Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Putting culture into practice

You know all that Japanese culture rhetoric that insists maintaining the harmony with those around you is one of the most important factors contributing to how Japanese people act within society? I got to experience that firsthand today. Well I actually had the option of throwing a good old-fashioned North American hoe down with stomping feet, emails laced in shittiness and general upsetting of wa but miracle of miracles I held it together and acted like a Japanese person. And by that I mean I put group harmony above my own desires, which if pursued, probably would have led to me being seen from far and wide as a big old-fashioned cheapskate motherfucker.

But let's back up a little here.

Wasn't that incessant rain refreshing this morning Tokyoites? Just enough moisture to add a little frizz to your 'do. I was carrying my new 500 yen see-through umbrella that I had purchased two days ago after getting soaked between the LSAT and Saizeriya. When I arrived at the Kaisha I left it in an umbrella holder that is in an area only accessible to Kaisha bitches. Now I often hang my umbrella on my cubicle ledge but when it's wet I let it drip dry with the other umbrellas. Imagine my intense and immediate pleasure when I went to grab it before heading out to lunch only to discover it was cheating on me with someone else. Thank my lucky stars it had stopped raining and *might* stay dry for the rest of the day but if it had been raining/does rain, I am shit out of luck unless I want to buy another umbrella and add to my growing collection at home.

I have to say, I am pretty disappointed in my Kaisha comrades at the moment. I borrowed a long untouched umbrella to pop out at lunch once but I made sure to return it in case it hadn't actually been abandoned. My umbrella would have still been wet so it's not like the snatcher could have thought anything but that they were conducting an umbrella-snatching. Shit, listen to me, I should be on Law & Order with the paces my mind has been going through. It probably wasn't a Secretary, since we know they all have at least one folding umbrella in their bags at all times. It was more likely than not a Professional who in his arrogance and disregard for those around him thought it would be fine to grab a wet and recently used umbrella that was clearly not his (no other see-through brellies in sight) instead of taking his rubber sandal-wearing ass down to the Lawson's to buy his own.

I have no qualms admitting that I actually considered sending an email to everyone on my floor asking whoever "borrowed" my umbrella to kindly return it. Or at least asking my Secretary for advice on what to do. In emailing everyone however, I would not only have to describe the object I felt so precious as to merit the email ($5 clear and white plastic umbrella), but I would have to describe this to, oh, over one hundred people. On the other hand, Akuma Geisha argued, no one but those around you could have taken it and within three hours of leaving it unattended in the first place.

I had to call my resident Japanese etiquette and social mores specialist, the beau, to ask how to appropriately proceed with this. In the end he talked me down from the ledge and the contributing factors to his ruling that I should keep my pretty mouth shut were: a) it was a cheap plastic umbrella, b) the umbrella wasn't taken from my desk and c) raising a fuss that one hundred people are privy to would exacerbate the situation and cause a shit mess. If weighed in Japanese-made scales these three points far outweigh smoking out the culprit. For me however, it is still a toss up and I have made at least ten trips past the umbrella stand to see if it has been returned.

Now here is the tricky question. If I hadn't been in Japan would I have emailed a polite plea for the return of my cheap see-through umbrella? Would you? I clearly understand how A equals B in this situation and upsetting everyone over my umbrella (and they would get upset) is much worse than just me being upset and probably only for the next 24 hours at that. My umbrella was certainly an easy target with no LV or Samantha Thavasa markings indicating it was loved and purchased for a hefty sum, but that doesn't take away from the fact that I still don't have an umbrella to get me home dry if it starts raining again. What can I say, I'm still a fan of 24-hour honne with none of this keep quiet for the greater good tatemae horse shit.


Anonymous said...

I think your anger/reaction is totally justified. I would def. have sent an angry email out to my whole office floor asking them to 'politely' return my hi-jacket umbrella.

It's not the $5 you spent on it - it's the principle of the matter. It's the fact that you may have had to walk in the rain and that it wasnt theirs to take.

But I too like the secretaries you describe keep a small folding umbrella in my handbag anyway so I'm always safe. I don't think anyone would steal umbrella's here in Sydney, Australia...however, they do steal food that isn't theirs from the communal fridge so you never know!

Sarah said...

I'm STILL annoyed at having my good (1200 Y) umbrella swiped at an event last year. I was helping to organize a conference and was the last one to leave the building - only to discover my umbrella had been taken. The only one remaining in the stand was the same colour as mine but much smaller/cheaper and broken to boot. Apparently the colour similarity gave some jerk the right to make off with my umbrella and leave me with one that didn't even keep me dry! Gah! grumble... grumble... grumble!!!

Geeky Black Girl said...

The stealing of food is reprehensible! That happens at my job, too. People just eat whats in the fridge but to me thats not a good idea because you have no idea whats in the food.

Umbrella stealing is common practice around these parts especially in a public arena. I would be angry too if I were you. Angry emails can sometimes get you in trouble, though.

Lisa said...

My husband took this photo at work a few years ago - it is my favorite workplace note and I think you would appreciate it:


I'd be pissed, too, but instead of sending an email I would stalk my coworkers to see who brings in a clear umbrella the next time it rains, then I would slash it with an x-acto and THEN let them see how nice it is to steal when they are walking home in the rain.

Or maybe just complaining to us here on your blog is better for your career!

Corinne said...

Stealing here pisses me right off, just because I expect it of the scumbags back home, but here I think you're right, it was probably just some arrogant bastard.

The seat of my bike was stolen from a school I worked at once (bizzare right, thought I'd had a bit too much LSD with my cornflakes that morning when I discovered it!) I had the principal announce it on the loud speaker and the little bad ass came forward.
You did well to contain yourself, I get the harmony thing but why should someone else get to have their cake and keep it dry too, right?

kathrynoh said...

I dunno, I'm the kind of person who'd take an umbrella without realising it until I got home and had two umbrellas the same. I'm totally flaky with stuff like that.

Maybe next time buy a really distinctive, girlie style brolly so if anyone takes it, it's really obvious.

selena said...

I want 24-hour honne, too.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

I think this stealing of property issue has struck a chord with many.

Anon: It is the principle, I totally agree. Unfortunately though, I would probably just end up looking like a cheap ass if I made a point of having it returned.

Sarah: I think taking someone's umbrella is one of the meanest things to take here, especially given that most people walk rather than drive and you are really left out in the rain without one.

Geeky: Thanks for commenting! An angry email would definitely get me in trouble. In fact, even if I wrote a polite one, playing down the fact that mine was just taken, I would have to deal with all sorts of strange fallout from at least fifty people.

Lisa: It did cross my mind to leave a note on the umbrella stand. But the culprit, now with umbrella, probably wouldn't see it anyway. I also love your thinking RE: office guerilla warfare!!!

Corinne: Interesting that the little shit actually owned up to it. "have their cake and keep it dry too" - perfection!

kathrynoh: Yeah, if I had an umbrella that looked like I put effort into buying it, it wouldn't have gotten snatched. They definitely took it because it was a cheapo one, which is in and of itself a shitty reason to take someone's umbrella.

selena: We should start with public service announcements on this...or maybe posters in the subway.