Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I Get Bitten by a Cat

(This is amazingly similar to a story I just posted last week. And it's the same hand that got injured as well).
So there I was, minding my own business, just walking throw Gifu city, when I saw a girl, maybe about 12 years old or so, trying to get a kitten down from a statue.

I must confess I’m not much of a cat person and I don’t know much about feline habits, but we all know the stereotype of the cat who climbs too far up the tree and then can’t get down again, and the fire department has to be called, etc.

This appeared to be a case in point. Albeit substitute statue for tree, but this little kitten was holding on to the top of the statue for dear life, not moving anything except it’s head, which was looking every which way with an absolutely terrified look on its face.

The 12-year-old girl was trying to get the kitten down, but she couldn’t reach up to the top of the statue. A woman was trying to help her, but the woman couldn’t quite reach to the top of the statue either. An old man pulled up on his bicycle to help, but he couldn’t reach the top either.

Of course, I’m a bit taller than the average Japanese person. I was pausing to wonder if I should offer my help or not, when the old man saw me. “Hey, he can probably reach the top,” he called out. But the top of the statue was just out of reach of me as well.

Nevertheless, I decided to stick around to see what would happen. “It’s not my kitten,” the girl explained. “I think it’s a stray. But I just feel so sorry for it. It looks so scared up there.” The old man as well was talking about how much he loved cats, and how he could never stand to see a cat in trouble.

The old man brought his bicycle over, and I helped to steady the bike while the girl climbed up it. She still couldn’t reach kitten. All she could do was tug on its tail and encourage it to come to her, but the kitten was too terrified to move.

“Why don’t you give it a try,” the old man said to me.

“Oh no, I’m too heavy. I’d break the bicycle if I tried to stand up on it.”

“No you won’t. It’s a strong bike. How many kilograms to you weigh anyway?”

Yes, how many kilograms do I weigh? I’ve been in Japan for 4 years now, I should know this….

“He doesn’t know kilograms,” the woman said to me. “They measure with pounds in America. Isn’t that right?” Actually this was pretty rare. Usually Japanese people don’t realize Americans have an entirely different set of weights and measurements, and I was worried I would have to explain the whole thing. Now we could skip all that.

“You should be fine,” the old man insisted. I stepped cautiously on the bicycle, and sure enough, it held my weight just fine as I stood up on it. I was now plenty high enough to reach the cat, but my balance was a little precarious because I was just standing on a bicycle seat. I leaned against the statue, and picked up the kitten.

For whatever reason, the kitten was fine until I started to hand it off to the girl, and only then did it begin to panic. It started scratching and biting. Its mouth was small, so none of the bites were very deep, but I wanted to get rid of the thing as soon as possible.

I passed the kitten onto the girl, and it turned on her next. She froze momentarily in panic, not sure of what to do. “Quickly but gently put it on the ground,” the old man shouted. She lowered it on the ground. The kitten hissed at everyone, backed up against the base of the statue as if unsure of which way to turn next, and then bolted into the bushes.

Although my hand was bitten up much worse than the girl’s, I did my best to conceal my injuries and ask her if she was all right. I thought this was very gentlemanly of me. It wasn’t until much later that it occurred to me that it had been very unchivalrous to hand off a biting kitten to her in the first place. My brain always seems to have a bit of a time lapse on these things.

The old man briefly criticized our holding of the kitten. “You always hold a cat by the back of the neck,” he said. “I’ve had many cats, I always hold them by the back of the neck so they can’t bite me.” The woman thanked me for my help, and then we all parted company.

I was beginning to worry about what sort of diseases a stray cat had in its mouth. I made a beeline for the nearest convenience store, and bought a bottle of anti-bacterial hand soap and a package of band-aids. I then locked myself in the bathroom for the next ten minutes and did my Howard Hughes impression.

Shoko called my cell-phone during this time. “Hey, how’s it going?” she asked.

“Not too good. I just got bit by a cat.” She thought that was very funny

Link of the Day
My friend Matt sent me a couple good links recently. There is this link on the American Taliban, which is great for a good laugh. Make sure to read the last one especially.

And then there is this link on the over crowded trains and commuter outrage in Japan. I should make the disclaimer that, although this isn't typical of my part of Japan, it is true in parts of Japan. I'll never forget rush hour in Yokohama.


Chris Powell said...

Hey, im still enjoying reading your blog. I particularly like the ones about you and shoko and the culture differences. I found them very amusing. Also good to hear that you are still checking out mine to. I was in Miyazaki on the weekend and they were hit pretty bad by the typhoon. Lots of destruction with bridges, trainlines and homes damaged. Hope all is well in gifu. Talk soon.

SN said...

hi joel! have i ever told you that you have a following at my work? there are like 3 or 4 people here who read your blog! ha. anyway, get that hand checked out if it starts to turn funny colours. cats mouths are dirty. i had a friend who almost lost a hand to a cat... --sn