Welcome to another instalment of TGS Tales, a semi-weekly series that details the misadventures Sal and I had in Japan during the Tokyo Game Show last year. Every single one of these stories are real and the shame still burns me to this day.
The previous entry was all about me and how I brought eternal shame to myself (and family) by getting stuck in an apology loop.
This time around, it’s all about Sal and how he kicked his own ass with his stupidity. Sal can be really oblivious most times…I mean really, really oblivious. Himbo levels of obliviousness.
He sometimes will not realize how stupid the stuff he says/does/think is. It’s not an act, he really is that way by nature. The result? It’s during these times that most of the stupid (and incredibly funny) crap happen.
First though, you’re going to need some background before I tell the story, so let me set the scene for you guys.
It was the first day of TGS 2019.
Sal and I had just arrived in Japan the previous day.
While we managed to wander around Chiba a bit (there’s this awesome arcade right next to the Makuhari Messe!), we only walked around in search of food. As Muslims, finding Halal food is always a pain in the ass…especially in places you’ve never been too. Sal’s wife had us covered though; she found us three different places to eat while we were staying in Chiba.
One was an Indian restaurant, another was a Japanese shop that offered a Halal menu and the final one, was a kebab place at the Aeon Mall just past the Kaihimmakuhari Station.
The kebab place was our favourite, but it was just too damn far to constantly go for food. It’s a good 15 minutes walk from the Makuhari Messe (where TGS was being held) and our hotel, which is a lifetime away considering you had to walk there and walk back after.
That’s why Sal and I usually stuck to the second place, the Japanese food store in the mall just opposite our hotel. It was run by this elderly Japanese couple, who always treated Sal and I well, despite Sal’s bumbling attempts at Japanese and my complete lack of Japanese comprehension.
Seriously…I was functioning at toddler level in Japan, relegating myself to pointing out items on menus and saying ‘This one!’ when I found what I wanted.
Anyways, the first day of TGS was damn hectic.
Sal and I barely had time to experience the booths, as our schedule was packed with press conferences and developer demos. We barely had time to scour for food too, with only about an hour in-between events.
So, when the time came, we blazed out of the Makuhari Messe, went up the escalators and made a beeline for the Japanese Halal shop.
Sal was lugging around tons of loot…he actually made three (THREE!) different stops at the Capcom booth to nab free posters. ‘Gonna hang them in my mancave!’ he gleefully told me when I asked why he needed so many.
I didn’t really believe him (I just think he’s kiasu) considering his ‘mancave’ is already filled wall to wall with figures, swords (yes, Sal has a real katana, tanto AND a sakabato) and miscellaneous junk he’s collected over the years.
That didn’t really matter much anyways. I didn’t really care…and I was really, really hungry. I get cranky when I’m hungry.
Short on time and lazy (mostly lazy), we decided to hit up the nearest food option. Tucked in the Plena Makuhari mall, the restaurant was small but bustling with customers.
We actually hesitated for a while, debating on the merits of food versus making fools out of ourselves. Hunger won.
Dumb and Dumberer.
So here’s the difference between Sal and me. I have anxiety towards speaking with anyone; be it a businessman or storekeeper, I’ll panic.
As for Sal, it’s a little weirder, he has no problems dealing with someone professionally, but when it comes to dealing with a common person like a food vendor, he panics.
He’s shy! In an awkward (and sometimes frustrating) way. I’ve seen him go from being this charming charismatic speaker one minute to a bumbling, stuttering nincompoop in the next. Yeah…Sal’s weird.
So in this situation, Sal and I weren’t equipped to handle the Japanese hawker. Not only were we afraid of speaking, but we also didn’t speak his language! Shame!
So we did the only thing we could think of; look at the menus and avoid eye contact.
Thankfully, the Gods graced the menus with numbers for us to order with, so yay for little communication!
I was still busy deciding what to choose from the menu when Sal made his decision and communicated his order to the hawker. The man turned around to his people to relay the order to his wife (at least I assume the elderly lady was his wife) and then turned back to Sal and said, ‘Waito.’
It was his way of letting Sal know that he had to wait for the meal while it’s being prepared. It’s benign. It’s simply ‘Wait.’ but with Japanese pronunciation. No way for somebody to cock things up…unless you’re Sal.
Sal is a unique specimen, and I say this will all due respect.
He is one of the smartest people that I know of, and yet he is also one of the dumbest people I’ve ever encountered.
There was a time during our Polytechnic days, when he was having a conversation with one of our friends, Johnson. I was there, along with a few others. Now, at this point, Sal’s known Johnson for months.
Somehow (and to this day I still wonder how), Sal had completely forgotten Johnson’s name…WHILE HE WAS SPEAKING TO HIM. He actually stopped what he was saying, looked point blank at Johnson and deadpanned asked him “Eh, what’s your name ah?”
It’s not an act or a joke! The fool really did forget Johnson’s name! Needless to say, the whole lot of us laughed (with tears rolling down our eyes) for minutes straight at Sal’s behaviour. It’s so absurd to think about, but when you’re with Sal, nothing’s off the table! The stupidest, unlikeliest thing will happen!
Now, back to the Waito situation.
Sal panicked. His brain went into overdrive and concluded that he had to reply to this humble hawker in Japanese! When I asked him later why he thought he needed to do that, he looked at me blankly and just said that he thought it’d be fun!
Oh it was fun alright…just not for him.
He smiled and replied in a failed Japanese accent, ‘Hai, I waito right here.’
Sal can speak damn good English. There was no damn reason he had to use the word ‘waito’ in any form…but he did. In the stupidest (yet most hilarious) way possible.
The words poured out of his mouth smoothly, like honey from a jar. Like he’d rehearsed it his whole life and this was his one shot to get it right. He didn’t choke, he nailed it.
‘Hai, I waito right here.’
He looked right at the old man as he said it (accent and all) and smiled while saying that. Like all was right in the world.
In a prime example of his mouth moving faster than his brain can comprehend, it finally hit him a couple of seconds after he said it. You could literally see the shame creep up into his face. The dude blushed like he was sunburned!
Why he felt the need to copy the Japanese man’s way of saying ‘wait’ I had no idea. But he did. Inadvertently, he’d just made a mockery of himself AND the Japanese language.
Two birds with one stone! Even for Sal, that’s a record!
I had just witnessed the most unbelievable thing to have ever happened, and I had to control myself from bursting out laughing like a mad man. Here was this idiot, trying to be cool, yet shooting himself in the feet.
‘Waito.’ Hot damn!
I had to laugh uncontrollably in my head as I pretended to be calm before the Japanese hawker. I stared at Sal, shook my head and prayed he didn’t say anything else that might get us killed in Japan. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, but that moment, I’d trade anything to be anywhere else.
Thankfully, the old man either didn’t hear Sal’s reply or he pretended (wisely) not to further engage with him. I mean, if he’d blurt out ‘Waito’ what else could be waiting in the wings?!
It was the most awkward 5 minutes of my life, as Sal and I stood around waiting for our food to be ready. We desperately tried not to make eye contact with the old man or the lady. When our stuff was ready, we grabbed the food, thanked the couple and jetted out of there as fast as our feet could move.
To this day, Sal feels ashamed of his actions, and I enjoy reminiscing about it as satisfaction fills my whole being. It was an astounding experience for me, at least!
Thankfully, this years’ TGS 2020 will be conducted online so Sal and I don’t have to travel to Tokyo this year, only to be recognized by the Japanese Hawker and hear him say, “Waito minute! I remember these idiots!”