Google+ Sandra's Stories: The obedience test

Monday, 30 September 2013

The obedience test

When I was in high school, my school uniform had a removable, pre-tied, tie. It buttoned under our collars, hanging down like a sign saying ‘dork’. At the start of each year, the principal would advise parents to sew the ties onto our uniforms so we couldn’t take them off. Of course, my mum was the only one who did this, so I was the only buffoon in school with a tie.


The mark of my shame

Mum tried the same trick when my sister started high school, so my sister unpicked the tie. It was such an obvious solution, but because I was such a goody-goody, it never crossed my mind. The school tie was an obedience test and I had failed to think outside the box and followed my mum’s instructions blindly. I don’t know if Mum was pleased or disappointed in me, but I do know I get my obedient goody-goody ways from her.

You see, when I have visitors to Tokyo, I always give them some instructions about the trains. I tell them it’s going to look too crowded to get onboard, but you’ve just got to get on anyway—there’s always space for more people. I tell them what they should do is face backwards so they don’t have to make eye contact, and use their bottoms to shove onto the train. Despite the pep talk, my visitors are usually still pretty hesitant about pushing backwards onto a train. They end up waiting for people on the train to make space for them. On a crowded day, if this takes too long, they might get a shove from behind.

When Mum visited me in Tokyo, I gave her the usual speech, but when the train pulled up, it wasn’t very crowded, so I stepped leisurely onto it facing forwards. Suddenly, I felt a shove from behind, from something round and soft, and I was sent sprawling into the people in front of me. I figured there must have been a crowd surge on the platform behind me. But when I turned around, I saw it was just my mum—and there was no one behind her. She was such an obedient goody-goody, she’d taken my instructions at face value and followed them exactly. Now I know where I get it from.