Monday, February 8, 2010

Postcard from the Kaisha #1056

Just when I thought I could use the word "swimmingly" when asked how work is going, the movers came to the Kaisha. Both Secretaries in my quad finished their periods of banishment in my gaijin ghetto and have been moved elsewhere. While I was rather pleased to no longer have to worry about carefully and sloooowly easing tissues out of the box so as not to make a sound, or only selecting silent foods (read: baby food) to eat at my desk, my noise-ridden paradise was short lived.

I started getting suspicious when my Secretary, who has been known to ignore me for weeks on end, started wiping down the desk opposite me. Why bother foreshadowing when you know where this is leading, where it always leads, to me feeling constrained and fucked and not in a kinky way. Minutes later Sunshine, the only Secretary who smiles genuinely at me with any frequency, started bringing stuff over to the other empty space. Being a normal functioning human being, she told me that she would be moving into my neighbourhood. This does not bother me, in fact, I am even secretly thrilled that maybe, ten months from now, we will go for lunch. Meanwhile, my Secretary is now carting stuff over to the desk that lies just over a very low barrier from mine. As obvious as her aversion to me is, I figured social mores would win out and she would at least throw a mumble my way to the effect that she will now be, for all intents and purposes, facing me for a stretch of hours every day. Call me naive, but she didn't make a peep at me, so I am back to pretending that she doesn't exist.

This occurred on Friday and over the weekend, I somehow managed to forget about the whole situation. When I say "somehow," I mean two nights in a row of imbibing that left me with a bruise of unknown origins (first time in ages, YAY!), a memory of a broken wine glass underheel set to a Rhianna song and a conversation with a man from Egypt during a short stint in a hookah bar. And of course, no memory of late Friday. Imagine my sheer and unbridled joy when I rocked up to my desk on Monday morning and found sparkly stuffed toys lining the demilitarized zone.

It has now been two days and both mornings it has been me that initiates the Good Morning Exchange with my Secretary. This would be possibly forgivable if she was arriving before me, but such is not the case. I am engrossed in work when she arrives and only when I wish her a pleasant morning does she do the same, without looking at me. I can only conclude that something is actually wrong with her, socially or mentally. She obviously cannot cope in simple interactions with me and although I feel affronted by her extremely off behaviour, by both Japanese and Western standards, there is not a whole lot I can do. Whether she is scared of me, disgusted by me or just plain socially retarded, I have giving up trying to figure it out and am now turning to religion, praying for her short stay in what was my solitary confinement.


Beth said...

i was gonna say she's obviously nuts and it's a good idea to let it go, but now i think it'd be better if you played it obnoxiously nice and friendly until she either flips out at you or you figure out what her problem is.

RMilner said...

Is this Secretary actually your secretary? I mean is she supposed to do secretary stuff like filing and typing out letters and making travel bookings for you?

Is she just an OL who got stuck in the same block of cubicles as you?

kathrynoh said...

Stuffed toys at work = nuts. I've found this to be true.

Coop said...

She is scared of catching your "blond hair" as we all know this is a very deadly disease. You have fun with friend, go out to parties, and wake up with unknown bruises that have odd shapes.

Sorry I guess it just not done in Japan but I would ask wtf is up likely scaring the crap out of her.

selena said...

It sounds like she's simply an asshole. Sorry. You get those sometimes.

Elaine said...

Yup, I'd say she's probably just a jerk, Japanese-style. Take the high road and keep on greeting her; "homegoroshi" is a fine Japanese tradition. Otherwise ignore her. I know it's tough when somebody like that sits right across from you, but at least she's silent.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Beth: I like that idea and that's kind of how I have been playing it. I'm finding it difficult though to be overly nice to someone so obviously repelled by me!

RMilner: She is, although her primary job is working for someone more important than me. There are things she has to do for me, but it's not an extensive list by any stretch, and I try not to ask her for anything.

kathrynoh: It's a slippery slope once Disney is in the picture.

Coop: Interesting theory, but I'm sporting dark hair these days. I guess I should give her a week's warning when I go back to blond in a couple months so she can buy masks and lotion!!

selena: Then she is an insidious asshole! The problem is, she doesn't give off a bitch vibe at all, just a jumpy little bird vibe. I can't deal with her because I can't figure out the nature of the beast!

Elaine: Agreed, that is probably best for all involved. I guess she didn't like the stuffed moose I brought her from Canada...

Bec said...

Growing up in HK (not Japan, but maybe close enough in Asian-ness to be relevant), I was a very bubbly child until I started going to school and being taught to be silent around authority figures.

I don't even remember it (traumatic memory suppression perhaps?), but from what I hear I was punished a lot in school for speaking out of turn (this was back in the day when school authority figures were allowed to hit the children). I guess eventually keeping my mouth shut just became a reinforced habit.

When I first moved to Canada at the age of 10, the principal at my new school thought I was a problem child in need of a shrink because I didn't talk to her. Not even to say good morning or anything. I didn't make eye contact. I just tried to stay out of the way and fly under the radar.

As far as I know she never had any concerns about the many bullies at that school. But a quiet kid? Yeah, that's a huge problem, apparently.

I wonder if this secretary had similar schooling. Only her education on being seen and not heard didn't stop and suddenly take a turn in the opposite direction at the age of 10 like mine did.

Because of this personal experience, I don't automatically assume the quiet people are rude and stuck-up, that they're being hateful, or that they have mental problems. They're preferable to the people who blather on all day long, keep asking pesky questions, and don't process anything with their limited brain cells before letting it out of their mouths.

Quiet people try not to demand anything from others. They're just kind of there doing their own thing and trying not to be a nuisance. Is that such a crime?

The people you really have to watch your back around are the schmoozers.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Bec: I appreciate the different perspective and don't disagree. However, I have observed the people I write about for quite some time now and can assure you I'm not making assumptions of mental issues or rudeness based on their being simply quiet. These women are methodically ostracizing me and showing me that I don't deserve the most basic modicums of respect deemed appropriate in Japanese society/workplace. There are quiet secretaries and then there are the ones I describe here and they are very hard to confuse.