Firefly in Japan, Part 5: An early morning phone call leads to a chance.
I jerked awake. I groaned and made a grab for the phone, which was lost somewhere in the covers. I swore as I fumbled about in an early morning haze. After 10 seconds of ringing, right before voicemail, I managed to pick up the call.
“Hello?” I said.
“Hello is this Firefly?” Came a vaguely familiar voice. A moment later, I recognised him as Shane.
“Yes, this is Firefly.”
“This is Shane. Look, I’m really sorry about yesterday. Bill was really tired.” Bill? Oh the president. He was tired? Pfft. Poor bastard, I thought sarcastically.
“Uhm, no problem. Sure.” I crammed down a wave of annoyance.
“Well I’m calling because we might need your help today. We have an important project at a client site today. Are you busy?” Shane asked.
I woke up fast.
“Sure, I have some time today,” I said. I felt a shimmer of excitement, but mostly a sense of resignation after all the recent events. I’d put in so much work, and I’ve had so many let-downs. Whats going to be different about this opportunity. I sighed to myself. Come on, lets give it a good shot at least. If I’m going down, it’ll be in a blazing fire of glory.
“Can you be at Kamiyacho station at 9:00am?” He asked.
“Hang on,” I looked down at my watch. 8:43am. Oh, shit. “Um, can we make it 9:30am? I’m not sure I can make it.”
“Sorry, you have to be there at 9am. Thats when Bill will be coming past the station. If you want a chance, thats the best I can offer you.” Shane said apologetically.
17 minutes?! To borrow a suit, iron a shirt, brush my teeth, have some food(scratch that, no time for food), pack my bag, get to the station, and then go to Kamiyacho? The trip from Tsukiji to Kamiyacho takes 11 minutes, and thats not including waiting for the train. HOLY SHIT. This is it. I began to scramble around for my things as I talked to Shane.
“Uh, alright! 9am. I’ll do my very best to be there. Thanks very much! See you soon, goodbye,” I said with the phone wedged between my shoulder and ear, as I ran about my tiny apartment.
“Ok. See you later.” Shane said, and hung up.
I continued running about. My heart beat faster, I broke into a light sweat, and things slowed down slightly as my body helpfully provided me with a shot of adrenaline. I was simultaneously doing 5 things at once for a few minutes, and then ran out in my boxers and banged on my “friends” door.
“Hey man, open up. I need to borrow your suit again.” I bounced from foot to foot.
“FUCK OFF.” He said.
“Come on you bastard, I need it. Hurry up. Come on.” My voice raised an octave or two as the time ticked away.
“Look, you Australian mooching prick, this is the last time. Do you get it?” He said gruffly.
“Yeah yeah, whatever. Come on, open up.”
He flung the door open and threw the unwashed suit at me. I caught it, paused, and looked at it before gingerly sniffing it.
“Take it or leave it. Preferably fucking leave it.” He deadpanned.
“No, it’s fine. It’s great. Thanks man, I owe you big time,” I said as I jumped about the hallway pulling on the pant legs. I picked up my bag, and ran off at top speed with the shirt flapping open. I ran down into the station, and out of luck, managed to get straight onto the train going to Kamiyacho with no waiting time. The doors closed, and I stood on the train, in front of tens of horrified Japanese. I looked down, and realised my shirt was completely open. Oops. I turned to face the wall and buttoned up. I had 11 minutes to cool down before the doors opened at Kamiyacho, and I bounded out from the station. I got up onto street level, and checked my watch. 9:03am. Oh shit. I hope he hasn’t left.
Shock set in. He might have left already. I started sweating more. I stood there, looking as together as I could. I rested my bag on the ground, and looked at my reflection in the mirror. I looked terrible. I tried to fix my hair with my hands, and adjust my suit to be as clean cut and neat as possible. I looked at my watch.
9:07am. I gulped.
I looked at my phone.
Full reception. No missed calls. No emails. No voicemail messages.
I bet he’s left. Bastard. Unbelievable. I waited 2 hours for him. He couldn’t wait 3 minutes?! I considered calling the office.
My stomach grumbled. Hungry.
I snapped. I called the office.
“Hello, can I please speak to Shane.” I asked.
“One moment please,” someone said. Music. I stood, sweating and shell-shocked in front of Kamiyacho station. Music. “I’m sorry, Shane is not available right now. Can I take a message?”
“Please ask him to call me. Thanks,” I said, hanging up.
I continued to wait. I reflected on the fact I’ve been doing a lot of waiting recently.
I don’t mind waiting normally. It gives me time to think, imagine, come up with new ideas, work on problems. However, every moment I was waiting, was one less second I could spend working on a way to stay in Japan. A bead of sweat ran down my face. I impatiently wiped it away.
At 9:30am, a car pulled up in front of me. The occupant reached across, and opened the door. I looked down, and recognised Bill from last night. Bill?! He’s LATE?! I was simultaneously intensely relieved that he came, and extremely irritated he kept me waiting AGAIN.
I got into the car.
“Hi there. Sorry I’m late. Crazy morning. Sorry about last night too, eh. I had been working for 20 hours straight and I was totally spaced out.” He said, as he pulled into the Tokyo traffic.
“Oh,” I said. I didn’t really accept his apology. I suppose he’s not to blame for all the other crap I went through. Cheer up a bit, why don’t you. “Don’t worry about it.” I said, finally.
He brightened up a bit. “So, you just got here huh? How are you finding it so far?” He asked, excitedly.
“So far?” I reflected back on my experiences. “It’s been…. pretty crazy.”
“Isn’t it?!! Tokyo is a crazy place. It’s totally nuts. Most of the people are crazy too. Look at that old guy over there.” He pointed out an old Japanese guy with white hair walking slowly down the street. “He’s totally crazy. But the weird thing is, if you put him in a foreign country, after a few years, he’ll be normal!!” He said quickly with a big smile on his face. “Hm, actually, maybe not him. But most Japanese people, anyway. You take them out of the Japanese box, and they can see the system for what it really is. Bullshit.”
I nodded, feeling a bit uncomfortable. I wondered what he meant by ‘the system’. He continued to brief me on his views on Japanese society.
We arrived at the clients, and we went upstairs. I was treated to a brief glimpse of tens of people working in an office. It felt good to be inside a company. I could feel the hum of commerce, and I felt incrementally closer to getting a job and staying in Japan.
We continued upstairs, and we walked into a server room. The hum of server fans and the slightly warmer air greeted me as I walked over. Bill’s face blanked out, and he walked over to the servers and started working. I peered over his shoulder, and tried to get an idea of what was going on.
“Hmmmmmm”, Bill hmmed.
I stood there, trying to look helpful. Which is quite hard to do, when you’re not doing anything, and you don’t have anything to do. Bill continued working in silence for about 25 minutes.
“Whats with this stupid error,” Bill said under his breath. I got a glimpse of the error before he clicked it away.
“Should I, um, do anything? Can I help you somehow?” I asked him, thinking about the error I just saw.
“Nah, you can’t do anything. Just wait a minute. I have to fix this first. This is what kept me up yesterday – this goddamn error. Piece of shit, I don’t get it. It worked fine on a different machine.” Bill was barely concentrating on what he was saying. “I did some research and I thought this would fix it. But it didn’t, ” he growled, as his focus returned to the server.
I saw a spare computer in another corner of the server room. “Um, excuse me,” I started. I gulped as he looked at me with fierce irritation, but pushed myself to continue. “Do you mind if I use that computer over there for a bit?”
“That computer? Uh, yeah whatever sure.” He said with obvious impatience. He jogged over and put in a username and password and logged me in, then promptly returned to the server. I walked over, took off my jacket, and once again rolled up my sleeves, as I dived into Google. The mouse cursor shot about the screen as I ran some initial keywords and the error message. 5,000 pages popped up. I narrowed it down. 4,000 pages. I added the type of server and hardware. 1,200 pages. I added some more keywords relevant to the problem. I continued narrowing down the search piece by piece. Finally, I came across a page where someone talked about a possible solution, and gave me a couple more keyboards to work with. I ran those with my original search. After 10 minutes of intense googling, I had a possible solution.
I looked at Bill. I could tell he was going to be irritated by my interruption. I interrupted him.
“Um… Bill?” I ventured.
He whipped around again and looked at me. The irritation was turning into anger. Uhoh. “WHAT.”
“I’ve.. found something… I’m not sure if it’ll help but, um, why don’t you give it a shot.” I nervously showed him the results of my research. His eyes narrowed.
“I tried that.” He snapped.
“Um, I’m sorry, but I think you tried something a bit different. Can I have a shot at it?” I asked.
He stood in front of the server guarding it like a leprechaun guards a pot of gold. “You can watch what I do,” I said in an effort to be re-assuring.
He slowly moved aside. “….alright..” he said hesitantly.
I entered in the new settings, and I clicked enter. I ran a test. The server processed. A message came up on the server. We both peered in to look………..
Gotta run for now. I’ll try to write more soon.