Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kindergarten tactics

As I mentioned before, I devised a genius plan before going to Canada to make my Kaisha comrades love me. I would penetrate their cold hearts with omiyage! No secretary and nary a Professional can resist cookies, let alone Foreign Cookies. Just holding one in their hot little hands will instantly make them feel International and Worldly I thought. I see now that when I concocted that little plan I was heady with a much overdue vacation home and definitely not thinking rationally.

When I arrived at the office on Monday with a light heart and a somewhat dimmer memory of previous horrors, I immediately stepped back into Kaisha reality. As I sat at my desk and glanced around nervously, all the painful memories came flooding back and it was like I had never been away. Who do I think I am, I thought. There's no way in hell I'm going to march into the offices of the Professionals and hand deliver them some chocolate (I switched to Coffee Crisps instead of maple cookies). I thought of several plans: A) take them round to the secretaries and get them to give their respective Professionals the chocolate, B) send an email to everyone asking them to take their own from a cheery mountain of bite-sized candy bars in the cafeteria, or C) take them to Professionals who have smiled at me before and make the secretaries do the rest. The problem with B is that some of the Professionals could miss the email and then would never know how nice I actually am. C wouldn't work as some Professionals share offices, everyone is very nosy and it could get too complicated dodging and avoiding some people while surreptitiously darting in and out of Geisha-friendly offices.

A was actually suggested to me by a secretary who OMG! talks to me on a regular basis. She said most of the secretaries write little notes to accompany the omiyage and have the other secretaries distribute them. Because, well, we are not adults and how uncomfortable would it be to personally deliver some chocolates to the people you work with?

It can be quite uncomfortable I discovered. With my Kaisha persona in the dumps I decided to hand deliver the chocolates to each secretary and ask them to pass some along to their Professionals. To prepare for my journey I made a list of each secretary's name and her corresponding Professional on a seating chart which I clutched in my sweaty hand while holding the bag of chocs in the other. Using my Kaisha voice (practically a whisper and almost inaudible by the end) I went up to each secretary's desk, gave them each the same line in Japanese: well thought out and in keeping with the set flow of how you would first ask if now is a good time, tell them you've come from Canada and if it is acceptable to them, please take some chocs.

Stress I tell you! For someone who isn't afraid of public speaking I sure did my non-Kaisha self an injustice yesterday as the bumbling Whitie barely able to get out a few lines about chocolate and Canada. The secretaries were all very nice and maybe pleasantly surprised. Hopefully I scored some brownie points and now when they see me or more likely hear me using my non-Kaisha voice on the phone, they will simply think of me as a sweet Kaisha comrade, to be embraced but not pitied, feared or envied. Fingers crossed they didn't get the vibe that I couldn't get to the next cubicle soon enough. I haven't heard a peep from any one else yet but maybe some of the Geisha-friendly Professionals will thank me later (if I'm lucky). If this poorly-devised plan didn't work, it's going to be a while before I can go anywhere far enough to warrant omiyage, especially after my been-starved-for-too-long! shopping spree in Canada.

The best part of the day was seeing my secretary's delighted face (first time) as she thanked me while clutching the stuffed moose I brought her. I asked her before I left whether she wanted something from Canada expecting her to say nothing, but she earned herself some respect by actually replying that she wanted a stuffed animal. The word beaver is just wrong and so are their teeth so I got her a big moose. That should keep me in the good books for a few months at least.

All in all, Operation Omiyage didn't quite live up to my hopes of grandeur but also, thankfully, not up to my recent dreams either, in which enraged Professionals threw the chocolate back at me.

1 comment:

jturningpin said...

This cracked me up. At my company, omiyage distribution is via a strict policy dictating that they be given to the head secretary of your department, who will then deliver them one-by-one to each of the members of the department (highest-ranking members coming first, of course). Any remaining omiyage are then set out in the open for the rest of the wolves, along with a note saying who they're from. No omiyage has yet to make it through the end of the day.