So last night when I went to the kouminkan (town hall) to practice karate, I was the first one there, and I opened the door and went in. A horrible, unbearable paint smell wafted out. I froze inside. I didn’t know what to do. I thought that I should go in and try to open the windows if we were to have to practice in there. And then I remembered that it was only a little over thirty degrees out. And I looked at the windows. The screens had been removed, and there was construction staging all around the place. We had never opened the windows before. And I was afraid that there might be a sign somewhere that said not to open the windows. So I didn’t know what to do.
Meanwhile, I was being nauseated by the smell of paint that had been freshly painted somewhere and cooped up inside all day long. Great, I thought. I can’t work out in this. I would surely be ill after only a few minutes. I put my shoes back on, and I went back outside. I didn’t know what to do. I knew the teacher would be there in about ten minutes, but I didn’t know if anyone else would be there in the mean time. I felt very nervous. I didn’t know what to say or even how to start explaining the situation.
I stood by my motor bike, and I waited nervously. I had butterflies in my stomach, and my legs felt like jelly. I just wanted to keel over and disappear. But I couldn’t. I was supposed to come first and make sure things were ready for practice that day. I wasn’t able to fulfill my responsibilities because of that stupid paint smell. I tried to think of all the ways I could get rid of it, but it just didn’t seem possible. I was really afraid that things would not be able to get started at all, and it would be all my fault because I hadn’t thought of a solution for this smell. It was an agonizing ten minutes.
Eventually a child showed up. I didn’t know what to do, so I slowly made my way toward the door. Eventually two more children showed up. I still didn’t know what to do. So I got more nervous, but I just walked toward the door. The parents asked me if the teacher was coming. If only the knew, there were much bigger things to be thinking about. The paint smell would kill us all. Luckily, I caught a glimpse of the teacher coming over the hill. I told them he was on his way, and gestured, still moving slowly toward the door, until the teacher caught up with, and passed me.
In a stroke of genius, I told him that I had gone in, but there was a really strong smell in there, and I didn’t know what to do. He went in, and the parents and children followed. They agreed that the smell was bad, and they too began to feel ill by standing in there for only a few seconds.
I felt immense relief. Although I was looking forward to it, I didn’t even mind that practice had to be cancelled. I was just happy that I didn’t have to be in that smell. And I was happy that other people also noticed there was a smell and agreed that it was bad.
Sometimes I smell things other people don’t or I think things are much more severe than they actually are. And I was worried that this might be one of those times, and I didn’t want to appear weak if I could not practice because of what appeared to everyone else to be an imaginary smell. But, everyone smelled it, so I was relieved.