Storylog

The Second Second Date Story

So the way my father used to tell it, my parents’ second date went something like this:

My father was positively smitten after his blind date with my mother, and wanting to spend as much time with her as possible made sure that the activity for date number two was an all-day event. This being Salt Lake City in the 1950s, a day of skiing was just the trick. He picked her up, and together they made their way up the winding Wasatch switchbacks in his new Ford Crestliner. At some little town along the way, probably Solitude or Brighton, my father pulled off the highway for gas and got… well, let’s just say he got turned around.

He was trying to impress this young woman he was already falling in love with, and that made his directional incompetence all that more frustrating; he felt himself start to get angry. His anger only grew worse when, turning down a small side street, he found all the other cars were going the other direction and not letting him through. A sedan pulled up next to him until both drivers’ windows were about a foot away from one another. The driver motioned for my father to roll down his window while he did the same. The man was huge, build like an offensive lineman, and had an enormous walrus mustache.

Leaning out of his window, he proceeded to inform my father that the small street they shared was one-way and my father needed to turn around. That might have been the end of it, except that he ended this explanation with a few words that one simply was not allowed to say in the company of a lady back in the 1950s. (It would appear that in the 1950s-era Greater Salt Lake area “fish” was not yet a popular ‘replacement’ word.) So my father did what any self-respecting gentleman of the era would do.

He reached out of the car window, grabbed a side of the man’s walrus mustache in each hand and pulled as hard as he possibly could, pulling much of it right out of the follicles.

My sister and I must have heard this story a thousand times when we were growing up. It was one of our favorites. So often was it told, and so much did we like listening to it, that it wasn’t until I got engaged myself that I ever really stopped to think about it.

I had flown to the East Coast to meet my then-fiancée’s family for the first time. Over dinner they were asking me to tell them about my own family, and I chose this story. I got to the end, and saw some very real horror in their eyes as they connected this story to the family their daughter and sister was about to marry into. It was at that moment that I went back in my own head and replayed the events my father described, not from the eyes of the child that asked to hear it over and over, but from the eyes of an objective adult.

And the question that for years kept coming back to me after that night was, why in God’s name had my mother agreed to go out on a third date with someone that must have appeared to be just a little borderline psychopathic?

In kid-vision cartoon form, the second date story is hilarious. In real-life vision, it’s violent and bloody and sickening; it’s something you might expect from a Tarantino movie, but not from your father. (One would hope.) My mother was pretty intolerant of violence when I was growing up, and after seeing the story with new grown-up eyes I couldn’t figure out how they ever ended up getting married. I kept this question to myself mostly, asking it out loud over the years only to my wife. I never brought the subject up with either my mother or father, because it occurred to me the answer might be something I didn’t want to ever know.

My father passed away six years ago after a long string of battles with cancer, having come out of each battle victorious until at last it finally got the upper hand. Two days after he passed I picked my sister up at the airport and we went to visit my mother. We talked about Dad for a while at my parents’ kitchen table, sharing stories about both his last days and our earlier life together. At some point we reached a lull in the conversation and just sat there silently for a long while. And then, without really knowing why, I heard myself asking my mom the question I swore I would never ask her.

“Hey Mom, can I ask you something?”

She nodded.

“You know the story of your second date with dad? When he lost all control and pulled that guy’s mustache partially off?

She nodded again

“I can’t figure it out. Since you didn’t know him at all really, why did you ever agree to see him again after watching him do something like that?”

My mom smiled.

“Oh, that never really happened,” she said. “Your father made it up one night when you were both so little, and you laughed so hard and asked him to retell it over and over, so he did. It was something you kids never got tired of hearing, but it was just make believe.”  I laughed, a little relieved; this made more sense, and fit better with the man I grew up with.

We all sat there for a while longer, and then after a bit my mom broke the silence again.

“The real story of our second date was actually a much better story, I always thought. Would you like to hear it?” My sister and I just looked at her, too surprised to even respond.

It is not winter, but spring in the Wasatch mountains. The young man and woman have been hiking amid the trees and wildflowers all day, and they have hardly said a word since they left the car.

It will be a while before either gets up the nerve to confess this to the other, but each of them had the same realization the previous evening on their first date. That realization, its truth hard and crystal clear as set diamond, is this: Each knows they have just met the person with whom they are going to spend the rest of their lives.

A prolonged silence with others they have know would have felt uncomfortable, would have demanded unimportant words to fill the awkward spaces. For some reason, though, this silence feels right. Everything, everywhere suddenly feels right.

The young woman reaches out to hold the young man’s right hand, and knows immediately that she has transgressed. For one thing, the hand feels wrong. Somehow the muscles in it don’t react in the precise way muscles in a hand should. She doesn’t know this empirically, of course. Her knowledge is instantaneous and born of instinct; besides, there is no way she could know that his right hand was a victim of childhood polio, or that he has spent a lifetime cultivating ways to use it that make it impossible for an observer to tell it lacks full functionality.

Worse than the lame muscles, however, is his reaction. She somehow knows, in the same way she had known that his hand was wrong, that he is ashamed and wants her to let go. Wants her to forget whatever she might or might not have felt. Wants to leave. She feels him trying to pull away, shaking off her touch.

And then the young woman does something unexpected, something that no one has ever done with the young man. She doesn’t let go. In fact, she strengthens her grip. She will later remember pouring everything into that grip, willing him to know without her speaking that she knows his secret, and that she doesn’t care. That even if she still lacks the courage to say it out loud, her feelings for him have already taken root.

It is their second date, and already she loves his imperfect hand.

And after a panicky minute he seems to know this. She feels his hand slowly relax, and then grip back just as tightly. He says nothing out loud, but she hears him nonetheless: “If you’ll really take me as I am, then I am yours for as long as you might have me.”

It will be years before they ever discuss or even acknowledge these events to one another out loud. But it will always be the defining moment of each of their lives.

My parents’ anniversary is today, or at least it would be if they were still here. My mother never really recovered from my father’s death, and fell victim to her own bout with cancer a couple of years after he passed away.

My parents were never the kind to take pictures, so our house was never filled with framed family photos the way my friends’ houses were. I was surprised when my sister and I found boxes of amazing photos of their early lives when we were dealing with their estate. There’s a picture of them that now sits in my bedroom, an 8×10 black and white photograph of them posing atop a Wasatch mountain. It seems unlikely it would have been from their second date, but I see that day in this picture anyway.

In this photograph they both look so young, so impossibly good-looking. On some level this is to be expected. My father spent his youth after WWII and college playing jazz for a living and learning to become a pilot; he had earned a reputation as a Playboy back when that was actually a thing. My mother was brash and independent, and did the very thing Salt Lake City ladies of her era did not do. She went to college, and then moved for a few years to San Francisco to explore the world and date bohemians. She dated Martin Milner for a bit just before he moved to Los Angeles to start work on Route 66. Then she got tired of that life and moved back home, as should would later say, “so I could be there to meet your father.” I’ve always known these things about them, but the photo in my bedroom makes that time before my sister and me somehow more real.  It is an odd thing to see your parents in a photograph like this. It’s a mixture of amazement that you could have come from two people so beautiful, coupled with the dull ache of resignation that of all the wonderful gifts they left you, those movie-star-looks genes were not among them.

They were many things, my parents, and most of those things were good. But in this picture, as on their second date, they are perfect.

Forgive me if I have chosen to switch from the meta to the personal today. But I wanted to find someway to say to them both, Happy Anniversary.

I miss you both terribly.

Author: Todd Kelly, The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

Firefly in Japan, Part 13: I walked up the stairs surrounded by 100 people, but I felt alone.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

A short while later, we gathered at an all you can eat Western food buffet restaurant for my farewell party. Even Shane turned up, and quickly went to the bar to order a beer. The frequent action of raising the bottle and taking a swig gave him something to do, and minutely eased the awkwardness he exuded from every pore of his skin. Bill didn’t even come, saying he was busy. I guessed it would just be too uncomfortable for him to show up after illegally docking my pay 50,000 yen and then failing to pay my small amount of overtime. I didn’t miss him.

We sat down at a table, and started going back and forth to the buffet, scooping up Western food. It was a rare chance to stock up on plentiful, tasty, well cooked Western food, and we all took advantage of it. I registered on some level that this was my farewell party, and everyone else would pay for me. This somehow made the food taste even better, and I wolfed it down.

We all chatted, and laughed, and talked. Shane continued to drink his beer, gulp after gulp. We mostly ignored him, until he tapped his glass with his finger and cleared his throat. We all fell silent and looked to him.

His awkward vibe intensified as everyone’s attention focused on him. His face seemed to take a fuller shade of red as the blood rushed to his head.

“So err.” He began. We waited patiently.

“This is Firefly’s farewall party. It’s a shame he has to go, because he has done a lot of really great stuff for the team, but I’m sure he’s moving onto bigger and better things!” Shane awkwardly quipped to a table full of silent people.

Shane coughed.

“Anyway Firefly, you’ve been a good guy. I wish we could have spent a bit more time with you and training you up, but that’s how things turned out, eh.” Shane attempted a friendly smile, but generated a half scowl instead.

I stared back at him, suppressing a shrug.

“As a token of my uhh, appreciation, here is something I want you to have.” He opened his jacket pocket, took a swig of his beer, and retrieved a long, thin envelope.

I regarded it with disinterested. I looked over at Moeka. Her eyes had lit up, and she was following the path of the envelope as it arced over to my extended hand. Shane pushed it into my hand, and then tapped it twice with his finger.

“That’s just something I wanted you to have. Hope you appreciate it.” Shane’s beer ran out, leaving him with no action or routine to hide his nervousness. He immediately stood up, and walked to the bar.

Once I confirmed his back was turned, I looked at Moeka. She was grinning like crazy. I angled the envelope up, and cracked open the top. The unmistakable woody aroma of 5 crisp 10,000 yen notes hit me. My eyes involuntarily opened wide in shock. I looked at Moeka who was bouncing up and down in her seat with her hands clasped together. Very cute.

“Moeka. How did you do this?” I asked.

“Secret dayo !” She responded half in English, half in Japanese.

“You didn’t do anything weird, did you?” I asked with half a smile on my face.

She clenched her fists in mock anger and irritation. “Never!” She said indignantly, but with the hint of a mischievous smile played across her features.

I grinned, and dropped the matter. I’d ask her later how she managed this minor miracle.

Shane came back with his Corona, sat down and resumed regular swigging. We resumed regular conversation, and were talking and drinking well into the night. Finally bill time came around. Everyone else chipped in, so I didn’t have to pay. Moeka went around to 7 people collecting money. Shane arced an eyebrow, but reached into his wallet and pulled out his share.

“Oh shit, I only have a credit card,” one guy said, holding up his credit card in resignation.

“No problem!” Said Moeka suddenly. She makes a lunge for the card and grabs it. She sticks out her chest and slides the card between her breasts, like shes processing his credit card transaction. She looked up at everyone else and smiled. Everyone stared back in shock, but I started laughing. Goddess.

Everyone walked outside, feeling fat and happy – except for Shane, who felt 53,000 yen lighter. Everyone went their separate directions, but as it turned out, Moeka and I were going home on the same train line. We walked together to the station.

“I have no idea how you managed to do that. Shane is one of the stingiest people I know.”

Moeka said nothing, but smiled coyly as we walked down the stairs into the station.

“What a great night.” I said. “Thanks a lot for everything.”

Moeka shook her head, as if to say ¡Æit was nothing’.

We got on the train together, and laughed, and chatted and reminisced. I had mixed feelings about leaving Systech. I couldn’t stand Bill and Shane, but I couldn’t stand not seeing Moeka. I felt a knot in my stomach as we hugged goodbye. The hug lasted a split second longer than it should have, and we made eye contact for a moment. The train door alarm started ringing, signifying that the doors were closing. We quickly broke apart. I waved goodbye, and the train left. I walked up the stairs surrounded by 100 people, but I felt alone.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

Firefly in Japan, Part 13: “So you choose the 50,000 yen?” She said, her eyes sparkling.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

I was having lunch with the hot secretary. I guess it’s rude to call her that for a long time (although maybe she doesn’t think so). Her name is Moeka. Moeka was a goddess. Every time I was feeling down or upset, or shitty about “the management”, she would know exactly the right thing to say to make me feel brand new, and ready to battle unlimited tirades of bullshit from Bill and Shane.

She actually had a whole bunch of ridiculous experiences with Bill and Shane that really have to be heard to be believed. I’ve been talking with her about writing these experiences down, and she’s excited about the idea. Look out for these over the coming months.

Anyway, I was telling her in detail about what happened with my 50,000 yen pay cut, and about how I was ripped off for overtime. She sat and listened to the entire story patiently and sympathetically, nodding her head and making appropriate pained expressions.

“I’m really sorry to hear that you’re leaving. We’ve been working together for so long now…” She commented softly, brushing her hair out of her eyes.

I looked back at her, and bit my lip in regret. “I feel the same way. It’s really fun to work with you, and really easy to talk with you,” I said, looking into her eyes.

Her phone rang, and she answered it. She perked up, and said “Hello!” in English, with a big smile, and excused herself from the table. I idly wondered who was on the other end of the line. Boyfriend? It can’t be her husband. I vaguely remember her telling me she was separated. Hmmm, I mused, while watching her talk on the phone from a distance. She was smiling and obviously happy. Shame, I thought. “Whats a shame? Grow a sac and get freaky.” commanded devil Firefly.

Devil Firefly vanished in a puff of smoke as she returned to the table, and we resumed our conversation.

“So on your last paycheck, after working so hard for a year, and after doing all that unpaid overtime, you’re still going to be docked 50,000 yen?” She asked.

I frowned. “Well, I haven’t really thought about it, but I suppose that’s right. That is pretty shitty isn’t it.” I said, suddenly irritated again.

She became thoughtful, as though she was cooking up an idea. “You know… SysTech still doesn’t have a whole bunch of insurance for it’s employees.” She said in hushed tones.

“Oh yeah?” I said, not really interested. I was thinking about what I could have bought with my 50,000 yen.

“No no… they still don’t have insurance that the government requires them to have. They’re operating illegally, right now.” She continued.

My interested spiked. “Illegally…?” I repeated.

“Right. So, say for instance, if someone were to… anonymously call the Government, and mention this fact…. they’d be in pretty bad shape. Very bad, since they’ve been illegal for years.” She said.

“Alright,” I said, not really following her. “So how does this help me?”

“Given the choice, would you rather cause serious problems for the company, or would you rather have 50,000 yen?” She asked me seriously, staring into my eyes.

“That’s an odd choice. Of course, I don’t wish any harm on anyone. I wouldn’t want to cause other SysTech Employees to lose their jobs or something,” I said deliberately.

“So you choose the 50,000 yen?” She said, her eyes sparkling.

I laughed despite myself. “Sure,” I said with a big smile on my face. “I’d choose the 50,000 yen.”

“Alright.” Moeka leaned forward, locked eyes with me, and sipped her drink. “I’ll get it for you.”

I laughed. “Oh you’ll just get me 50,000 yen. And how will you do that?” I asked.

“That’s a secret. But it involves the insurance,” She said slyly.

“The insurance? The one that the government makes it mandatory to have?” I asked.

“Exactly. Of course, you can’t really mention the insurance stuff to Shane or Bill, without it looking like blackmail.” She said.

“Right…” I said neutrally.

“But I could.” She said with a wink.

“No, Moeka, come on you can’t do that. I don’t want anyone else to get involved. Especially not you.” I protested weakly.

She waved her hands dismissively. “Don’t worry about that.”

“What exactly are you going to do?” I asked suspiciously.

“Just. Don’t. Worry.” She grinned mischievously, as she slid her chair out and prepared to leave.

I couldn’t help but grin. Her mischievous conspiratorial manner was infectious. I stood up, and followed her to the cashier.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

Firefly in Japan, Part 12: Getting ripped off

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

I was looking forward to opening my pay slip.

I was especially looking forward to claiming some money back for my weekend of hell. The pain in my legs had long since worn off, but the irritation and anger at being sucked into the weekend and Shane’s awkward rebuke still simmered beneath my peaceful exterior.

Wednesday rolled around, and I came back to the office in the late afternoon to find an envelope with my name on it. Hooray.

I sat down, and opened the envelope.

Base Salary : 350,000 yen
Tax : 12,330 yen
Regular Work : 160 Hours
Overtime : 0 hours
Extended Overtime : 0 hours

Total Pay : 337,670 yen.

I examined the pay check again. 337,670 yen? 0 hours overtime? I blinked.

I looked up at Shane and Bill. Their desks were at the far end of the office against the windows. They faced the worker desks, so we could see their faces and not their screens. They were working as normal, their faces impassive. I blinked again.

There must have been some kind of mistake. Right. A simple accounting error. Actually, maybe I screwed up my timesheets, and put in my time on a weekday instead of the weekend. Then the overtime wouldn’t have been calculated. I slowly began nodding my head. Probably just my mistake. I better go check with Shane.

I stood up, and walked over to Shanes desk.

“Sorry to disturb you, Shane,” I said, clutching my sickly paycheck. “I noticed that all the weekend overtime I did wasn’t actually written on my payslip here. See how it says 0 hours overtime? I did about 10 hours that weekend. Did I make a mistake or screw up my timesheets or something?”

Shane seemed to freeze for a moment. He looked at me, looked at my paycheck, and then stole a glace at Bill.

“Right… The overtime,” Shane said slowly.

I looked at him in anticipation. He coughed lightly and uncomfortable, the phlegm from his cigarette habit rattling in his lungs. He looks guilty, I realised.

“You should talk to Bill about that, I think.” Shane said, finally.

Bill, upon hearing his name, looked over at me and Shane. He looked down and saw my payslip. Almost imperceptibly, he scowled. My eyebrows furrowed. What is going on here?

I walked over to Bill’s desk. “Hi Bill, sorry to disturb you, Shane said I should talk to you about my pay slip?” I said as politely as I possibly could.

“What overtime?” Bill asked.

“All the overtime I did for the rack move 2 weeks ago. Remember?” I prompted Bill.

“That’s not overtime.” Bill said.

“Um, yes¡Ä the weekend overtime. It was a Saturday, and Sunday, and I worked. That’s overtime.” I said.

“No, we couldn’t charge the client for your work. So you don’t get paid for it. This is all in your contract, why don’t you go and look it up. Anyway, I’m busy now.” Bill said impatiently.

“Um, I don’t quite understand. Bill can I speak to you outside for a moment?” I asked.

“I’m busy now.” Bill said without hesitation.

“I won’t take 5 minutes. I’d really like to sort this out” I said.

Bill grunted, and pushed his chair away from his desk angrily. He stood up and quickly walked outside. I followed him.

“Let me try to explain whats going on right now. I worked really hard that weekend. I cancelled my plans, and I worked for you. Because you said you needed my help. I did my best to help you out, and now you’re telling me that I’m not even going to get paid for it?” I said.

“This is all in your contract. Because we can’t charge the client, you don’t get paid.” Bill said. He looked past me to the door, but I had him cornered, since I stood in the doorway.

“But you’re going to sell those racks to customers for 200,000 yen each. All I’m asking for is my legitimately worked overtime. It’s like, 25,000 yen?” I enunciated.

“I’m not going to stand here and discuss this with you. I’ve already told you. You’re not getting paid.” Bill said with an air of finality.

“That’s ridiculous. You’re not even going to pay me regular rates? I can’t stand for that, it’s crazy!” I shouted.

“I’ve had enough. Move out of my way.” Bill said, pushing past me. I tried to stand in the door, but Bill shoved past me and returned to his desk. I stood there, fuming.

Shane came outside, and lit up a cigarette and looked at me. I looked back at him. He coughed nervously.

“Too bad about that, huh.” He said, his eyes averted. Godammit, what a fucking puppet. He knows it’s wrong, but he won’t stand up to Bill.

“Yeah, that’s just too bad.” I said angrily, and walked back inside. I imagined myself shouting as loudly as I could in frustration to relieve some tension. It didn’t work.

I walked back over to my desk, switched off my PC, gathered my things and walked over to the door. My work-mates looked up at me, sensing something was wrong. I shot Bill a dirty glance, but he wasn’t even looking at me. I spun around and left the office.

I felt dizzy walking back to the train station. How is that possible? Is it even legal for him to not pay me for time I worked? That’s bullshit. I got home, and pulled out my contract. I looked at the compensation clause.

“Employee will not be paid in respect of work completed where Employer is unable to directly charge a customer.”

Oh. It is there. That’s a bit rude.

I then went through all of my previous pay packets, and compared them to the actual hours of work I performed. I found multiple discrepancies – none in my favour of course. I realised this had been happening for about 10 months, and I had just trusted them to do the right thing by me, and pay me what I earned. I’ll never make that mistake again.

I’ve later found out this was an illegal contract. You can’t make an employee work, and then make them agree to not be paid. It’s like contracting someone to murder you – you still get charged for murder, and you would still get charged by the Labour Bureau for illegally treating workers.

Anyway, I went back to my shoebox apartment, and fell asleep. I woke up the next morning feeling cheated. I got ready for work, and left at 8:25. I picked up a coffee and my favourite egg, lettuce and tomato sandwich from Caf½æP de Crie, and headed into work. I stuffed the sandwich down my throat before I arrived to work, because Bill told me once that I shouldn’t waste time eating breakfast at work, and I wasn’t in the mood to argue.

I walked in at 9am, and sat down at my desk. Bill and Shane weren’t there yet. I loaded up the Sydney Morning Herald website to check the local Sydney news. My mind wandered to the internet access logs, and I braced myself for a potential future complaint about visiting non-work related websites at work. I shrugged off those thoughts, and after spending a few minutes keeping up to date with the happenings in Australia, which allow me to better talk and relate to my Australian clients anyway, I began to prepare for my client trip to Kamiyacho.

Bill and Shane arrived at the same time – 9:40am. They walked past me, and didn’t say good morning. I didn’t feel particularly obliged to say good morning either. I returned to my work.

I glanced at the date on the PC clock. 13th of October, 2001. I mused on my time in Japan so far. I had arrived in August of 2000. My working holiday visa was going to expire after a year and a half. That means my visa will last until February 2002. Only 5 months left!

I paused for a moment to consider what would happen when my visa expired. I would have to l
eave Japan. What would happen? Would there be a way to stay in Japan? Would it even be possible? Doubtful, I thought, solemnly. Since I had no University degree, and I didn’t have 10 years of commercial experience in my field, getting a working visa was pretty much impossible.

Bill and Shane – how much longer could I stand working for them? I would have to leave Japan in 5 months. No company would hire me for that period of time – not for the salary I was on anyway. Looks like you have to harden the fuck up, and see it through, I told myself. If you want to stay in this country, anyway. I nodded silently to my unspoken decision.

The calendar in my Outlook dinged. I had to leave to visit my client. I turned off my computer. I packed up my laptop (which I had purchased myself, since Bill and Shane wouldn’t buy me one), and put all of my engineer tools into my bag. I stood up, and walked to the door. Just as I was about to walk through the door, Bill called out.

“Wait up a minute – you’re going to Kamiyacho right?” Bill asked.

“Yeah.” I responded.

“I’ll give you a lift there. Hang on a minute¡Ä” Bill said.

“I’m fine. I’ll just take the train. See you later.” I tried to leave.

“No, I’m going there anyway. Just wait there, will you?” Bill said, collecting some of his things from his desk.

I reluctantly stood there for a couple of minutes as he got ready to leave. I looked at my watch. He stood up.

“Lets go.”

I followed him outside to the car. He opened it, and I sat down. Kamiyacho was only a 15 minute drive, but I would have preferred to take the train. Being around Bill made me fell ill. He pulled out of the small parking lot, and we were on the road.

“So¡Ä You’ve been here for over a year now.” Bill said, while we were stopped at some lights. My ears perked up. Something was going on. Was I going to get a raise?

“That sounds about right,” I said, noncommittally.

“Right. Well, I wanted to tell you, ” Bill cleared his throat. “You’re doing a fine job. All of the clients speak very highly of you, and things are going really well.”

What the hell was that. My eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Somethings going on. Working in this company, you quickly learn to sense when something really messed up is going to happen, and my spidey sense was ringing off the hook.

“Also, with the current economic climate, we’re not able to continue with the previous rate of payment.” Bill swallowed. “So, from this month, your pay will be cut by 50,000 yen.”

“..W-w-what?” I stuttered, in shock.

“But I don’t want you to take this the wrong way.” Bill said, quickly. “It’s just how things are. It’s not because you’ve been doing a bad job, or anything. The work you’re doing is really good actually. But we have to give you a 50,000 yen pay decrease.”

“But, that’s a big percentage of my salary! We’re in the middle of a contract! You can’t just drop my salary like that!” I said, tears of futility welled up in my eyes.

“Well, I already have. You’re on 300,000 yen now. It’s not negotiable.” Bill said, as he pulled over the car. “Heres your stop.”

I sat in the car unwilling to get out. “Look, Bill – you can’t just do this. I was banking on that salary to be there. I’ve got bills to pay – I was planning on going home to Australia for Christmas! Come on, mate.” I pleaded, pathetically.

“Hop out. I’ve got a meeting to go to. Hurry up.” Bill prodded me.

I sat there, speechless. I tried to will into existence the perfect sentence or phrase that would make Bill see some reason and not suddenly cut my salary. I came up blank, and I ended up sitting there in silence. I brusquely wiped away an angry tear that threatened to slide down my cheek and betray my helplessness.

“Find another job, if it bothers you that much.” Bill said. “Now come on, hop out, I’ll be running late.”

I opened the car door, and stepped out. I pulled out my bag. I was silent. I had nothing to say. I closed the door, and the car drove off immediately. Zombie-like, I stumbled into the client site, scenarios and analysis pumping through my head.

“Find another job, if it bothers you that much.” Bills voice repeated in my head. “Find another job,” his sneering tone cut through my mindless state. I suddenly realized what was happening. My visa was expiring in February. I had only 5 months left. I could only work for another 5 months, before I have to leave Japan for good. Bill knew that. Bill also knew that no other company would hire me for only 5 months. Bill thinks he has me over a barrel, I realised. He thinks he can treat me like SHIT, and drop my salary, because I’ll suck it up, and take it, since I have nowhere else to go.

Well, fuck that. And fuck Bill. I’m not the kind of person to be taken advantage of. In fact, what a dirty bastard. My previous helpless state was instantly gone. In its place, stood a pissed off, defiant Firefly ready to take some major action. I could clearly see what was going on – Bill is trying to screw me. Again. And I won’t let that happen.

I did the work I had to do at the clients, and left work on time at 6pm. I went home, and pulled out my laptop. I started typing.

“Dear Bill, Shane.

Firstly, thank you very much for all of my experiences at your company. I very much enjoyed my time here, and I learned many things. However it is with regret that I inform you I will be terminating my employment contract, effective immediately. In compliance with the contract, I will provide 30 days of further work. My last day will be the 14th of November, 2001.”

I stopped typing, and re-read what I had typed so far. An unexpected wave of euphoria and ecstasy coursed through my body. I had no idea how freeing and exciting it was to quit a shit job. Inspired, I continued writing the rest of the resignation letter. It was very polite, and written in very polite English, that masked my underlying contempt for Bill and Shane. It was my masterpiece – a polite resignation letter that read well, but managed to pound the reader with a reverberating underhanded “FUCK YOUUUUU”. I smiled and admired my work. I couldn’t wait to give it to them.

Next morning came slowly. I arrived to the office at 9am. Bill and Shane weren’t there. I took particular delight in printing out my resignation letter on the company printers. I signed 2 copies of the document, and returned to my desk. I sat there bubbling in delight and in anticipation of handing the resignation letters to Bill and Shane.

I told my colleagues what happened, and my planned response and subsequent resignation. They all responded with shock and disgust at my sudden drop in pay, and supported my resignation. None of them had the same speech, nor had their salaries docked money. He thought he had me, the bastard. Wait until I give him this. I glided my hand over the freshly laser printed paper. I waited for them to arrive.

While waiting, I realised the hot secretary was looking at me, and twirling a lock of her long black hair around her finger. Of course, I would never date a colleague because of the potential for problems. However, as soon as I handed those two sheets of paper over to Shane and Bill, we would no longer be colleagues. My mind went off on a tangent to resigning, and I looked back at her and smiled.

Our moment was ruined by Bill pushed through the way, and walking to his desk. He sat down, and started work. Shane followed suit. I inhaled deeply, and stood. I picked up the two identical, signed sheets of paper. I walked over to Bill. I looked him in the eye, and smiled. I placed the sheet in front
of him. I walked over to Shane and placed my letter in front of him as well. I walked back to my desk, filled with glee.

I looked at Bill. He was reading through the letter. His face was impassive, completely unreadable. A hint of disappointment bubbled it’s way to the surface, and almost definitely played across my face. I was hoping for a much stronger reaction. He finally finished reading, nodded almost imperceptibly, and returned to his work. I felt cheated, but I also felt like I won the lottery. I sat back in my chair, as the 1 month countdown began.

Again, I began idly thinking about what would happen after 1 month. And what would happen after my visa ran out? Truth be told, I desperately wanted to stay in Japan. My entire life is in this country. All of my friends, my martial arts, my sports – my entire life. I had built an existence for myself in this strange foreign land, and I was loving it. I wasn’t ready to leave. I decided I would stay.

Japanese Immigration probably has some different ideas about that, I thought sullenly. I don’t fit into any of the work visa categories. I started to feel a bit down, but I quickly decided that I shouldn’t be focusing on a few months down the track. Or even how I would survive after I leave the company. Now was the time to celebrate leaving this goddamned shit job. I beamed a large smile. The secretary noticed, and beamed it back. I kicked back in my chair. Life is good.

“Firefly. Where are those updated Excel spreadsheets.” Bill shouted out, his dull voice imploding my giddy happiness. Oh fuck, one month to go, I thought. I swore quietly and loaded up Excel.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

Firefly in Japan, Part 11: “Shane and Bill”-a-thon

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

I was working at a customer site doing a server build. It was a routine job, and I’d done it a number of times before. While the progress bar crawled across the screen, I looked around for people to chat with. Everyone seemed pretty busy. I sighed, and returned to watching the progress bar. It was just about due for a CD change, when the client manager walked past.

Tanaka : “Oh, hey Firefly. Hows it going?”
Firefly : “Pretty good thanks! How are you?”
Tanaka : “Fine, fine. So, I need costings for next month. What are we looking at?”
Firefly : “Uh, costings?”
Tanaka : “Right. I’m doing the budget.”
Firefly : “Sorry, but I don’t know what you mean.”
Tanaka : “The move. Are we looking at above 5 million yen? Below? Have you put together a proposal yet?”
Firefly : “Sorry, the move?”
Tanaka : “Right. Look I don’t have much time, whats a ballpark figure?”
Firefly : “I really don’t know, I didn’t know there was a move. What kind of move?”
Tanaka : “The OFFICE move, course!! We’re moving soon. You didn’t know about that?”
Firefly : “Oh, um, actually, I hadn’t been informed yet.”
Tanaka : “Well you better get informed, I think you’re the main tech on the project.”
Firefly : “I’m the main tech?!”
Tanaka : “Come on, get with the program. You’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Tanaka briskly walked off, irritated I was unable to supply him with the answer he needed. I sat there feeling stupid for a moment, before I realised that I wasn’t supplied the information that I needed! Plus I looked like an idiot when I wasn’t aware of the biggest project involved with that client. My irritation grew into anger. I sat there, finishing the server build. Another worker walked past.

Matt : “Hey what do you think of the new office?”
Firefly : “Oh, I haven’t actually been there just yet.”
Matt : “You haven’t seen it? Bill and Shane were there just last week. I saw them when I did my inspection.”
Firefly : “Oh yeah? Great. Nice place?”
Matt : “Yeah it’s great. You should go and check it out.”
Firefly : “So, er, where is it?”
Matt : “Behind Akasaka, next the TBS building.”
Firefly : “Ok. Thanks.”

I grimaced and returned to my server build. 30 minutes later, I finished. I walked around talking to users and fixing some various problems. I looked up, and noticed Bill and Shane walk in. They both walked into the conference room and sat down.
Odd, I thought. I didn’t know they were coming today.

I finished talking with the user, then I walked over into the conference room. Shane and Bill were engaged in conversation. They briefly paused when I walked in, and then resumed talking to each other. I stood there for a moment, waiting for them to finish. After a couple of minutes, it became clear that they weren’t going to stop talking on my accord. I cleared my throat. They looked at me impatiently.

Bill : “Do you need something?”
Firefly : “Actually, yeah. I wasn’t aware you guys were coming in today.”
Bill : “….and?”
Firefly : “And I wasn’t aware that there was an office move either.”
Bill : “Is this going somewhere?”
Firefly : “Yes, it’s going somewhere.”
Bill : “Hurry up then. Our meeting starts soon.”
Firefly : “Thats exactly the problem! You guys are keeping me in the dark. I don’t have enough information to do a good job for these guys, and I don’t feel good charging for the work I’m doing. I had no idea this company was moving. And the client told me I’m in charge!!”

Shane is silent. He looks to Bill. Bill eyes me with relaxed indifference.

Bill : “Right. I see what you’re saying.”
Firefly : “You do? Thats great. So what I’m saying, is that I really want to be part of meetings. You’re having a meeting with the client now, right? I really want to take part, even if I’m just listening. That way, I can be a better resource to the client, I can learn more, and I can appear informed and in control.”

Bill takes a deep breath, and slowly exhales. I look at him, waiting for a response. Suddenly, the client Manager Tanaka walks through the door.

Tanaka : “Sorry to keep you waiting gentlemen.”
Bill : “No problem, we just finished our conversation anyway. So, thanks very much Firefly. I appreciate your work, it’s very helpful. I’ll see you later then.”

I stand and stare at Bill. My lip curls up in disgust.

Bill : “Thats all for now. Thanks Firefly.”

Bill grins and winks at Shane, like he has won some kind of battle. I stand there smouldering, and finally turn on the spot and walk outside.

I stormed back to the server, sat down, and continued working. How humiliating. I sat there until the meeting finished. Bill and Shane left the office, and didn’t even say goodbye. It was just like Dilbert, but painful and real. I realised I wasn’t respected or treated as a person, just a resource generating money. The thought left me lessened, like my ability and even existence was not respected, and therefore inconsequential and useless. I swallowed hard, grit my teeth, and inserted the next CD.

A couple of days later, I was sitting at my desk, trying to avoid doing work.

Bill : “Firefly. Come here.”

My ebbing motivation for work had already been sucked dry. I slowly stood up, and grudgingly walked over to Bill’s desk.

Firefly : “Yes.”
Bill : “I need you to work on the weekend.”
Firefly : “This weekend? I have plans.”
Bill : “It’s really important. You’re the only guy available, and I really need your help. Can you do it?”

I sighed.

Firefly : “How much work?”
Bill : “About 5 hours on Saturday, and 5 hours on Sunday.”
Firefly : “Thats the whole weekend.”
Bill : “Come on, Firefly, I’m counting on you for this. I really need your help. We’re moving some racks, and you’re the only guy around who can do the job.”

I regarded Bill. He looked at me with pleading eyes.

Firefly : “Ugh, fine, alright. I’ll do it.”
Bill : “Good man! Thanks a lot.”
Firefly : “Ok.”

I walked back to my desk and emailed my friends to cancel our plans. Oh well, I reasoned. At least I get some overtime pay, and a bit of exercise. I scoffed. My own justifications felt lame and weak. I wanted to relax on my weekends, and remove myself completely from my weekday cubicle hell.

The weekend crawled around slowly, since time moves slowly when you hate your job. I woke up at 8:30am, 3 hours earlier than my regular Saturday wake-up time. I fell out of bed and pulled some old clothes on. I walked to the station mindlessly, and took the train to the job.

When I arrived, Bill was already walking around, preparing everything. He had rented a truck, and it was parked downstairs.

Bill : “Alright. The equipments over there. Grab the UPS first – careful, it weighs about 60 kilos. Use a trolley.”

I stopped for a moment to consider what he said. It almost seems like he’s looking after me. I felt oddly happy for a moment. Then I realised that if I snapped my back in half, he would need to do all the work. My happiness dissolved, and I returned to my previous dis-satisfied mood. I fetched the trolley and started loading.

We spent the entire weekend loading the racks onto the truck. They were heavy, and unwieldy. It took many trips ferrying equipment
back and forth, and we were lifting heavy objects all day in the thick of the sticky, ultra-hot Tokyo summer. I almost broke my spine when Bill dropped one end of the Rack too. Finally, after sweating through 2 painful and sweaty days, the weekend was over. Bill dropped me off home. It was on his way. I relaxed for a few hours, before going to bed and waking up at 7:30am the next day, my body wracked with muscle pain from all the heavy lifting. I slowly and deliberately went through the motions of getting ready for work.

I ended up missing my train, and I arrived at 9:05am. Shane saw me walk in, sit down, and slump at my desk. I flicked on my computer and sat there waiting for it to boot. I considered standing up to make myself a coffee, and decided against it after I stretched out my legs, and felt another stab of muscle pain.

Shane slowly pushed out of his chair, his chair wheels squeaking on the carpet. He stood up. He walked over, and stood over my desk. I craned my neck up to look at his awkward features.

“Do you know what the time is?” Shane asked with a hint of disapproval.

My computer had logged in by now. I looked at the PC clock.

“9:07am?” I asked.

“Thats correct.” Shane confirmed.

There was an awkward pause. I looked at Shane expectantly.

“Do you know what time you’re supposed to come into work?” Shane pushed.

“Uhh, is that 9am?” I asked increduously.

“Yes. So, er, ” Shane hesitated. “So make sure you come in from 9am.”

I nodded my head, grimacing. A pain ran up my leg, and I shifted my position on my chair.

“Alright. So we understand each other.” Shane said.

I stared at him, and he turned around, and walked off. I let out a long, deep sigh. Somethings gotta fucking give. I’ve had enough.

Fortunately, something gave. Next pay day.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

Firefly in Japan, Part 10a: I could see the “Horrible IT Mistake Feeling” gripping his body, as he turned pale white, and his throat constricted.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

I logged into the server. I bounced around the hundreds of directories, while simultaneously doing 3 different searches. These files must be somewhere on this damn server. It doesn’t make sense that only some of the files are missing. I absentmindedly shook my head, as search after search came up blank. No directories called Sales, or Finance, or Accounting – not a trace. The server was a dead-end.

I suddenly felt an ice cold shiver shoot up my spine. I turn around to see the Office Manager looking at me from across the office. I smiled weakly, and tilted my head, showing that I was aware of the problem, and working on it. She stood frozen to the spot, filling me with dread with her cold, accusing eyes. I mechanically swivelled my chair back to the desk. I fumbled for the phone, and dialed Bills mobile.

*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..

It rang out.

I called Shane.

*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..

Same.

I called the office.

“Hey listen, I’m having a bit of an emergency right now – where are Bill and Shane?” I asked quickly.

“Oh they’re in a meeting this morning I think. They won’t be out until 11:30am.”

“Until 11:30am?! But it’s 9:20am!! I need to speak with Bill right now, I need to know what he did on the weekend to the server.”

“Sorry, I can’t help.”

I threw my arms up in frustration and hung up the call. I sat there for 10 seconds, and called Bill and Shane again. They both rang out.

I quietly rose to my feet. I grabbed my jacket, and mentally mapped the fastest path to the door. I scooped up my mobile phone, and began powerwalking to the door. Office workers noticed my dash, and called out to me for help.

“chotto…. itte kimasu (I’ll be back in a second)”, I breathed as I walked past them.

Breathing heavily, I finally reached the elevator, and pressed down 10 times in succession. The elevator sang out it’s relaxed *diiiiing*. I stood, tapping my feet, staring at my phone. No calls. The elevator doors opened, and I walked in quickly and pressed closed doors, before another worker saw me and began asking me the same questions again. The elevator hit the ground floor and the doors slid open, and I burst out of the elevator**, rushing outside.

I began calling Bill again, but as my finger went to press “Dial”, the phone sprang to life and began vibrating. Bills name popped up on the screen. I quickly answered the call.

“BILL! I’m having some trouble here, I’ve been trying to reach you all morning. Some really important folders are missing on the server, and everyone is coming down on me. I’ve searched through the whole server, but I can’t find them. Do you know where they are?”

“Hold on, slow down a second, bloody hell. I just have a 5 minute break from the meeting – you called me 10 times! My phone was going apeshit in my pocket. Don’t do that again. 10 bloody missed calls!”

“What? Uh, look I’m in a real rush right now, I really need your help. Everyone is coming to me, and I don’t have the answers.”

Halfway through my sentence, I heard a muffling sound, like someone was putting their hand over the phone.

“Listen can you talk to him? He’s going crazy right now, I don’t want to deal with that shit.” I heard Bill’s muffled voice say impatiently.

“Uhhhhhh, hello?” Shanes monotone voice.

“What the hell, I’m not going crazy, I’m completely rational. I have every user in this company chasing me, and I don’t have any answers for them. I need to speak to Bill, dammit. Put Bill on.”

“Uhhhhh, hang on.” Shane said. The muffled hand noise again.

“He’s having a problem at the client site. Something about missing files.” Shanes voice said quietly through the tiny speaker on my mobile.

I imagined Bill throwing his arms up in the air in semi-mock frustration and annoyance.

“FINE.” I heard Bill breathe. “Tell him I’ll go after lunch.”

“AFTER LUNCH!” I almost shouted. “I need some answers in the next 5 minutes. It’s 9:40, I can’t wait another 3 hours!”

“Bill said he’ll go after lunch.” Shane said.

“But wait, I really need..” I began.

“Cut him off, the client is coming back in a minute.” I heard Bill hiss.

“Just tell me what Bill did on the server so I can start to troubleshoot!” I pleaded. The next thing I heard was a *pop*, as Shane cut the call.

I stood on the streets of Ginza, surrounded by expensive clothing shops, and quaked with furious indignation. I formed a fist so hard my fingerhands cut deep into my palms. I spun on my heels and walked back into the client site.

The next 3 hours, I sat at the desk, lamely trying to troubleshoot without the information I needed. People got more and more frustrated with my lack of ability to provide answers about their problem. The Office Manager shouted at me for 5 minutes straight. I took a long lunch to try to avoid dealing with people. Finally, nearly 4 hours later Bill turned up, visibly irritated.

“Alright then, wheres the friggin problem,” he pushed past me, not even bothering to say hello. He sat down at the desk and began looking through the server.

“I don’t know where the problem is, because I don’t know what you did on Sunday. What did you do on Sunday?” I asked, angrily.

“I did what I said. I updated the permissions, rebuilt the server, and copied the files back.” Bill mumbled flatly, putting almost no thought into his conversation with me.

Something suddenly struck me.

“You updated the permissions?” I said slowly.

Bill mumbled an affirmative, not bothering to open his mouth.

“With the old domain account?” I continued.

“Hmmph”

“Did you update permissions on all of the files?” I asked, slowly and deliberately.

“No, just the ones protected by security groups.” Bill said distractedly.

“…… Like Sales, Finance, and Accounting…?” I said.

There was a sudden silence. Bill froze. The mouse dropped from his hand, as he looked up at me. Our eyes met, and I saw his mouth drop open as he figured out what happened about 10 seconds after I did. I could see the “Horrible IT Mistake Feeling” gripping his body, as he turned pale white, and his throat constricted.

“I tried to copy files onto the new server, but I didn’t have the permissions… they didn’t copy… then I formatted the server… I formated the Sales, Finance and Accounting folders…………………. HOLY FUCK,” Bill gasped.

I oddly felt a bit better, since I had someone to share the Horrible IT Mistake Feeling with. I didn’t spare any sympathy for Bill however.

“I might be able to undelete it. It might be recoverable.” Bill said.

“Alright… why don’t I run to the shop and buy some special undelete software, I know a good package.” I offered.

Bill looked around the office, and saw about 15 people looking in the direction of the server room, waiting to pounce on him, demanding answers for their lost files and lost productivity.

“Uhhh, you know what? I’ll go and get the software package.” Bill said.

“Are you sure? I don’t mind going for a run.” I said, knowing he would turn me down.

“No, I’ll go. I’ll be back soon.” Bill said over his shoulder as he grabbed his jacket and split the angry office worker crowd down the middle and headed to the escalator.

He rushed back in the door 40 min
utes late. I realise he must have taken a taxi both ways to get back from the local Big Camera so quickly.

He sat down at the computer and began installing the software.

“Go tell the users we’re looking into it now.” Bill ordered.

I raised my eyebrow.

“I’ve been telling them that for 5 bloody hours.” I said.

Bill paused and looked up at me, as if considering to blast me and tell me to go and “do it anyway”. After a couple of seconds, a dialogue box popped up on the screen, and his attention again returned to the software installation.

Bill installed the software, and managed to recover about 70% of the deleted files. He updated the permissions, and tested them(this time), and copied them into the appropriate folders.

“Alright… go and tell them there was a server crash, but we’re lucky because we were able to recover 70% of the files.” Bill told me.

“What? You want me to lie?”

“Just tell them that.”

“I don’t feel comfortable lying.”

“I don’t care, thats the story.”

“No. I’ll tell them the files are unrecoverable.” I said firmly.

Bill shook his head, grabbed his bag, and left the building, leaving me alone again with a bunch of angry office workers.

I deeply sighed, and began the long, painful and ardous task of information each user that 30% of their vital documents were missing and completely unrecoverable.

It was one of the longest days of my IT career.

The next thing that Bill did to me made me decide to quit, despite the fact I had only a few months left on my VISA, and had no prospects or places to go. Updates soon.

**I thought it appropriate to put this note down here, otherwise it interferes with the pace of the story. On an interesting side note, elevators in Japan don’t have a “Ground” floor. The floor at ground level is 1, the next level up is 2. In Australia (and I presume, English as well), the ground floor is labeled “G”, and the next floor up is 1.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

Firefly in Japan, Part 10: There is a special feeling of horror when you’re an IT person experiencing a major, major issue.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

Ginza is a famous area of Tokyo, filled with very expensive designer clothes stores, expensive cars, more expensive women, and a business district.

I was working at a client site in a prestigious area of Tokyo called Ginza. Two companies were coming together, and the IT systems needed to be consolidated. Bill and I went in on the weekend to work on thefileserver . Bill got to work doing the important stuff, and I cruised around the office doing the grunt work. The air was heavy, and warm. There is always a unnatural stillness in offices on holidays.

“Firefly!” Bill shouted from the server room.

“Coming,” I said.

“Alright,” Bill said, rubbing his hands together. “I moved all the information from the old hard drive, onto the new hard drive. Then I’m going to rebuild the server, and fix the permissions. Go around to all the PCs and make sure you can’t find any files in My Documents or on the desktop.”

“Sure.” I turned each computer on, one by one. The task was mind-numbing, which I actually didn’t mind. My imagination tends to spark up during these repetitive tasks, and I spent the next hour or two in deep thought. I copy files I find to the server in ordered directories. I returned to Bill.

“Done.” I said.

“Well we made progress faster than I thought. I’m going to set up RAID, leave this server building, and copy back all the data. Come back at 9am sharp on Monday to continue work.”

I nodded agreement, said goodbye, packed up my bag, and left. I was mildly irritated that a big chunk was taken from my Saturday for 2 hours of overtime pay (about 5,000 yen). Oh well, it’s not all about the money. My presence seemed to help Bill, even if he just wanted someone to talk with. I shrugged it off, and enjoyed the rest of my weekend.

I arrived on site at 8:50am equipped with my coffee, Monday morning fuzz, and my shoulderbag which housed my laptop that I purchased myself. I moved through the columns of desks, and found an empty space, and set up my computer and hung my jacket over the chair. I strained my neck over to the left and right, and was rewarded by satisfying cracking noises. I logged into the server, and had a brief look. Seems fine.

A user came over. “Excuse me, you are computer person?” she asked.

“I sure am, how can I help you?” I said, summoning my best Monday morning smile, and probably failing.

“I have trouble find file. You can help?” She asked, gesturing towards her desk.

“Sure,” I said, pushing the wheeled chair away from the desk and bouncing to my feet. “Let me have a look.”

I sat down at her PC, and brought up the pre-configured mapped drives.

“All the files seem alright to me,” I said, while flicking through the directories. “Whats the problem?”

“No – only half of files are there. Other half are gone.” She said, a crack developing in her voice.

Must be simple user error, I thought. It’s pretty unlikely that only SOME directories are missing, that just doesn’t make sense.

“Ok, sure – I’ll look into it for you. Can you tell me which folder is missing?” I said.

“Accounting folder missing. Also, Finance. Also, Sales.” She said.

“Um, accounting, finance and sales are missing?” I said with surprise. She nodded my head. “No problem. I’ll look into it.”

I stood up and walked over to my PC. Another foreign man came over to me.

“Excuse me, I seem to be missing the files in Sales – I need them for a presentation in an hour. Can you help?” He asked politely.

I visibly gulped. “Sure, no problem. I’ll just look into that right now. Give me a moment.” I said, breaking a light sweat. He nodded, smiled, and walked away.

An email popped into my inbox, subject “IMPORTANT FILES MISSING : URGENT” from the office manager. My muscles involuntarily tensed. The office manager was very rude and abusive – I’m sure she is going to blast me as soon as she sees me.

Another girl walks up to my desk.

“Excuse me. I am very sorry to interrupt, when you’re busy,” she intoned in quiet polite Japanese. “I seem to have lost some files. When you have time, can you please help?”

“I’m working on it right now actually.” I said, suddenly feeling my shirt collar tighten around my neck.

“You don’t know where they are?” She asked.

“I’m uh… .just.. starting to work on it now.” I said, fighting a sudden urge to panic.

She sensed the uncertainty in my voice.

“They are gone? The files?” Her throat constricted, and her voice came out as a croak.

“I’m.. just looking into it now. I’ll tell you soon.” I said, a little impatiently.

She stood there, unmoving.

I looked at her blankly, waiting for her to leave so I could begin work.

She started blinking fast. Her small mouth turned downwards at the corners. She choked back a sob, as a tear slid down her face.

“Oh geez, look, i’m looking into it now. Please give me a moment, and I’ll tell you whats happening as soon as I can,” I said, as reassuringly as I could. I could feel my own neck on a slab of cold hard stone, and the office manager wearing a black mask and aggressively wielding an impossibly sized axe for someone of her small frame.

She spun around and took off at a quick jog, trying to hide her tears.

I gulped, and called Bill.

*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..

My knuckles turned white as I fiercely gripped the phone handset. I looked up and saw 2 other people sitting in front of their computers with a confused expression on their face.

*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..”Hi you’ve reached Bill. I’m unavailable..” I cut off his voicemail message.

I could feel a quiet anger and desperation around the office, as more and more people began discovering their vital files were missing. My heart rate continued increasing, flushing my face red with worry and adrenaline.

There is a special feeling of horror when you’re an IT person experiencing a major, major issue. Only IT people with similar experiences are able to understand. The feeling is intensified when it’s your fault, but when you’re the front line, it still gets pretty bad. It starts in your stomach, like someone just took a sickle and disemboweled you on the spot. Then it spreads up to your throat, and slams into your head. Your head becomes light and dazed and you suddenly realise the consequences of the your actions (or the problem). Fortunately, I am a very careful person, and in years of working in IT, I’ve only felt this 2 or 3 times. But when you feel it, you know it. And every time you feel it, you NEVER want to feel it again.

I pushed the horrific feeling away as best as possible. I glanced at the clock.

9:16am.

This is going to be a long day.

To be finished soon.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

Firefly in Japan, Part 9: The air in the dojo was crisp, but tinged with the scent of body odor, pain and proper form.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

It was a Thursday. Bill and I were working at the office of a clothing shop in Shibuya. I was configuring an antivirus server that would automatically deploy antivirus clients to all of the computers on the network.

“Hows it going?” Bill asked, peering over my shoulder.

“Yeah, it’s fine. I’m almost done. How are you going?” I asked.

“Well,” Bill’s face scrunched up. “Bit of a problem really, but I think I’ve got it.” Bill said.

“Ok. Well it’s almost 5:30. I need to leave soon to make my train to my Martial Arts class. If you don’t mind, I’ll leave as soon as I’m finished.” I said.

Bill grunted.

My shift really went until 6pm, but I had an agreement with Bill and Shane that I would leave early twice a week at 5:30pm. In return, I would work to 6:30pm or 7pm twice a week. I needed to board the 6:20 train from Shinjuku to make the class.

I was excited about the class tonight. Thursday was my absolute favourite night of the week. Togara-sensei was leading the class, there was a small and devoted number of students, and we got plenty of personal attention. The dojo was amazing. When you walk in, you can feel the authentic martial arts emanating from every corner of the room. The air in the dojo was crisp, but tinged with the scent of body odour, pain and proper form. On the floor, laid springed tatami mats, so we could bounce and throw each other around like rag dolls and only be slightly worse for wear. This was very fun for students, but life preserving for the poor bastard who Togara-sensei was using as his personal bitch for that particular night. Togara-sensei was strict and didn’t fuck around, as countless bruises, strains, sprains and aches can attest.

The clock struck 5:28, as I finished the final settings for the antivirus package. I walked over to a machine, and turned it on. A smile spread across my face as the software downloaded itself, executed, and automatically installed itself. I did a couple of tests, and confirmed it was working fine. I went back and instructed the server to install on all the machines.

“I’m done. The next time everyone logs in, they’re going to have the new version of AV. I’ll come back tomorrow morning to check the installs and make sure it doesn’t cause any problems.”

“Oh… um, you’re leaving already?” Bill asked, concerned.

“Right. Tonight is Thursday, I have my class. It’s already 5:32, so I have to run. Do you need me to do anything else?” I asked, zipping up my bag containing my PC.

“Anything else? Um… well I’m still having this problem here…” Bill gestured to the server screen.

“Alright. Can I quickly help you somehow?” I asked.

“I’m not sure. Do you know whats wrong?” Bill asked, angling the screen towards me.

I peered in for a look. “Hmmm..” I said, “I don’t know, I’d need to sit down and spend some more time on it. If it doesn’t work, how about a re-install?” I advised. I checked my watch. “Look mate, I’m sorry but I really have to run. If you really need help, give me a call.”

Bill hesitated, and glanced at the server. “Alright…” He said, haltingly.

I grabbed my bag and took off at a jog. I felt free and happy. I finished my work, it worked perfectly, and I was going to my favourite class. I bounded through the office, and rode the elevator down to the ground floor. I remembered a martial arts technique I was having problems with last week, and I was sure I could nail it tonight. If not, Togara-sensei can show me exactly what to do. I cut through the crowd of faceless salarymen, and headed down into the train station. It was a long train ride to the dojo, but it was worth every minute. Since I was riding around peak-time, I had to stand. I didn’t care – I enjoyed Thursday night so much, I would have walked there. I can’t get a big stupid grin off my face.

The train is crowded. My phone rings. Angry glances from surrounding passengers. It’s Bill.

“Hello Bill, hows the server?” I ask.

“Not so good. It’s still not working.” Bill said.

“Oh…. OK. Well, I’m already on the train for my class. Sorry about that.” I said. People continued to look at me with angry faces, upset I was talking on the phone on the crowded train.

Bill paused for a moment.

“Can you come back?” Bill asked.

My breath stuck in my throat.

“What? Come back?” I exclaimed.

“I want to get this working tonight. Maybe you can fix it.” Bill said.

It was my turn to look angry and upset. “I really want to go to this class… I promised someone I would be their training partner. Is this really important? Can I look at it tomorrow? If I come back, I will definitely miss my class.”

“Can you come back?” Bill repeated.

A wave of anger boils up. I grit my teeth. After a long pause, I said : “Ok. Fine. I’m coming back.”

Before Bill could reply, I hung up the phone in disgust. The doors slid open, and I trudged to the other side of the tracks. I caught the train back. I stormed out of the station. I re-entered the office, and went back into the server room. Bill was still looking at the server. He stood when he saw me come in.

“Let me have a look then.” I said, failing to conceal my feelings of frustration.

I sat down and looked at the server. I clicked through a number of screens, and came to rest on the main settings screen.

I examined the settings. Then I experienced a mix of rage and disappointment.

“You set the IP wrong.” I said.

“What?” Bill looked at the screen.

“The IP is just set wrong. Thats it. You left it on default.”

“Oh.” Bill said slowly.

I clicked Execute, and of course, it worked perfectly.

An air of awkward silence hang between us. I missed my class. All because Bill didn’t check the most basic, obvious setting. He called me back for nothing.

“Gee… I made you miss your class. I’m sorry,” Bill lamely offered.

“Don’t worry about it.” I grabbed my stuff. I looked at my watch. 6:13pm. My train from Shinjuku leaves in a few minutes. I trudged out of the office in decidedly less higher spirits. Depressed, upset, angry and dejected, I slowly walked back to the station to head back home.

Very, very annoying. Even infuriating. But I’m a pretty forgiving person, so I forgave him. The next incident however, was twice as bad and impossible to forgive.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

Firefly in Japan, Part 8: …and I’m looking forward to find more ways to screw him out of more money!!

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

“How about 350,000 yen?” Bill said. Shane’s eyes widened.

HAHAHA ! BINGO WOOOOOOOOOO

“Well, ” I pretended to muse, “That seems pretty reasonable, I think. I’m pretty sure that would allow me to do martial arts and live. It is lower than 400,000 yen, ” I redundantly pointed out. “But I would much prefer to work for you guys rather than a large company. I accept.”

Bill’s beady eyes streched back as his cold suspicious look turned into a triumphant smile. I could see his happiness at ‘grabbing me’ from a larger company at a cheaper rate. These little signs foreshadowed what was to come later.

In any case, for now everyone was happy. I was relieved and overjoyed that I had finally found a job. Bill was happy that he stole me from a larger company. Shane was happy because Bill was happy. We all ate, drank, laughed and celebrated what was going to become a successful business relationship – for 3 months anyway.

Anyway, we all left the restaurant, drunk, stupid and happy. We stumbled around outside for a while talking about nothing.

Then Bill said, “So, when can you start?”

“Whats today, Thursday? I don’t know, how about tomorrow?” I said, keen to start contributing and making a difference.

“Tomorrow?!” Bill exclaimed. “We need time to make the contracts and all that kind of bullshit. Why don’t you start on Monday?”

“Oh, um, yeah I suppose that would be fine.” I replied, a bit forlorn.

“By the way, why do you look like shit?” Bill asked.

His words jarred me from my drunkenness, and I looked at him, shocked.

“Your clothes, they’re terrible. You call them business clothes? Why didn’t you wear something else?” Bill continued.

“Uhh… Well I didn’t…. um, the suit… that, um…” I burned red with shame at being caught with no money and shitty fashion sense.

“Hang on, you didn’t have anything, did you?” Bill caught on fast. If nothing else, Bill was a sharp guy.

I stood there, frowning, unsure how best to react.

Bill fumbled around in his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He counted off 5 sheets of 10,000 yen – about $500 US. He extended his cash-filled hand. “Go get yourself some respectable clothes.”

I looked at the wad of cash in his hand. I pushed it away. “No thanks, I don’t need charity. I’ll work for my money.”

Bill looked confused. “No, this is an advance from your salary. You didn’t think I was giving you the money did you?”

I stood my ground, unwilling to change my position.

“Look just take it. It’s coming off your salary, and I think you need it now. Here.” He prodded me a few times with the money.

I stood looking at it. Well, it’s an advance from my salary, I reasoned. It’s my money. Theres no problem taking it, right? I reluctantly held out my hand and claimed the money. “Well….. I suppose it’s ok. Thanks a lot, thats really helpful.” I said.

Bill smiled.

We drifted back to the station, and I promised to show up on Monday morning. I went home, and immediately paid back all my friends and told them about the good news. They were all supportive and happy for me. I went to sleep a happy man.

I woke up the next morning with a direction and a purpose for the first time in months. I threw some clothes on, and went shopping. I bought a couple of cheap shirts (available from various stalls and crappy shops around Tokyo). They’re functional, and they look pretty normal (if not a bit flimsy), but they start to discolour and fall apart after a few months as I later discovered. Next I found some cheap pants, a workable belt and some ties that weren’t too cheesy (but were still fairly cheesy). All put together, I looked like the perfect disposable salaryman. I nodded in confirmation at my reflection in a store mirror, and spent most of the remaining money in that shop.

The weekend passed in a flash. I turned up for work at 8:45am Monday morning, dressed to be passable. I walked in and met a couple more people. Looking back, these people were very forgettable, because within a few weeks, they would all be gone. They were quickly replaced with new, smiling faces, who would quickly burn out, and be replaced again. For all sorts of terrible reasons, the whole company was a revolving door for employees and clients, but I stood there decked out in my cheap attire, pleased as punch to be there.

I selected an empty desk and sat down. One of the guys setup an account for me, and I started downloading software and customising my PC. I was filled with jubilation – it was such a big novelty for me to get my very own phone, and computer. I even got my own filing cabinet, which I quickly filled with various stationary.

Within a couple of days I had once again established myself as a knowledge-base for various products, and people occasionally asked me for help. A few days later, one of the staff members called me over and asked me a question about Outlook. When he pointed to something on the screen, I caught a glimpse of the email he was writing. I’ve always been an extremely fast reader, and I absorbed a whole paragraph in one shot.

“………haven’t told any clients that I am leaving. All my work I had to complete is finished under the relevant client directories. I will be available for a couple of weeks after my final date to answer questions and………..”

I blinked. He noticed the email and quickly minimised it. I advised him on the solution to his problem, and returned to my desk troubled. I didn’t want to ask him about the email, since it was obviously secret. I looked around the room at the various staff members, and I wondered why he was quitting. I would later find out his predecessor had quit within 3 months. He was a relative veteran at 9 months.

Anyway, my training began awkwardly. There was no formal training process, but fortunately I picked things up quickly. One day, I was taken to a client site by Bill. We were setting up a rack filled with equipment in the middle of the city. I’ll never forget the name of the building – the KY building. Hehe.

We walked in, and examined the rack. We made a quick plan as to the work we needed to get through. Or more accurately, Bill wrote down a list of the most borings tasks for me to do, and told me to go and do it. After a while, the client came over. A tall, sharp warm man who made me feel welcome.

“Hello, nice to meet you.” He said, thrusting his arm out. I caught his hand in a firm handshake. “I’m Trevor.”

Bill stood there uncomfortably as Trevor and I exchanged pleasantries. Trevor eventually excused himself, citing some urgent work he needed to do.

After Trevor was safely out of hearing distance, I said to Bill, “Wow. He seems like a very nice guy. I’m looking forward to working here.”

Bill grinned in a twisted kind of way. “Yeah… and I’m looking forward to find more ways to screw him out of more money!!” Bill laughed out loud at his own joke.

What?! I thought with a start. Bill looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to laugh. Feeling dirty, I offered a forced chuckle.

Bill turned back to work, and I stood there full of conflicting emotions. Over the next few months, these feelings would only get stronger as I discovered the kind of people they were, and their ideas on acceptable business practice.

One morning I was a few minutes late for work (no, this was a different day to the coffee spraying incident). Shane sauntered over to my desk.

He cleared his throat as he leaned on my partition, in a perfect image of the boss from Office Space. “Morning, Firefly.” He cleared his throat again.

I was putting down my bag and turning on my computer.

“Uh, good morning Shane. How are you?”

“Uhhhhhhh…… do you know… what time it is?” Shane ignored my question, and cleared his throat again.

I looked at the time on my PC. “It’s 9:05.” I said.

“Uhhhhhh…. yeah. And what time are you supposed to be here?” Shane said, while clearing his throat simultaneously.

I frowned. “9am?” I asked.

“Right.” He fixed me with an extremely awkward half smile, and tapped his watch 3 times, and cleared his throat. “9am.” he said.

An awkward silence hung in the air. I looked at him. He half-smiled at me, as though expecting to share a laugh with me at how late I was, and how ridiculous it was for me to 5 minutes late. I flatly returned his stare.

“Don’t worry, I already plan to stay back 5 minutes to make up for my tardiness.” I said, devoid of any emotion.

Shane nodded, apparently satisfied, cleared his throat and returned to his desk. Management at it’s finest, I thought sarcastically.

I had many problems with them over the first few weeks. But since I was very grateful for my job when I was desperate for money and employment, I was very nice about all our disagreements. I was always very calm and relaxed, and I made a point to take the blame for everything, even when I was clearly in the right.

However just a few short months after I joined, we had our first major clash….

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

Firefly in Japan, Part 7: Alone in my apartment at 10:45am

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

10:45 am. I sat on the floor in the middle of my apartment in Tokyo, listening to the crickets chirping. I shifted uncomfortably. The neighborhood seemed strangely quiet. I dimly realised this was because almost everyone was at work, being productive, contributing to society, helping clients, getting paid….. A fly buzzed around the room. I frowned at it, and at myself. I needed some external input.

I walked out of my little guest house. There was a public phone outside a shopping center that I occasionally used to call overseas. The first time I made an overseas call, it took me 10 minutes to figure it out. It’s surprisingly difficult. First you have to put in money, then dial. I was fine up to this point. Next was the number to access an overseas call. I went through every permutation of 00, 0011, 001, 01, 0001, 00011. None worked. It just kept spitting back out my 100 yen coin, as if it was mocking me. “I don’t want your stinkin money, gaijin.” I kept going until a kindly old man noticed my frustration, and walked over.

“Phone ok?” They asked.

“Phone no ok!! Phone no ring. FUCK.” I said.

“Ah. This phone no ring to oversea. It only Japan phone.” He said kindly. He pointed at a small sticker, where I could only understand the word “Japan” in kanji, and nothing else.

He gestured me over and showed me a different phone. “This phone ok. Have good day!” He said warmly. I thanked him many times, and spent another 3 minutes messing about with the international dialing codes. Finally made that call, by the way.

I entered the small, odd smelling booth, and picked up the handset. By Australian standards, the handset was impeccably clean. By Japanese standards it was pretty dirty. I spared a second to wonder how I would fit again into Australian society. It’s only been a few weeks over here, but I’m already taking many of Japan’s comforts for granted. I dialed home.

“Hello?” came a voice.

“Hi Dad.” I said.

“Oh hello there. How are you going? Is everything alright? Did you get the job? Do you have enough money to eat?” He asked in succession.

I cleared my throat. “Actually, well, I’m fine. I got a job offer, but it was pretty low. Lower than I would need to survive and do what I’m here for.”

“Your kung fu stuff?” Dad asked.

“Kung fu is Chinese, Dad. So I’m feeling a bit drained right now. I feel like I’ve run a marathon, I’m absolutely exhausted, I’m running on zero, but the finish line is two steps away. I also feel like theres a guy waiting to kick me in the balls once I finally cross the line. Actually he’d kick me in the balls every month on pay-day.” I lamented.

I imagined my Dad nodding his head, and reflecting on my problem.

“Well… theres no reason why you couldn’t get another job offer,” My Dad began.

“Thats impossible,” I complained, missing the point entirely. “Don’t you remember I told you about all of the interviews I went to?”

“Yes, but theres no reason that one of those companies can’t call you out of the blue and offer you a generous package. It sounds like these guys are taking the piss anyway with this low offer.” Dad said.

I paused for a second while his words sunk in.

“You’re telling me to lie to them? And possibly mess up my only chance of getting a job?” I shot.

“I didn’t tell you to do anything. It’s just a possible thing you might decide to say.” He returned.

My eyebrows furrowed with stress. That would be a risky proposition. At any point, these guys could withdraw their offer, and I’d be completely out in the cold. And on the fast track back to Australia. Argh. What to do.

“I don’t know Dad… I’m not sure I could do that.” I said, depressed.

“Well best of luck either way mate. Let me know if you need a lift from the airport.” He offered.

“Thanks… but I’m hoping I won’t need a lift from the airport for a while. Talk to you soon. Bye, Dad.” I hung up the phone, deep in thought.

Frankly, I’m a pretty bad liar. I’m by nature an honest person, and it’s hard for me to look someone in the eye, and tell them something I know is false.

“But, they did try to mess me around with this low offer…. ” the little devil Firefly sitting on my left shoulder said.

“Thats not an excuse to lie. Besides, what if you piss them off and they withdraw their offer? Then we could be really screwed.” The little Firefly clad in white sagely whispered in my ear.

As often happens, the little devil Firefly hopped over to my other shoulder, wound up, and unceremoniously drop kicked angel Firefly.

“Time to make the call.” The devil Firefly instructed.

I sighed and picked up the phone. I put in my card, and dialed the office number from memory. I asked to speak to Shane.

“uuhhh, hello?” Shanes voice.

“Hi, this is Firefly.”

“Oh, yes, hello. Have you thought about the offer?” Shane asked, somewhat nervously. (“See? He knows its a low-ball offer. He’s nervous. Stick it to them.” The devil Firefly whispered venomously.)

“Yes, I have, I’m very grateful and I’d like to accept it….”

“Oh, thats great,” Shane said excitedly.

“However,” I continued, “I’d like to discuss some things in a bit more detail.”

“Oh. Really?” Shane deflated. “What kind of things?”

“The package, the job, the responsibilities, those kind of things. Can I arrange for a meeting with you and Bill?” I asked.

“Hang on a minute.” Shane put me on hold.

I waited for 3 or 4 minutes. Irritation bubbled up again. I relaxed as best as possible. Just as I was wondering how long I’d be waiting this time, Shane returned.

“Tell you what, we’re excited that you’re joining, so we want to take you out to dinner to celebrate.” Shane said.

“Thats great, but I do want to discuss things before signing a contract. If we can have a discussion at dinner, it would be great to join you.” I said.

“Uhhhh, sure I guess thats no problem. Uhhh, sure.” Shane coughed nervously. “So, lets meet at Shibuya at 7. We’ll take you to a nice Italian restaurant.”

“Great. I look forward to seeing you there.” I hung up.

My suspicions were confirmed – it was a lowball offer, and now they’re going to try to butter me up at a nice restaurant. We’ll see about that.

I arrived at Shibuya at 7pm to be met by Shane and Bill at the station. They warmly greeted me and shook my hand, and then slapped me on the back in a friendly way as we took off towards the restaurant. They were laughing, smiling, joking and happy. I joked along, but I wasn’t buying it.

We got to the restaurant and sat down at a nice table. They ordered a meal for me. I glimpsed the price : it was a 3,800 yen set meal. Recently, to save money, I’d been eating 5 riceballs a day, costing about 150 yen each. I was eating through 750 yen in one day, and they just ordered me one meal worth 5 days of food. I pushed the menu away from me.

After eating, and laughing some more, Bill stopped, and stared right at me. There was a very noticable shift from friendly and warm, to all business. “So.” Bill began somewhat coldly. “I believe you had a question about the package.”

Shane and Bill both became silent, and stared at me. I think I would have been very intimidated if I didn’t know what was going on. There was silence, during which time I was supposed to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t.

“Right. I wanted to let you know that I have received another offer from a different company.” I said, slowly.

A look of surprise flashed across Shane and Bill’s face. It was gone quickly from Bill’s face. It lingered a moment longer on Shane’s. (Yeah, thats right, bitches, the devil Firefly helpfully added.)

“They’ve offered me 400,000 yen. Actually.”

Bill chewed his teeth. His mouth turned into a scowl.
“Alright. And?” Bill said, coldly and aggressively.

Time to get this pointing in the direction I want, I thought.

“Well actually, I’ve had a chance to work with you, and see your office and the kind of people you have working there.” (And there is a hot secretary, devil Firefly pointed out.) “And I really like what I see. I like the people there, and you seem to be doing interesting work, at interesting clients. I could really get into that kind of work.”

Shane and Bill looked at me suspiciously. Fuck. I began lightly sweating.

“This other company is a much larger and more established company.” I coughed, nervously. “Um, the other company offering me the job, I mean. They’re bigger. And, probably um, they’re also, um,” I started to trail off. Uhoh. Bring it together.

I mentally slapped myself. My life in Japan from this point forward depends on the next thing to come out of my mouth.

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….” I said.

They both stared flatly at me. Very flatly.

“So I would be very keen to find some kind of arrangement where I could feel comfortable at your company. I came to Japan to do martial arts, and it would be very difficult for me to live in Japan, which has a much higher cost of living, and participate in my classes on the package on offer. So for that reason alone, I would really be forced to accept the offer from the other company.”

Bill continued to stare at me. He knows I’m lying. I held back a gulp.

“I really like small companies.” I said, suddenly inspired. “The variety of work and having various interesting responsibilities is very exciting for me. If we could work out some kind of deal that would allow me to do what I came for in Japan, I would much prefer to make a big difference in a small company, than be a cog in the wheel of a larger company.”

Shane looked at Bill, and then suddenly raised his hands in a “surrender” motion. “Your call.” Shane withdrew.

Bill raised an eyebrow. I stole a look at my meal – the equivalent to 5 days of food, and I smiled nervously.

It felt like an eternity, as Bill eyes burned into mine, searching out any hint of a fallacy. I returned his gaze as best as I could, but I could feel myself losing it. I had a sudden impulse to leave, before I was found out. The muscles in my legs tensed up, ready to walk right out the door, and out of Japan.

“400,000 yen?” Bill said. “Thats a bit much.”

“Yes, I was surprised as well,” I lied.

Bill opened his mouth, and said…..

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 10a, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14