Just thought you'd like to know that I found a plunger, got it home, and one quick flick of the wrist later, Presto Changeo, DISSOLUTION OF IMPACTION! I still can't find out what the damn thing is called. I got a blank stare when I called it a puranjaa. The only name on the tag was the brand name, "Natty." There are two kinds of Natties, one for Western toi-tois, one for Eastern, it says. I took the time to make sure I got the right one for the job.
I asked friend Kenji what you call it. He didn't know either. State secret perhaps. He said, "Tell them your sink is stopped up." How clever, I thought. He knows it's bad enough I look ignorant. No reason I should sound indelicate, as well. So when the guy doesn't budge with my request for a puranjaa, I move my hands up and down and say, "Nagashi wa tsumatte iru kara..." (because my sink is stopped up.)
"Western toilet or Japanese?" he asks, without skipping a beat.
Western, I say, hoping my face doesn't look like I've been caught playing with myself.
"What do you call this thing in Japanese?" I ask.
"Natty," he says. I know when I'm beat.
I get home and look up the words on the tag. At the top, just above the Natty logo. Tsumari Kaisho, it says. I know "tsumari," besides meaning "shrinkage" and "in the last analysis," is "impaction", so I look up Kaisho.
Here are my choices:
1. ocean floor
2. pamphlet (the kind they hand out at train stations)
3. annulment (of a marriage)
4. a parley
5. an easily-won victory
6. a shiftless good-for-nothing
7. the Minister of the Navy
And people wonder why I have not devoted more time to the learning of Japanese.
Wait. There's one more:
There it is! I've got it. The full description of its name and function has finally been revealed to me in its entirety: "Natty -- impaction dissolution for Western style 'benki' (which, as you know, the dictionary likes to call 'chamber pots' or 'night-chairs.')
I can now move to the kanji dictionary and see if the combination is there. It is. It reads "dissolution of impaction."
I still don't know what you call it, but my if my night-chair could talk to my Natty, it would say thank you.
Upstairs. In my Western (sitty - not squatty) night-chair. Turns out now clearing the upstairs only stopped up the downstairs.
That'll teach me to clean out the refrigerator before flying to America. Couldn't have been the gallon of moldy yogurt! Was it the five-year-old marmelade? The petrified lasagne? The leg of lamb?
So when I get back in January, it's back to the hardware store for a squatty-natty.
But first, the turn of the millennium.
Hope Santa is kind.
December 21, 2000