I was inspired to write about this one by my friend, Mason. You should follow him, by the way. The absolute ball shriveling cringe of a tweet reminded me of a decade ago.
The Teppanyaki Guy.
I was about 21 years old, and at the time I was somewhat pudgy, always wore glasses and had incredible skills in Quake 3 Arena but very little in the way of social interactions. Rather, I did have social skills in my teens, but half a year of playing a toon in World of WarCraft and barely keeping in touch with the outside world tends to erode your abilities to understand things like hand movements, flailing and screams. I think we call that body language.
Anyway, I was 21, nerdy as all fuck, and I was invited to a friend’s birthday party, which happened to be at a Teppanyaki restaurant. I had no idea what Teppanyaki meant, but it sounded like it would be fun and apparently a Japanese chef would throw food at you, so alright let’s do this.
We arrived there and there were many, many people. I think about a dozen or so. My friend was quite sociable, and she had a friend in particular who had amazing boobs and was super hot. Yes, these are the things I remember, because big breasts are awesome. Bill me.
That has nothing to do with the story though, just testosterone distractions.
We all sat down and the Teppanyaki guy started doing his magic. He was chopping down various vegetables and food with the skills of an experienced swordsman in the Sengoku period of Japan, sans the colourful attire and incessant, violent yelling. He was quiet, efficient and a lot of fun to watch.
He then handed bowls over to people and had them expect to catch food with the bowls. We would hold the bowl out, he’d throw some cabbage, and with pinpoint precision it would land in the bowl assuming the person didn’t move. No worries, it was a lot of fun and people were cheering.
It eventually came to my turn, and like an awkward neanderthal I ooga booga held out the bowl ready to catch whatever it was he was deciding to throw at me.
It was an egg.
My nerves flared up a little bit. Oh shit, an egg.
If I fail this, I’m going to get dead chicken baby goo all over me, and that would be embarrassing.
So, I battened down the hatches and summoned my inner quake player. It was time to focus, Frog.
I held out the bowl, he gestured the “ready..” movement to give me the cue and…
In the bowl!
Everyone cheered, no problem. The egg fell perfectly into the bowl and there was no residue whatsoever.
The relief in me was immense – I didn’t fuck it up, and given my social awkwardness and insecurities at the time, this was a god send.
The Teppanyaki Guy then reached his hand over, gesturing for the bowl so he can continue cooking.
I smiled, and as I looked him straight in the eye, with all the newfound confidence I had..
I gently clasped his hand with mine, and shook it.
The silence was deafening. I can feel it now, while writing this.
I continued to make eye contact, and he had one of those awkward smiles where it was nodding in approval but also sending a psychic message to my brain saying “bro what the fuck is wrong with you”
Sure, I wasn’t good at body language at the time – but I sure as fuck knew what he wanted me to do.
I realized my error, let go of his large Japanese hand and gave him the bowl.
There was no cheer, but in my mind there was intense screaming.
I actually think this may be the real reason I decided to move to Japan.
It wasn’t because I love Japanese history, or one of my dreams is to live in a traditional Japanese house, emulating the scene of Katsumoto reading a book on a balcony in the summer in The Last Samurai.
It was to seek forgiveness for the shame I brought upon the Teppanyaki Guy and myself.
I still feel it to this day man. God damn.
Makes for good stories though.
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