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