Some People Won’t Listen – Pt. 2

Fate is funny. I feel like someone read my previous post and set out on a mission to reinact the situation. Listen to how similar these two stories are.

Mrs. Tamura isn’t the half-crazy xenophobe that Michio is, but she does, like anyone, have some pre-conceived notions about other cultures. Hey, we’re all human, we all have our mistaken assumptions and we all believe a few things that aren’t quite true. But even she couldn’t let go of something in the face of contradictory evidence.

We were talking about coffee, and Mrs. Tamura asked my favorite kind. I replied that I don’t have a favorite kind, because I don’t drink coffee. She was stunned. “I think all Americans love coffee,” she said. “It’s hard to find anything that ‘all’ Americans love,” I said with a laugh. How true is that? You can’t get a roomful of us to agree on anything. Nothing wrong with that, just an observation.

We talked about the popularity of Starbucks. I said yes, it’s extremely popular, and pointed out the famous intersections where there’s a Starbucks right across from a Starbucks. The place has a very loyal, very BIG following worldwide, there’s no denying that. But to say that “All Americans love coffee” is a different statement entirely. Mrs. Tamura couldn’t see the difference.


She asked if my father drinks coffee. I said no. My mom does, I volunteered. I have at least one brother and a couple of sisters who do. But I have a sister who doesn’t. I also have friends who don’t drink coffee, or at the very least, don’t “love coffee” or even like it. We all know a guy or two who generally only drinks coffee when he needs a shload of caffeine and needs it right now. You probably also know the opposite character, who drinks a pot or two a day and “can’t function without my morning coffee.” The latter, it should be noted, tends to be a lot more noticeable, which may have been at play in Mrs. Tamura’s perception.

The point, however, was not to deny the existence of coffee love. The point was not everyone “loves coffee.”

Mrs. Tamura asked, “What’s the most popular coffee shop in America?”
I answered, “Starbucks.”
Mrs. Tamura concluded, “See? So all Americans love coffee.”

But that reasoning doesn’t make any sense. She should have asked about the most popular places in general, or the most popular place to go with a friend, or whatever, but to ask specifically about the most popular coffee shop negates the whole point.

There wasn’t any mistranslation going on here, this was actually her reasoning. Mrs. Tamura and I communicate in a mix of English and Japanese; we’re very proficient in each other’s languages, and we can avoid misunderstandings with a little bit of doubling up.


If I open up a punch in the face shop — let’s call it Heath’s Free Facepunches — and you could say that my facepunch store is the most popular store selling punches to the face in all of Japan. Does that mean that everyone in Japan loves getting punched in the face? No. That line of reasoning is broken.

But it gets even crazier than Mrs. Tamura’s weird attempt at logical thinking. As if doing her best Michio impression, at the end of the discussion, she looked at me as if a liar, and said “I think you love coffee.”

So again, realize this: no matter what you do, there are some people out there whom you simply cannot reach. They often mean well, and in many ways, they are as normal as you and me. But man, get ready to be frustrated in some conversations.

Nod politely and move on.