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Digging for things to do

by Thomas Dillon

One of life’s little facts: “Every man needs a hobby.”

“But I thought I was your hobby,” says my wife, with a hint of a smile. So I must clarify: “Every man needs an affordable hobby.”

And there I stand in my hobby clothes: ragged shorts, wrinkled shirt and a sun-bleached cap. In one hand is a plastic bag containing a garden scoop. And in the other . . .

In the other lies a cross between a light saber and a mine-sweeper. It’s a prize I have fished from the depths of the Internet.

A metal detector.

My wife’s smile is no longer a hint. It’s a full-throttled smirk.

“And what will you do with that!?”

“Well, hunt for treasure. What else?”

The resulting giggles then dissolve into a coughing spell, which allows me time for some narrative. This treasure hobby has been long in the making, first seeded by my stateside brother-in-law, who always shows off his cache of quarters, rings and other trinkets mined only from the local golf course, and then watered by multiple YouTube videos of a hobbyist here in Japan, routinely digging up various coins, both ancient and new, from beaches, campgrounds and riverbanks.

Now I am not an artsy type of guy. Bonsai, photography and other “old coot” hobbies in Japan give me the yawns. But hacking rusty metal from the ground? Wow! I could do that. How rewarding! How fun!

“How nutty.” This is my wife, recovered from her giggles. “You are in suburban Japan. What do you think you’ll find? Spanish doubloons? The Holy Grail?”

I point my metal detector at her smile. It responds with . . . “Neeeep!” Perhaps a comment on her dental work, but which I prefer to translate as a squeaky critique of her sarcasm. “Oh yeah! We’ll see about that!” roar both machine and master. And — Hi ho! Hi ho! — off to the park we go!

And three hours later we are back.

I sit at the kitchen table and guzzle iced tea. I have returned with a pink sunburn and the smear of dirt on my hands. “The good earth!” I trumpet. “Bursting with harvest!”

“Then,” says my wife, “why does your treasure bag look so . . . flat?”

“Looks can be deceiving. Can’t they, pal!” I nudge my metal detector, which sits squeakless in response. It seems as much in need of a drink as I.

“Let’s see,” says my wife. So I thrust my hand into my treasure bag and rummage around, only for effect, then yank my plunder into view. “TA DA!”

She blinks. “TA DA!” I say again. She blinks again. “Um, that looks like . . .”

“A nail? Yes it is!”

“You hunted for three hours and all you got was a nail!”

“Eight-penny nail? Pieces of eight? That’s almost the same, right?”

“I guess. Just like fruit and fruit bats are practically identical.”

“Yet this is just not any nail.” I cradle it in my palms. “It’s MY nail!”

“What you have is too much sun. Go take a shower.”

“Just think if this nail could talk, the stories it might tell!”

“Like about the day it got dug up by a nitwit.” I ignore her. “Who knows what houses this once held together! Or castles! Or . . . Or . . .”

“Looney bins?”

“Why,” I continue, “this nail might be the linchpin to all Japanese culture. The very foundation of Japan.”

“And you had to dig it up. Now we’ll probably sink.”

“Consider it Trophy #1!” I hold her with a grin. “Now time for Trophy #2!”

Again I pull my hand from my bag! Again I scream, “TA DA!” She gasps. “That’s . . . ¥10.”

“Yes, thanks to my metal hunting hound, our family coffers are now richer by 10 whole yen.”

“Gosh. What should we do with so much loot? Vacation in Rome? Or put another kid through college?”

“We are not spending this EVER.”

“Are you going to nail it to your wall? Where would you get the nail? Oh wait.”

I return both trophies to my bag.

“That’s it? A nail and a coin?”

“No. There was more. A LOT more.”

“Like what?”

“Like . . . tabs to tin cans. And bottle caps.”

“And you left such booty in the park?”

“Plus,” I lower my voice, “I found half of some wire-framed glasses. I would have dug for the rest, but I feared I might find a head attached.”

“Logical. And what did the other park-goers think of this?”

“Oh they followed me around like it was a sort of carnival.”

“Again logical. An old foreigner with a long stick that makes ‘neeeep’ noises. How entertaining.” I admit, “In fact, one of them might have tossed the coin in the grass just to see if I could find it.”

“Well, now you’ve been there, done that. What’s next? AKB48?”

“Are you kidding! Tomorrow they might throw more!” I nudge my new pal. “And we’ll be there, right!?”

“Noooop,” it says. Machine talk for . . .

“I detect we need a nap.”

Which, if treasure hunting fails, could well become my next new hobby.