booga” a couple more times. He was a great guy with infectious energy.
I sat back, took a breath, and laughed. Anthony was going to eat a $100 plus cab fare. I like when people more well off then me, even close personal friends, lose money.
We drove for 30 minutes, enjoying the scenery of the post meridiem (night/PM), and listened to upbeat Japanese radio programming, which appeared to be the verbal re-cap of a difficult obstacle course. Our order was executed perfectly. After another half hour, we arrived at the Rizzan Hotel. As mentioned previously, this driver was a friendly, elite human being. He turned off the meter on the return drive.
Idling in the cab, in front of the hotel, he handed us the receipt: 3,900 Yen (40ish American dollars). The roundtrip should have been around 8,000 Yen, at least. We fumbled through Anthony’s wallet, handing the driver what we later realized to be over 35,000 ($350ish American dollars). He smiled, waved his arms, gave us our currency back, and took $4,000 yen. Again, top notch human.
Minutes later, after I bowed to the lady concierge I would have paid in Yen, we resumed Walter.
It is hard to equivocate the happiness that came with that burger and 44 minutes episode. Really, the only way to explain, in justice, is to say that’s how Walter must have felt when he killed Gus. Spoiler alert.