Today, though, the Grocery Store Crisis happened. It's something that anyone who has been surrounded by a foreign language for any significant amount of time will recognize--that moment when someone is explaining something you need to understand, and it's just not getting through. Usually you can get by with a pleasant smile and a nod, but this was not one of those times.
It started with a dozen, 88 yen SUPER SALE eggs. 88 yen for a dozen eggs is a good deal. Being the savvy shopper I am, and knowing that eggs last for a fairly long time in the fridge, I figured I would buy two dozen, boil half of them, and keep the other half for every-day eggy necessities. After navigating my way through the juice aisle, the soy milk aisle, and the completely-unnecessary-but-delicious Japanese pastry aisle, I headed to the cashier.
It all went downhill from there.
At first, I thought the cashier was telling me that I could only buy one carton of eggs. "Fine", I thought, as the second carton was plucked up by her capable cashier hands and deposited beneath the counter, "I don't really need two dozen eggs. That's fine." When she continued to talk to me in fast, urgent-sounding Japanese, it became clear that two cartons was not actually the problem. Unfortunately, all I gathered was "eggs" and "there's another customer waiting, so..."
Not enough to draw any good conclusions, obviously. I'll admit, the cashier made a valiant effort; I think she repeated herself three times before throwing in the towel and just moving my basket out of the way to move onto the next customer.
I smiled sadly at the next woman in line, depressed by my own lack of success but hoping that she would have more luck. As it turns out, not only did she have more luck at the cashier than I did, she also spoke fluent English! She proceeded to explain to me that I needed to purchase at least 1,000 yen worth of groceries before I would be allowed to buy the SUPER SALE eggs. I asked if I could get them at regular price instead, since I really didn't feel like buying anything else, but apparently not. At this point, I'm torn between grabbing my basket and making a run for it or just standing there and hoping someone eventually takes pity on me and sells me some eggs, but in the end I did neither of these things.
I went to the back of the store (staunchly ignoring the crabs giving me the stink-eye from the fish section) and put the carton back. I figured they were already tainted by my embarrassment, anyway, and at least the cashier apologized when I went back through her line--sans eggs.
So, class, what's the take-away point from this lesson? Any time you see the words SUPER SALE at the Japanese grocery, read them as DON'T BOTHER.