Firefly in Japan, Part 6: “Thank you very much for the offer, I’ll think about it…”
“Connection Successful. You may now share information between domains.” My cursor wavered over the “Ok” button.
Bill and I both looked at each other. He blinked, and coughed. “Hmm. Not bad.” He said suspiciously.
“Not bad?” I queried.
“Pretty good.” He said.
After I managed to fix that problem, he set me a list of other tasks to do. I went around happily working through my tasks, with a really good feeling about what I just managed to do on the server. The kind of feeling you get when you just know that something good is coming your way.
As I was working through my list, I occasionally made an idiot out of myself by trying to communicate in Japanese. This particular company housed a number of very impatient and “strong willed” individuals, who in hindsight were not going to be the most appropriate Japanese teachers.
I went up to one office lady, swallowed, and dove in with my best Japanese.
“sumasen, chodo jiakan aru ka?” A best rough translation would be something like “sscuse me do you have just right time, huh?”
She looked at me. I looked back expectantly.
“What?” She said in hard English.
“Oh, um, I just wanted to know if you had some time, because, I need to look at your…” I replied in English.
“Was that Japanese?” She pointedly asked.
“Yeah. Well, um, it was supposed to be…” I started.
She cut me off again. “It was terrible.” She said, her lip curling up slightly. “In the future, you should say ‘sumimasen, chotto computer wo haiken shitemo yoroshii desu ka?’” Her clear polite Japanese bounced right off my head.
“Right! Thanks. Uhh…. sumiashen, uuhhhh,” I desperately tried to copy her.
“Forget it, I don’t have time for this. Just get on the computer. And HURRY UP.” She said, throwing down a file and walking off to presumably go make herself a coffee.
As concealed as possible, I peered around the office to see if anyone else witnessed my harsh Japanese lesson. Well, anyone who might report it back to Bill anyway. Everyones head was down, working busily. I guess I’m alright.
I breathed a quiet sigh of relief, which turned into a feeling of intense pressure as the office lady came back with her coffee and stood over me at the computer, clearly waiting for me to finish. She started tapping her foot.
“Um, chodo mati kudas sai” I said. (pleash waitashecond)
She exhaled through her teeth, and shook her head. I waited for my next Japanese lesson, but it appeared as though she’d given up already. I finished up my work and quickly moved on.
I noticed that I had worked through everything on the list. I looked at my watch, only 11:45, just before lunch. Great. I bet Bill will be happy everything was done so quickly.
I returned to the server room with my list of tasks, each one ticked off.
“Hi Bill, I finished all of my tasks.” I said proudly as I handed him the sheet of paper.
He pulled his attention away from the server, and looked down at the paper. His face twisted up. “That was supposed to take you all day. Shit, why’d you finish it so quickly?”
“Oh, I, um, ” I stammered, not having a good answer to the question.
“Hm. Don’t worry about it, I guess. Just go back and see if anyone is having problems and try to fix it.” Bill pointed at the door.
I turned and walked out, feeling a bit depressed. That wasn’t the reaction I was expecting, after completing a days work in an hour and a half. Hm.
I wandered around the floors, getting to know the office and the people that worked there. Without the pressure of having a list to go through, I talked to many more people who were much more friendly and warm than the initial user. I managed to fix many problems, made some friends along the way. Three people had offered to make me a cup of tea or coffee for the work I performed. “What a nice place,” I thought to myself. “I could definitely spend more time here.”
In that office in central Tokyo, being able to offer my skills to help fix problems for people was very satisfying and enjoyable for me in a way thats hard to explain. Maybe it was because I felt my karma bank balance growing – if I help enough people, surely I’ll get a job! Or maybe it was the feeling of somehow knowing I was on the right track. That at this point in my life, being there, and doing that work was EXACTLY what I was supposed to be doing.
In any case, I knew things were out of my hands now. I just had to be friendly, do the best work I could and let the chips fall where they may.
Soon, it was nearing 6:30pm, and things were winding up. I had gone around fixing many problems, and people were talking about me very positively. Bill even happened to come down while I was having a friendly chat to one of the company’s directors, as I fixed a problem that had been bugging him for weeks. All in all, a very good day. Bill called me over for a moment.
“Hey. I was watching you today. You did a pretty good job.” He praised me.
I beamed again. “Thanks, Bill.”
“So, do you want a job or something?” Bill asked, remarkably offhandedly.
I cocked my head slightly, the words not sinking in.
“A job. Do you want one?” He repeated, loudly.
“Yes, that would be nice.” I politely smiled, and internally did a 20 step gymnastic routine.
“Ok. Why don’t you talk to Shane about the details. Drop by the office tomorrow morning.” Bill said, turning away to collect his equipment.
I stood there. I could feel the whole world revolving around me. This was a major turning point in my life. Then I thought, actually hang on, what about salary? Benefits? Holidays? Hm, I mused. Maybe I’m not out of the woods just yet. I guess Shane will give me the details tomorrow
I collected my things and Bill gave me a lift to the station.
“You did a good job today. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He said, as he dropped me off. I nodded, smiled, and walked down into the station.
On the trip back I was thinking in detail about the kind of salary and job I could expect. I came over to Japan to study Martial Arts – if I don’t have enough time and money to go to class, the whole thing is almost pointless. I frowned as I sat on the train. I’ll have to work everything out. I’ll need to make… a budget. How much will everything cost? How much will I need to survive?
I returned back home, and got out a notebook, and started listing everything that cost me money in Japan. How much would I need to pay my rent, go to martial arts, have a small amount of spending money, pay my mobile phone bill so my family can call me, buy some clothes, pay back my friends, buy enough food, essentially, how much would I need to scrape by and survive in Tokyo.
After calculating everything, I came up with a monthly figure. 314,000 yen per month.
I lied down on my futon and stretched out. I opened the window, and the warm Tokyo air spilled into my room. I went to sleep with the number 314,000 yen floating around my head.
I woke up the next day. The guy down the hall wouldn’t loan me his suit. Shit. I put on my best “casual” gear, hoping it wouldn’t matter since I’d already gotten a verbal job offer.
I made my way to the office. I walked through the door at 9:15 to give the 9am people a chance to settle in.
Shane came over to greet me, and I noticed his eyes squinting as he critically looked me up and down.
“No suit today?” He said.
“Uh, right. It’s in the wash.” I lied.
Shane raised his eyebrows and led me to a small meeting room.
“I spoke to Bill last night, and we’re ready to make you an offer.” Shane said with a smile.
My eyes widened slightly. “Thats very good news, ” I said. 314,000 yen. 314,000 yen.
“Looking at your skill and experience, we’ve come to a number and a package we think is reasonable.” Shane continued.
314,000 yen. Thats all I needed. Thats a very reasonable salary for a Foreign Tokyo IT worker. They’re an established company, I’m sure they’ll offer at least that. Just 314,000 yen.
“Your starting monthly salary will be… ” Shane said. Time froze.
314,000 yen. 314,000 yen. 314,000 yen. 314,000 yen. 314,000 yen. 314,000 yen.
“270,000 yen.” Shane said. The weight of his statement slammed into me, leaving me stunned.
Without at least 314,000 yen, there’s almost no point to being in Japan. I won’t be able to do what I came for, I sadly realised. I might even have to work extra hours. How can this be happening.
Shane looked at me, trying to gauge my response. “Does that seem reasonable?” He asked.
“Well, um, I very much appreciate the job offer,” I sighed in disappointment, but tried to stay bright. “So that means that I’ll get 270,000 yen in my bank account every month, right?”
“Actually, after various taxes, the real number is probably closer to 240,000 yen.” Shane said.
240,000 yen. What did I do to deserve this? I thought in emotional turmoil. That wasn’t even a fair offer. I had to pay 68,000 yen just in rent. Before I do anything, I’m down to 172,000 yen. Which doesn’t go very far in Tokyo at all.
I sat in silence for a moment. An intense feeling of sadness washed across my face. I bit my lip.
“Thank you very much for the offer. I’ll think about it, and let you know.” I said, as I began to put on my jacket.
Shane looked surprised, as though he was expecting me to accept on the spot. “Sure. Have a think about it, and give me a call.”
I nodded, smiled, and walked out of the office, feeling lost and alone.