You know Ivan Pavlov’s dogs? Each time he fed them, right before bringing out the food, he rang a bell. Eventually, the dogs began salivating as soon as the bell was rung, even if he didn’t bring any food. He conditioned them to salivate at the sound of a bell.

I think I have been conditioned in the same way…to the sound of plastic wrapping. You know when you’re unloading groceries from a plastic bag, or using Saran Wrap, or opening a bag of chips? Yeah, that sound.

An important element of Japanese workplace culture is omiyage, or souvenirs brought back from a trip. Whenever a work member goes somewhere, even if it is just to a neighboring prefecture, it is customary to bring back a little something for coworkers, as a way to show he/she was thinking of them while away. Popular omiyage are local treats from where you visited. Many times you can find boxes of these treats at Japanese train stations or airports for the last-minute omiyage shoppers. And because another important element of Japanese culture is hygiene, these omiyage treats are almost always individually wrapped. So whenever a teacher returns from a trip, the teachers’ room is filled with the crumpling and crackling of plastic being torn away from the treats.

What prompted me to write this post is just now, I heard that same plastic-y sound. My mouth began watering and I whipped my head around, only to see a teacher opening a ream of paper. I heard it again, but it was only someone fiddling with a plastic decoration. Then again, but it was a trash bag. At this point, I am practically drooling. I have been conditioned!


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