Niseko: An Australian Frontier Town

I read an article once about an age sensitivity training where a company simulated old age for workers who needed to deal with the elderly with patience.  They simulated the physical symptoms of old age for young people by smearing Vaseline on their glasses so the attendees of the conference felt like they had cataracts, and wrapping their joints up so they moved slow and arthritic like.  And then they let the conference attendees loose to try and complete normal tasks like getting cash out of an ATM so they could  feel what it feels like to try to get by when you’re old and slower than the rest of the world, and people are impatient with you because of  impairments you can’t control.


Well if there’s ever a need to teach able minded people what it feels like to be delayed and emotionally unstable, have I got a job for them: waitresing at an all you can eat and drink place where half the customers are drunk, athletic, big-voiced Australians and most of the kitchen and wait staff are Japanese speakers with little patience for your absentmindedness and a tendency to over correct.  On a day to day basis I feel like I’m giving it my best but no one on either side of the counter really cares about me or what I’m going through and I’ve thought about it, and I’m pretty sure I feel that way because it’s true. I don’t want to write about the intricacies right now because it just reminds me of work, but trust me, the stress of bilingual waitressing at a too-small, timed all you can drink joint does make you feel like you’ve got a simulated mental impairment. If anyone wants to do anything with that observation, you wouldn’t even have to rent out a conference room for that kind of sensitivity training. Attendees of the “conference” would just need to work a shift at this place and they would walk away with a new found empathy for slow, angry people who are bad at the tasks they have to do every day (and have no hope of ever getting better). As a bonus they would learn how to explain what’s in a Moscow mule and what the difference between a special cut of lamb and an extra special cut of lamb is and, special bonus! how to explain those things in two different languages! while people who have asked the questions don’t listen to the answers but instead start to ask you about other things they might want you to explain or bring to them. I’ve been told to serve beers, even to foreigners, with 70% beer and 30% foam, I’ve been told to put four pieces of onion and not five in the bottom of the grills, and  I have cried at work a few times.


And since I’ve started working I’ve had dreams. Dream #1. I was at an all you can eat party where I was cleaning and cleaning but the party just kept going and getting more and more out of hand.  Twice a man picked up a small dog and let him urinate off the veranda.  I ran into my old three year old roommate and he didn’t understand me in English or Japanese and he didn’t seem to care. Dream #2. I was outside at night and I ran into these animals that were like lambs but they had been bread to just consist entirely of raw frozen meat and they were huge with a slightly slimy green exterior to their frozen meat rumps and their rumps were shaped like billowing snow. Dream #3. In this one I just wash tables with a lamb fat soaked rag and nothing ever gets clean. Dream #4. I don’t graduate from high school because I don’t have enough credits.


Niseko feels like a frontier town, and I sometimes can’t, against my better judgement, help but be charmed by the Australians. The older men skiers seem kind of self assured.  Like the kind of guys who will shoot your dog if it’s on their property and then come tell you, Look, I gotta tell you, I shot your dog.  They flirt with waitresses. This weirds me out and one night I looked to one guy’s teenage son to hide from it and he just looked at me like yep, that’s my dad, he flirts with waitresses, even the haggard looking ones, and he buys me beer.

日本語: 倶知安町比羅夫国道5号線付近から望む

日本語: 倶知安町比羅夫国道5号線付近から望む (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a joke among the Japanese staff that I’m disgusting. That’s the joke.  The guy I get along with the best, when he sees me dance or something he just makes a gagging noise and gesture.  That’s the joke. I don’t know how old he is. He’s been inhaling something at the bar across the street that he works at after the restaurant that he thinks is coke, and that gives him extra energy that he mostly uses to stroke his tiny pubescent looking mustache and be a really bad waiter.  He will stop whatever he’s doing though, the stroking, the bringing the wrong food to the wrong table with confidence, and pretend to hurl when I do something too sexy like change into my uniform and mistakenly expose a little gut.


I wear a baseball cap so I don’t have to look at people when I don’t want to at the resteraunt, but one night this group of huge Australians came in, and they wanted to know my name while I was waiting on them.  I said I didn’t want to tell them because I thought they were going to overuse it and not tip, but eventually I told them it was Emily.  They promptly started calling me Emma and pounding their beer sterns on the table for more beer. They asked me now Emma, what was your first pet’s name and what street did you grow up on, and it was faster to tell them than to keep dodging it, so then they started calling me by my stripper name, Woodstock Buck, to get more beer which they thought was hilarious and funny.  I guess it’s the all you can drink part of the evening that makes them think everything is so funny, but I’ve started to see it as a nationality thing. I’ve noticed these kind of guys actually seem to enjoy each others’ sporting stories, they like to dare each other to do things like eat raw meat, and they call their mom nick names like “the ol lady” with fondness. In the end these guys gave me a huge tip (in change) because they had acted like “total cunts” and then they approached me in a group and in a semi-serious way for my phone number.  My coworker, could not stop the fake vomiting behind the bar and just out of site. Working in Niseko does kind of make me want to go to Australia.



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