Thursday, February 21, 2008


This was a couple of decades ago, when we lived in Kyoto. It happened when we were on our way home one late afternoon - when there aren't many shoppers - and Echo had gone into the supermarket on Ichijoji Street to pick up something quick while I waited in the car down the street a little, Kyoto being a fanatically parking-tickety city.

On the left side of the supermarket front was the one-way entrance; the one-way exit was on the right side. Each had automatic doors, triggered by a large mat before the door. When a customer stepped on the mat, the doors slid apart, permitting entry or exit. Pretty standard stuff in Japanese supermarkets. Anyway, as I sat there waiting, a woman headed for the entrance, stepped on the mat, the doors opened, she passed through; then as the doors were closing she realized she hadn't taken one of the baskets stacked outside for customers to grab before they go in.

She turned, reached back through the doors, grabbed a basket and the doors closed on her torso-- not painfully, but unrelentingly, and not widely enough to trigger auto-reopening. She turned and was able to get the basket through; then she slid her arms back inside the door and slowly commenced edging herself inside. But when the doors at last passed over her shoulders, they closed at once on her neck, where they bounced gently, but firmly: she was stuck-- not dangerously, but embarrassingly in the extreme. To perhaps extract herself immediately, she could sacrifice either her ears or her nose, so she chose to to do neither.

She put down the basket, put down her purse and tried with her hands to wedge the door open, but from that bent-over position with that degree of closure she couldn't get enough leverage, and since it was late afternoon, no one was coming into the store who would thereby step on the mat and set her free.

She tried the next thing, of sticking one leg out through the crack in the doors and stepping, in fact pounding on the mat with one foot to trigger it, but the brief weight of even a plump leg alone was not enough. She yelled, too. But she was yelling outside and to an empty street, so no one inside the store could hear her. And since her doors weren't an exit, no one was coming her way from inside the store.

After this had gone on long enough for me to see that the hyperembarrassed lady could not free herself (her clear preference), just as I was getting out to go and step on the mat to set her free (an unusual privilege), an elderly shopper gentleman came shuffling ever-so-slowly up the street toward the entrance, head down, as the woman's head watched him, her new hope.

Step-by-slow-step he got-him-self-a-bas-ket as she spoke to him but he was hard of hearing and had turned and was just about to step on the mat - his foot hovering right over it - when he saw the head of a young woman about two feet in front of his face, looking at him wide-eyed, just the head it was, hanging there from the supermarket, the head was also speaking at him and he freaked, backed away in panic as the head babbled about something surreal he couldn't quite make out... He adjusted his glasses, looked again at the face on the doors, then edged closer to the suspended countenance once more... Maybe some kind of a practical joke... There was more than a head, there was a body inside, and the head was making a strange kind of sense, it was a woman's head, and it was... stuck in the doors??

The unexpected savior stuck out a leg and tapped the mat: not enough. He advanced gingerly toward the head, to an unseemly proximity with a young female stranger, until his slight but full weight was on the mat: the doors opened and they both staggered; she in new freedom and he in regaining his balance following another completely unforeseen memory of a lifetime.

Thought it might be worth the retelling.


Anonymous said...

Hilarious! Laughed so loud the cat took off to another room. Carmen

Kay Dennison said...

Wow! I thought only I did stuff like that! Yes, I confess to being a klutz.

Mage And George said...

I found myself holding my breath.

Chancy said...

Oh my goodness.

Thanks for a good belly laugh.

Alice said...

What a wonderful if embarrasing scene you set, made even better by the unusual style of your presentation. Thanks for sharing.

Travel Insurance said...

- that's the dangers of modern technology- wood and hinges are far more safer...:)