I was at the ATM yesterday, about to beg my woebegone account to share its meager holdings with me, when the little old lady at the next machine tugged on my sleeve and said she couldn’t get the machine to take her money. Usually you just drop it in the slot and the little door closes automatically but it wasn’t working. So I reached over and jiggled the money, mumbling “Maybe you need to jiggle it” in English because I don’t know how to say “jiggle” in Japanese. That didn’t work so I tried flipping it over. That didn’t work either. So I jiggled it some more, all the while mumbling in English. Eventually the little light went on, the door closed and I went back to my business. I’m not sure the woman even said thanks, but it doesn’t matter. She was probably frustrated and a bit alarmed when the machine didn’t work–she had a whole stack of passbooks, probably a couple thousand yen each for a handful of grandchildren–and I was pleased to be able to help in my limited, low tech way.
I smile every time I think of that tug on my sleeve. So often, people hesitate to reach out to me because of my foreignness, but in this case, I think maybe she didn’t even notice it; she just needed help and tugged on the person at hand.
Sometimes the littlest things can be the most charming.