Monday, September 1, 2008

Loud teeth-brushin secretaries

Either I have a secret admirer, someone is trying to poison me or one of the people in my "area" have come back from a trip. I went with the last scenario and promptly popped the two pieces of candy that were sitting on my desk when I arrived today into my mouth. Unaccompanied by a courtesy note, I probably should have more carefully considered my social standing within the Kaisha before devouring the unidentified but probably harmless candy. Probably. If I suddenly stop blogging for more than a week with no word, you'll know it was actually the second scenario. In the interest of having a more positive outlook on my working life however, I am going to continue with the assumption that my Coffee Crisp mission has just been anonymously rewarded and may even allow me to receive omiyage from others until at least December. Oh joyous day! It will certainly take me until at least December to recover my voice and my pride, at least sufficiently enough to go another round with some new omiyage.

As I mentioned last week, the secretaries were recently scolded via group email and told to get in line. Lunch time at the Kaisha begins at noon on the dot and must be finished by 1. During lunch time at the Kaisha, secretaries position themselves in little cliquey groups in empty offices, conference rooms, photocopying areas and kitchenettes. Apparently they have not been using these spaces in moderation as of late, and have now had to be reminded twice that aside from cleaning up after themselves, brushing their teeth and finishing their bathroom routines by 1, they must be back in their seats by that time. And at the same time, keeping the noise at a reasonable level as there are always some unfortunate secretaries who have to work through lunch. Frankly I don't know how they manage to eat lunch and spend 30 minutes in the bathroom reapplying their make-up and ensuring their hair and teeth are free from any evidence that they had been eating. Although I will concede that no one finds a Professional husband with less-than-perfect hair and food residue-free teeth!

I'm actually a bit scared of the secretaries at lunch. Luckily I don't have to encounter them much at the moment but from October I am going to be at the Kaisha during lunch time every day. It gives me anxiety just imagining it. I'll walk up to a group of secretaries clutching my pink bento from home and it will be like a scene in some bad high school movie where the lonely girl opens her mouth to ask the popular girls if she can join them and is promptly ignored or shunned. Inevitably it will be accompanied by shrieks of laughter at something one of the popular girls has just said. Luckily for me the secretaries around here never say anything vaguely funny so at least I won't have to walk away with laughter at my back. Just cold silence.

Being a geisha and not a secretary, I don't have to take lunch at the same time as them so I think I will be able to avoid shame most days by taking lunch after they are all safely seated at their desks by 1. Eating is as much a social thing as it is a necessity to me. Eating at home by yourself doesn't count and eating out alone as long as it isn't during work or school is fine by me, but somehow eating alone during lunch at work or school seems tragic. Not that I haven't experienced both many times. I suppose the general idea is that you are surrounded by comrades at both school and work, so you should have people to eat with. We know it's not like that at the Kaisha, where I hardly have any lunch comrades. When I think back to my lonely days of ostracization at Japanese school when I practically hid myself from others at lunch time so they wouldn't catch on that I was always eating by myself, I try to remember my resolve that after graduation, no matter how uncomfortable I may feel in certain social situations, I would always make an embarrassingly concerted effort to eat with others at lunch. That resolve went right out the window my first week at the Kaisha. It's not just that the secretaries ignore me, there are a couple nice ones, but lunch with them on the rare occasion I've had it, has been excruciatingly boring. There is usually a lot of giggling and conversation revolving around hobbies and pets. I have neither.

I could just eat desk at my lunch but that would conjure up a whole new breed of paranoia. There is glass in front of my desk so I can check out the reflection of people walking behind me on the down low. After discovering this nifty feature I soon learned that an alarming number of people slow down when passing behind my desk, I imagine to either see what I'm eating, or to see what is on my computer screen. Whatever the reason I don't appreciate being inspected like a geisha in a zoo. Even after I decided not to eat anything at my desk, my fears were further confirmed by a Professional who always brings me chocolate. At first it was OK but now I feel it's a ploy to make me suffer through a conversation in English with the guy. Because he gives me chocolate, I can't cut him off. It's very calculating and sinister on his part. On one of his recent chocolate deliveries he asked if I was embarrassed to eat chocolate in front of other people. I replied No, and he said he was happy to hear that because most of the secretaries are embarrassed to be seen eating sweets or chocolate in public. I'd hardly call the Kaisha public but his comment validated my strict no-eating policy.

Looking over some of these senseless thoughts of mine, I start to get a picture of how crazy the Kaisha is making me. Things I would never think twice about have become huge issues in need of dissection and discussion and my only consolation is that I have until October to figure out my bento attack game plan.


jturningpin said...

I enjoy reading posts like this. Your Kaisha is a much different beast from mine.

Pretty much everyone here eats at their desks alone, though they may go out in small groups to buy their bento. (Does nobody cook anymore? It never fails to shock when somebody new learns I, a man beast, made the bento I eat every day.) And I always eat outside, alone but happy being out in the sun and away from this wretched building.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Different but both beasts nonetheless?

I guess the Kaisha could be lauded for its social aspect, except by those who are on the Outs. And haven't you heard? Homemade is also Out, especially when there are long lunch lines to be stood in. :)

Sitting outside is a technique I often employ but it gets a bit dicey after November.