An ex-colleague recently contacted me about teaching an after-school English class for high school students going abroad. I doubted I would have the time to teach it, but agreed to talk to the school.
I arrived for the interview and was shown to the waiting room. Time was passing slowly, and I was bored. So I started fiddling with my key chain. This key chain has a cow on it, and when you squeeze it, it moos four times: “Moo-moo-moo-moo.”
After a while, I even struck up a conversation with it. “So cow, how much longer do you think we’ll have to wait?” I asked. I squeezed the cow and it answered, “Moo-moo-moo-moo.” I see. “And how much money do you think they’ll pay me?” I asked the little cow. And he answered, “Moo-moo-moo-” — and in walked the director.
Startled, I stood up and bowed to the “bucho” just as the little cow gave out the last moo.
My ex-colleague, Mrs. Ono, came in right behind him and started introductions.
“This is Amy-sensei. She lives on Shiraishi Island. She owns a bar there called the Moooo! Bar. You know, cows? Moooo. Get it?”
The bucho obviously did not.
I squeezed my cow key chain: “Moo-moo-moo-moo.”
“Oh,” said the bucho, and smiled politely. I had a feeling the bucho and I were getting off on the wrong hoof.
“Didn’t you see her on TV?” asked Mrs. Ono.
“Yes, I did,” he said.
She was referring to a 15-nanosecond spot on the evening news last week that showed me bartending at the Moooo! Bar in a bikini, which as you know is not a prerequisite for teaching English. Furthermore, in Japan, if a woman owns a bar, it is usually a “snack bar” for the purpose of entertaining men. Oh, well, I didn’t really want this job anyway, did I?
“I saw a documentary about you,” he said.
“Oh, that must have been several years ago,” I said, much relieved. Whew.
With the introductory moos over with, we started discussing the class they wanted me to teach.
But when I explained my schedule, the bucho hemmed and hawed. “Chotto muzukashii,” he said, sucking air through his teeth.
He suggested we go talk to the department head.
The bucho introduced me to the “kyokucho,” after which Mrs. Ono chimed in, “Amy lives on Shiraishi Island. She owns a bar there called the Moooo! Bar. You know cows? Moooo. Get it?”
“She owns a what?” said the kyokucho.
“A baaaaaaaaaaaaaa,” she said, more like sheep than cattle. I prayed she would not bring up the TV again, especially not the bikini.
But the kyokucho still didn’t get it. Ono-sensei looked at my cow key chain and indicated I should squeeze it: moo-moo-moo-moo.
“Oh,” he said. He got it.
“I have an M.A. in teaching ESL,” I told him, trying to lead the conversation away from farm animals and back to English teaching.
“Didn’t you see her on TV?” interrupted Mrs. Ono enthusiastically.
“I don’t think so,” he said but studied my face as if he recognized me from somewhere. Before he could remember and say, “Aren’t you the girl who does that cable TV show in a cow costume?” I said, “Regarding the schedule,” deftly steering the conversation away from cows, “I’m afraid I cannot teach January through March, nor in June.”
There was a tense moment of silence. Everyone seemed perplexed as to why I would attend an interview for a job I knew I wouldn’t be around for. Nor did they probably want a bikini-clad mama-san and part-time cow to teach high school students.
“Well,” Mrs. Ono broke the silence. “Amy is such an important person that she is very busy!”
All the faces in the room lit up with this new thought. “Of course!” said the bucho. “Well in that case,” said the kyokucho, “please come and teach our students whenever you have the time.”