I've gotten fairly used to the protocol at the doctor's office, but when I'm not sure where I'm supposed to go for a test, to pick up medicine, how or where to pay, where to wait, if I should come back, or stay, or any number of little questions that the non-English-speaking receptionists could help me with, it can be a bit stressful. They always take care of me so well, despite my blaring handicap of not understanding anything.
Today I had to got to a separate pharmacy down the hall for some medicine and this created some additional confusion. One of the assistants finally decided it would be easier to simply escort me there. Once there, the pharmacist asked if it was my first time, threatening me with a clipboard of mundane questions written in Japanese. It was obvious I would be incapable of filling it out. Nor could I confidently understand and answer the ensuing questions she asked. She and the other receptionist shared a smile on my behalf and I couldn't blame them. I'm a child here.
As I sat there, embarrassed and feeling inadequate, I notice some smiling pumpkin decorations on a nearby shelf. Half-heartedly taped on the wall next to it were some more splashes of orange holiday cheer. I took it that these were supposed to lighten my load and the load of numerous others who graced this pharmacy waiting room, probably carrying far more than I.
And then I heard the classical music, doing its share to brighten the hour. These little things that we do to make it feel a little less harsh. And I wondered if that was my purpose. Why I'm here in Japan, why I'm here in life, why I'm playing music. To soften the inevitable suffering that comes with living, to bring us closer to it and in some way, resolve it. And I thought about how many ways one can do this, through music, through art, through care of another, through teaching or just being a good friend.
The smiling pumpkins somehow made me really happy. As I redundantly returned to the doctor's office and the receptionists looked at me with concern, I just smiled at them and laughed at my own misunderstanding, bowing and thanking them so much for their kind and patient stewardship of my wellbeing.