Do You Smork?
In April I had a physical check up at my workplace. I didn’t want it, and my contract says nothing about a physical examination, but we were told when it was announced that it was “mandatory.” Perhaps that is because I am covered by employee health insurance at work and the examination was related to that?
The exam itself was quick and basic. But beforehand I was asked to fill out a questionnaire translated from Japanese into English. It was not as detailed as a patient medical history. It was more like a lifestyle survey. How any minutes per day do I spend riding a bicycle to work? (Zero) How many times do I exercise in a week? (No time at all.) How long do I usually “deal with a computer for your work?” (Zero hours per day. I use a computer at work without“dealing” with it.) Is it hard for me to recover from my fatigue? (Yes. Since high school fatigue has been my normal condition.) Do I have “palpitation/dyspnea”? (I don’t know. What are they?) Am I unable to “do anything with enthusiasm”? (Yes, always. In keeping with my lifelong habit of nurturing underestimation I try to avoid enthusiasm and foster stoicism instead.) How long do I usually “have a meal”? 1. “for a proper time;” 2. “for a long time;” 3.“for a short time.” (For a proper time, of course. 5-minutes is what I consider “proper.”)
“Question for Ladies only.”
Are you pregnant? 1. yes.
2. possibly, yes.
3. surely, yes.
Without the possibility of a negative answer I know for a fact that many of the female staff felt forced to circle “possibly, yes” although they were certain they were not.
My favorite section - Section E - concerned “Smorking/Drinking.”
“Have you smoked?” Hmm. It’s the Present Perfect verb tense, so I circled “Yes” because I did smoke one cigarette once, when I was 12 years old. So, next, “How many pieces do you have tabaco per day?” Well, no pieces, naturally, since I only smoked that once, when I was 12.
“How many days do you drink a week?”
2. a day
3. 2 or 3 days
4. 4 or 5 days 5. 6 or 7 days.
The question said nothing about drinking alcohol, so I circled Number 5 - 6 or 7 days a week. Next question,
“How much do you drink at a time.”
Well, I drink a couple of liters (of water) every day, so I wrote down 2-liters.
On one line a word is spelled incorrectly - smork / tabaco - but then correctly on the very next line. This word, “Smork” I have encountered it before and that, plus the comfortable feel of it on my lips gives me a particular affection for it. So much so that I like to repeat it until people tell me to be quiet, “Smork smork, smork, smork…”
In Japanese this questionnaire is perfectly in order and sensible. But in typical Japanese fashion it was rendered into English as meaningless mush, and here’s the problem. All of us at work laughed about the garbled English and joked/jorked about answering the questions literally according to the exact meaning of the English grammar, which we well knew was not the intent. So do we answer according to what we know the Japanese intention is, or do we answer literally, with dangerously ridiculous replies? The consensus was that the physical exam itself was dangerously ridiculous, considering the standard malpractice that too often passes for medicine in this country. On second thoughts I decided to erase all my glib responses and try to give the doctors what they wanted, because these are guys with no sense of humor who neither know nor care how the questionnaire sounds in English. It is in order in Japanese, which is all they are concerned with. The manner in which I filled in the form probably influenced what kinds of tests they performed on the blood sample they extracted from my arm. I warned other teachers that if we were not careful, and if we didn’t give the doctors what they wanted then we could end up with files at the Ministry of Health with our names on them, labeled as alcoholic, tuberculin, clinically depressed, HIV positive foreigners.