I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I’ll never do it again.

I had to sign that yesterday when I was taken to the police station for theft of a pygmy bike. And I do now know I was wrong, I am sorry, and I will never do it again.

The fuzz picked me up at 9:10 and we finished at 1:10 a.m. the next day.  They caught me on me on my way home, and they asked is that your bike and I said no,  I found it by the garbage cans over there a couple of weeks ago and it had no lock and there’s always garbage from foreigners moving out here, so that’s what I thought it was. I left out the fact that the guy who used to have my apartment, according the real estate agent, went to prison for meeting a boat of heroine at the docks. After noticing the bike hadn’t been touched for two and a half months and it was rusty, I started to think it had been the guy who went to prison’s.  Anyway, the bad cop said in English, “not mine, no touch,” which really are words to live by no matter what the environmentalist in me says.

They had me take photos; one where I was pointing to where I stole the bike from and one where I was opening the door to my apartment. I tried to look humble. It’s not hard.  I don’t look good lately. I feel kind of humble.  I waited for a long time with the good cop while  bad cop went somewhere else.  The good cop asked me how much I paid for rent (he agreed it’s too much) and where I worked. I said, “Waseda”–and he was like oh? all impressed–“Language College,” and then he was less impressed but still the name hung in the air.  It’s always like saying, “Harvard”–oh?( listener impressed)-“Community College.” He let me put my groceries away, then they put me in a police car and drove me to the station in Shibuya. They patted me down and put me in a bare room.  Then they emptied my purse into a plastic tray. And they laughed and laughed and laughed at how dirty it was.

There was a full box of tampons and books and hotel brochures from the hotel review work I was doing, my idea notebooks, mostly filled with to-do lists like “pay rent,” “pay health insurance,” really pretty good ideas. But also in the bag there was change, an incredible amount of change in different pockets, and each time they opened a pocket they laughed at the change they found. I didn’t know if I was allowed to laugh with them. I thought it was kind of funny, but maybe they were trying to shame me.  They sort of scolded me for being so messy.  The lady officer who had been brought in to pat me down talked to me in the same way that female teachers talk to students who have messy hand writing, and are never going to improve, like with overly dramatic rhetorical questions. One of the officers said the bag was weird, and I said, “is it?” I was getting tired.  I had done a real apology with good cop outside my apartment in the first hour of the apprehension, so I wasn’t being rude, I was just wondering if it was that weird to have a messy purse, so when he said this bag is weird, and I said, “is it?” I mean it had been on my to do list: “clean bag” but I’ve had weirder bags.  The officer said,” Yeah, it’s weird. A Japanese person would never have a bag like this.”

Then the cops like a whole floor of cops, some seemingly high ranking, did hours and hours of paperwork about this pygmy bicycle and me, the pygmy bicycle thief. They counted all the change in my purse. I counted 15 pages of paperwork, the whole thing punctuated by weird friendly moments maybe because they thought in my home land, “Not mine, touch” was a motto we all lived by.  When they asked me  how tall I was I couldn’t really remember in centimeters, so I was going slow trying to remember how many centimeters I was, and one of the officers stood up with me and he smiled when he realized we were the same height. He apologized when he had to ask my weight, he apologized that this was taking so long.  The door was open to the interrogation room and all the cops in the main office were fully dressed in uniforms with tazer guns and hand cuffs, but like half of them were also padding around in slippers, black colored masculine slippers, but still.  They brought in a lap top to do some of the paperwork on and the cords had to be jumped over.  Every time they needed help from each other these two cops needed to hop over these cords one and then the other.  The system was not good. I could hear outside the room they were referring to me as the not drunk  female foreigner who stole the bicycle. The officer inside the interrogation room, the one who was the same height as me said the cherry blossoms are coming out this week.  “Do you have allergies?” he asked, I said, “Me? no. Do you? And he said yeah, they’re really bad.”

They don’t light the hallway on the floor where they take the mug shots, probably to save electricity. They had to unlock the mug-shot room. I fixed my hair. The cop who was my height and had allergies, and a sister who studied abroad in Texas, took my mug shot six times to get it right. Then he said thank you when he finished, and I said thank you back.

No one could remember the pass word to get into the computerized finger print system. They had to call someone upstairs.  The one with the allergies was left with me.  I asked him how many hours his shift was and he said 36 hours straight. They can’t sleep for one minute of it.  I asked why, and he said it’s Shibuya (like it’s the craziest part of Japan?) and it is, last month a woman in her sixties was stabbed by a woman she didn’t know in her seventies near Shibuya Station.  But there wasn’t a single other criminal around last night.  I said that seemed crazy to me, staying up 36 hours. He said it’s why cops look so bad. He looked pretty good to me. Eventually, he did my finger prints.  He had really soft hands. It kind of felt like he was holding my hand.  They couldn’t get a reading on my right pinky.  He said it wasn’t my fault, it was the machine’s.

Good cop and old man cop (who asked me about Obama and called me Susan, my middle name and unfortunately my mom’s name) drove me home and old man cop came back with me into my apartment while I charged my phone so I could give the police a phone number that I was sure was correct.  He stood in the doorway, and it was taking a while, so I ended up taking the phone number off my teaching resume.  Be careful he said, he motioned for me to lock the door. I said I’m sorry, but not in the right way, like when you bump into someone, that level of sorry. But then I said, please tell everyone that I’m sorry.  There was no fine.

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3 thoughts on “I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I’ll never do it again.

  1. I’ve had a few bike-related run-ins with the police here and they’ve been just as weird, although I’ve never been taken down to the station. I dislike the way that they–and people here in general–try and embarrass you for not being as neat/tidy/clean as Japanese are. An intern at my work goodbye party last night pointed at my (stained) yellow rucksack and said, “It’s dirty,” smirking. Another time at a house party dozens of people commented–separately–on the hole in one of my socks. Okay, so maybe foreigners don’t live by the “Not mine, touch” rule, but we do live by the “Life is too short to care about how dirty/messy some things are.”

    • Don’t get me started on co-worker wardrobe shaming. Admittedly my wardrobe is in bad shape. Really rough. But, I have a green corduroy suit jacket. I wear it because apparently to be seen as an authority in anything you’re supposed to wear a suit jacket, and boom, you’ve got some credibility? I don’t think it matters how much it costs, or the material, it can be horrible polyester, maybe it should be polyester, but apparently the color really does matter. I get comments on the color all the time, and I’m 70% sure I’m being told that I should be wearing a black suit jacket, but I’m 30% thinking maybe they like the green color of the suit jacket or just have nothing else to say.

      I’m a victim of vague wardrobe shaming. I’m pretty sure it’s an ugly jacket, It’s Old Navy brand and I got it at a clothing exchange party five years ago, but I still wear it because I refuse to be shamed into doing anything. Although, to be honest, I am pretty disgusting and should use all the help being offered to me. If only shame was a motivating force for me.

  2. Pingback: I Found This in the Garbage | emily maloney

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