Friday, September 14, 2012

Yeah, Pretty Good

Takashi was from Japan. He lived in the dorm room next to my brother Matt at the University of Missouri. Takashi was studying organic chemistry or molecular biology or something scientificy like that. He was a whiz in maths and sciences.

Having a grasp of the English language was another thing altogether. For starters, Takashi had never studied English before coming to USA. Another issue was the trouble of pronunciation. Particularly troublesome is the letter "L", which ends up sounding like an "R". eg, "See you in the lobby' could come out as "See you in the robby."

Initially, Matt was unaware of the language gap. Takashi was simply a good faker. When spoken to, Takashi would nod his head in agreement. When called upon, he'd answer smartly with his go-to phrase,"yeah, pretty good."

Takashi must have practiced pronouncing that phrase -- yeah, pretty good -- over and over until he had it locked down. His diction was neat, but not too precise. He had good tone and inflection. He even used a slight pause to emphasize the interjection, "yeah."

Some of their early exchanges went like this.

"Hey Takashi, that was a hard organic chemistry test today. How it go?"

"Yeah, pretty good."

Another exchange might have gone:

"You see that football game? That was HUGE!"

"Yeah, pretty good."

But it was only a matter of time before Matt starting suspecting something else was up.  Like, after a particularly difficult exam in which the top score on the bell curve was an appalling 61%, Matt asked how Takashi did.

"Yeah, pretty good."

Or, after seeing Takashi choke down an awful Salisbury Steak at the dorm's cafeteria...

"Yeah, pretty good."

Of course. Those three words. Whether good news or bad, Takashi would go with that mantra. In fact, Takashi repeated it so often that Matt began to second guess if he was using it as a language crutch, or as a maxim of life.  Like, no matter what was dished at him, Takashi was going to take it all in stride and say life was still pretty good.

Ultimately, Matt decided that Takashi was using as the maxim. It was like that special place of retreat: Takashi's own blossoming cherry tree on Mt Fuji.

Could you live on those three words?  Let's try:

The Huskers are 1-1 in Pelini's 5th season? Yeah, pretty good.

The roof needs repairing and the house painting? Yeah, pretty good.

Dissertation marked up as exemplary? Yeah, pretty good.

Stuck in a crappy job? Yeah, pretty good.

Downsized in this economy? Yeah, pretty good.

Broken collarbone needing surgery? Yeah, pretty good.

Wellness assessment came back spotless? Yeah, pretty good.

And so forth...

I dunno Takashi, I'm on the fence.

Yeah, pretty good.

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