I went to the driving range today. I went to the register and a drop-dead gorgeous Japanese lady asks me in perfect English, "Can I help you?" --Heaven-- "Why yes," I replied, slightly thrown off guard by my native tongue, "I've never been here before and I'd like to hit a couple balls if that's OK? And do you have any clubs I can use?"
She then cocked her head to the side, turned fire engine red and giggled. That series of movements is Japanese female for:
"I don't know what you are saying to me."
Or "I am embarrassed to not know the answer and therefore will say nothing"
or "You're stepping on my foot, but I think you are cute so I will spare
your life (for now)."
I opted for the first one since she was behind a golf counter and I wasn't close enough to step on her. I flipped the internal switch from coherent English to horribly embarrassing and incoherent Tokyo-ben Japanese. You know
that feeling guys. Yea, you may be happily married like me, but no self-respecting man likes to look like a putz in front of pretty ladies. I had to "pony up" (as Uncle Brad would say) 1000 yen for three hours, unlimited balls. Ten bucks for three hours of unlimited shooting and a two-dollar rental club. --Purgatory-- (remember Heaven was the Japanese Baywatch girl speaking English)
Japanese driving ranges are two tiered jobs with huge green mesh netting surrounding a hundred meter high and one eighty meter long box. This one is in the middle of a residential area. Not that there it's a "real" residential area. As you may or may not know, there are no zoning laws here. House, barber, house, gas station, dump, house, apartment
sky-scraper, barber, ramen shop, house and so on. No street names either. So getting directions is a series of turns "at the gray house" (they are all gray) and then left at the soda machine and if you get lost start at point A. But I digress...
Have you seen that Tiger Woods commercial where Tiger is shooting and no one shoots until after he does? The whole range is silent. Tiger shoots, a short pause and then 300 balls fly in every direction as everyone tries to
mock Tiger's perfect swing. Have you seen that one?
It was nothing like that... Well, the first swing was. The two-story, half-moon shaped, green-mesh tent driving range froze when I walked in. You could hear a pin drop (except they don't use pins here). A gaggle of 50 or so Japanese men dressed like Peez Easter eggs stopped mid-swing when "Gaijin-san" echoed through the hallowed halls. 50-odd
Cigarettes hung loose from 50-odd unmoistened bottom lips, ashes drooping off their ends like dew from morning lilies. Normally tightly drawn almond shaped eyes popped open like one of those stress relief squeezy-heads that
someone in your office has on his desk. "Whaa...." The sound of Japanese surprise, horror, confusion, indigestion, approval or disapproval echoed with "Gaijin-san" as they each conferred with each other on how they should
react as a collective. 50-odd Borg and I walked into the centrifuge of the collective. Immediately I could see committees forming in the ranks.
What does he think he's doing here?
Wow he's tall! (I'm only 5'10")
Where will he go from there? (The entrance door)
LOOK OUT HE'S COMING THIS WAY!!!
Does he know Tiger Woods?
Are those Jeans he's wearing, doesn't he know about the polyester Good-Will
freebee look alike dress code?
He's not smoking, what's wrong with him?
Does my boss know there is a Gaijin in town? Maybe we should call him.
Why is he smiling?
I hope he didn't park next to me.
The place was buzzing. I always cause a scene with the ladies, but gees...
These were grown men!
So there I was, a celebrity. It was short lived. I have Fred Flintstone's original driver and no glove. I took my practice swings, shook the cobwebs out of the ol' swing and went for it. Someone had teed up my first ball for
me. Bonus. Whoosh, miss. A snort and a "I meant to do that" look at the gawking crowd and I tried once more. It was a beauty. I hit the back 180 mark. "Whaaa..." Went over the crowd. Silence followed. Then a thunderous clamor as 50-odd Japanese men intently hit their balls as a collective. It was pandemonium out there and I doubt anyone knew whose was whose. It looked like a hailstorm except hail goes in the same direction. These were going every which way but the back net. I covered my eyes, not to keep from looking, but for protection from the ensuing Max-Flight range-ball storm.
My rubber tee sunk and reappeared with another ball propped on it. Wow! Automatic ball setter-uppers! The Captain Kirk panel behind me had controls for tee height, and angle (which I couldn't figure out), and an ashtray that
looked like it had been through 15 years of AA meetings and never been emptied. I had my own bench, coke machine and the Captain Kirk panel that would tell me how many I shot, how often I "whooshed" it and had a call
button for Little-Betty-Front-Desk but what was I going to say besides "Wow! Automatic ball setter-uppers!" and I don't know that in Japanese.
I poised for my next shot, a hush feel over the crowd. All that was missing was the guy with the little smock and the "Silence Please" paddle. I hacked it and managed to hack the next 78 shots (just ask Capt. Kirk), whooshing
eight and getting tempted to dig in the ashtray for some butts to relief the stress.
A kind Japanese man in a road construction outfit (minus helmet) came over and gave me a glove for the pain. The man who I hit in the back with a rogue ball came over and gave me a soft drink and a Montreal "America’s Choice"-cigarette I smoked a little in the Navy and off and on in social situations. After the “companions” smoke with Takaoka-san I know why I don't smoke anymore. Ugh! I had pummeled his back with a range ball, probably slipped a disk and ruined his golf game for ever, but he was too polite to be mad, he bought me a drink and the Japanese male pacifier (smokes).
I did terrible, I have a huge blister on my left thumb and eight hours later I still have a Montreal headache.
But I made some friends and was part of the collective today. I think I'll go back next weekend.