The following is one of the short stories from B.J. Novak’s book One More Thing.


The couple retired to a villa in Rieti, Italy, that they had learned about from an in-flight magazine feature on affordable retirement destinations. It was about fifty minutes outside of Rome by car, and the husband often went into Rome for errands.

“This car charger isn’t working for some reason. I’m going to head into Rome and get a new one.”

“Don’t they have them in the gas station in town? I’m sure I’ve seen them there.”

“Maybe, but better selection in Rome, probably. Better prices in Rome, too. They’re always going to charge you more at a gas station in a small town. It’s a convenience fee that you’re paying in those places. It’s fine, I was going to be heading that way anyway–I’ve been meaning to swing by Rome to get some garden shears, too. Anything else? I can call you and check when I get to Rome.”

He loved saying “Rome” like that. “Head into Rome,” “swing by Rome.” It was just the nearest place to them. How cool was that! Rome, the city of legends, of conquerors, of history, of myth–this was where he bought batteries! The place that people saved up to visit their whole lives: for him, this really was simply the place where he might fill up on gas one day and where the next day he’d have to know the right shop to pick up flowers for his wife to thank her for making dinner–with ingredients he had also picked up in Rome. Rome! That’s all Rome was to him! Nothing special at all!

“I should be home by five, or six at the latest. It’s Tuesday, so you never know about that rush hour traffic, coming out of Rome.”

“Okay. That’s fine. See you then.”

“See you then!”

And he headed into Rome.

Tokyo.  Nagoya.  Kyoto.  Maybe.  But that’s what I thought about as I read this story.  Three years from this very day, I will be living in Japan.  For now, who knows what city or prefecture, but I will be in Japan.  “Picking something up” in Japan.  “Getting groceries” in Japan.  “Going for a run” in Japan.  I won’t take it for granted, but I certainly will take advantage of it.


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