Are You Smug?

He glances his wrist watch and apologizes, “I’m so sorry for talking too much and didn’t realize it’s been past 11:00 p.m. already. Thank you so much for giving me advice and encouraging me to make a decision. I’ll do my best to achieve my goal. And of course, I’ll try to read Demian. Are you coming to the office tomorrow? See you tomorrow, Mr. Onoe.”

“Have a good night and take care, Mr. Yano!”

Instead of going to Sibuya Station, I run on the streets aimlessly as fast as I can carry my legs in order to punish myself, for I am angry with myself beyond rage. Uncontrolled tears are coming down my face, because I am so humiliated and ashamed with my attitude toward Mr. Yano. I start talking aloud to myself angrily, “Do you have a right to encourage and give advice to him when you are incurably dispirited and constantly feel ennui? Are you smug? Have you completely lost your dignity? Have you let yourself be degraded so shamelessly? Don’t you have any pride in yourself anymore? Shame on you, you fatuous!” I am rushing through people violently, and I do not care what people think of my strange behavior. As soon as I find a bench on Dougenzaka Street, I collapse down on it. I am so ashamed, because everything I said to him was actually for me. I desperately needed to encourage myself tonight, but it obviously was not for him. I have been helplessly trapped in Japan myself, and it has become impossible for me to escape from here. Therefore, I need to encourage myself to stand up and give myself a gentle push to follow my destiny. I did not encourage him tonight; he encouraged me tonight with his shower of admiration for me, which I do not deserve. What he has seen in me is beyond my comprehension, but the important discovery is that even though I was downhearted, my words had the power to inspire him. I am so glad that I had the dinner with him tonight and am glad to know that even in Japan I can find a fellow who is so innocent and has a lot of curiosity about life. Thank you very much, Mr. Yano, I will do my best to improve myself to write this anecdote in my book, so that someday you will know that it is you who unconsciously encouraged me and saved my life when I was in the bottomless pit. I hope that in the near future, you can go to Vancouver to find a satisfying job and escape from Japanese working conditions that you hate from the bottom of your heart. Good luck to you, Mr. Yano, I know that you will see the world someday! I want to show you that you are right about me, but I still do not know how.

You Will Become a Great Writer Someday

“Yes, you are always right and enlighten me. I think you are very intelligent and are a very strong person. I mean your inside. You are completely different from other Japanese who I’ve met in my life so far. I’m sorry for reaching the conclusion by myself so soon, but I can’t refrain myself from saying that it’s a torture for you to stay in Japan, since no Japanese are intelligent enough to understand you. I wish someday I can have a strong faith in myself as you. Where do you get such wonderful ideas? From books, perhaps? By the way, I’ve been reading Brothers Karamazov, which you recommended to me, but it’s very difficult for me to understand because of numerous characters. It’s very interesting though…. I know you always feel at home with difficult books. You’re a truly extraordinary person, Mr. Onoe. With your high intelligence and incredible experiences, I have no doubt in my mind that you will become a great writer someday, and it will be real pleasure for me to read your books in the future.”

I am little embarrassed by hearing such passionate praises from my fellow countryman and say, “I’m not as good as you think of me. I myself, too, am still seeking the answer. By the way, have you ever heard of the name Hermann Hesse? You should try to read Demian, which will help you to understand the importance of having individuality in one’s life. I should go because I have to catch a train.”

The Wide World Is Waiting for You

I am astonished at his tirade toward Japan and am feeling that it is my duty to give hope to my fellow sufferer, like Moses preaching multitude: “Mr. Yano, I’ve never seen such mean people around the world except in Japan. Japanese are disgustedly mean and hopelessly ignorant. They think Japan is the best country without actually seeing the world. They think Japanese culture, Japanese society system, Japanese education system, Japanese government, and Japanese way of life are better than other countries. But all of them are ignorant. They’ve never seen the world and have only Japanese friends. Thus, unfortunately, it’s impossible for them to grasp that there are other way of lives around the world and even better ways, since they’ve only known of Japanese way of life. They think about everything from the point of the Japanese way of understanding, which they simply can’t help.”

I light a cigarette and continue, “The worst part is that they refuse acknowledge that there actually exist better cultures around the world than Japanese culture. Small guys’ pride, I guess. It’s wasting time for you to argue with Japanese dolts, because as soon as you mention Mexico, Canada, Europe, they’ll start ignoring you, push you away, and bash: ‘Here is Japan. Why are you talking about other countries? We don’t care about other countries, since Japan is the best. If you despise Japan, why don’t you leave here immediately? What are you doing here, man? Here is no place for you.’ See, it’s perfectly a waste of time for you to argue with them. You just try to explain them that there are other ways of life around the world, but as soon as they hear you mention the name of other countries, they’ll get angry and make you stop talking by shaking their heads contemptuously, for they don’t want to admit their ignorance. My advice is, Mr. Yano: ignore Japanese bastards as much as you can and concentrate on what you desire in your heart to achieve in your life. Of course, you can have your own dream which nobody has a right to take away from you. For that reason, why don’t you just save money and go see the world? The wide world is waiting for you! If you really want to see the world, you can do it, because nobody can make you to stop following your own destiny if you have a strong determination and a little faith in yourself.”

She Was Just Screaming

“The clients always get angry when they can’t receive services they expect. My client was complaining about our services with angry words, and I simply couldn’t endure being insulted so much. Therefore, I was starting to pretend not to hear clearly what he was saying and said to him that it was impossible for me to hear what he was saying due to disturbed noise on the phone, so he had to call us back, and I hung up. Of course, I heard every single word he uttered as clearly as a church bell, but I just couldn’t be insulted and agitated over the phone anymore. But the worst part came later. Ms. Yamada happened to listen to my conversation with my client over her telephone at her desk. As soon as I hung up, she came to my desk, scowled at me in a hysterical fashion, and made me write an apology letter to her boss. I tried to explain why I hung up the phone, but she didn’t listen to anything and even didn’t give me a chance to open my mouth. She was just screaming, screaming at me with hysterical threats. You know, every company in Japan has the same ludicrous working conditions. Your bosses don’t listen to what you think and don’t care about your feelings, because they only comprehend the things that are written on a company’s manual. If I say something that is not written in the manual, they will be angry and threaten me to be mum. When the situation is required to control employees, they will just become angry and threaten employees to do this or that. They will never have a human talk. Their behaviors are so silly to me. They are like a five-years-old child who always screams and cries whenever he wants something. I sometimes wonder if I can find a workplace with decent people in Japan who have an ability to talk about any sort of circumstances, without losing temper. But it’s a sheer dream to me now. Mr. Onoe, tell me, in the world, can I find a job with decent people and a friendly ambiance? I really want to try to find a job in Canada or another country.”

It’s Not the Life I Want

He suddenly stops talking, looks at me apologetically, and says, “Sorry, Mr. Onoe, I’m talking too much, and it seems to me that I myself have only been talking so far. I’m worried whether I’m boring or tiring you, perhaps?”

I smile at his innocence and say, “Don’t worry, Mr. Yano, I’m enjoying it. My ears are all yours. Go on!”

“Ms. Yamada’s attitude toward me and my colleagues makes me mad beyond my control,” he is fuming, “she thinks we are not human beings, just a cog of a gigantic machine. I’ve tried to be patient and tried to ignore her, but it’s beyond my limit. Only heaven knows how she is able to sleep at night after sharing her malevolence with telephone operators, so atrociously. Everyone hates her and can’t stand her, which is the universal truth. Do you know, Mr. Onoe, why I’ve asked to transfer to another position? I just don’t want to see her anymore and can no longer endure hearing her hysterical voice. She always comes to me and yells at me because of my slowness. I always try to do my best and want to work my own rhythm, but she constantly pressures me. She always tells me that average telephone operators pick up twenty-five phone calls per day, but I always pick up ten to fifteen phone calls a day. Therefore, I’d better work harder; otherwise, she can’t let me stay here. It’s impossible for me to enjoy working under her constant threats. Every morning, I feel so depressed going to work. It’s not the life I want. Five days ago, a terrible incident happened. Of course, you know, sometimes clients demand too much from us and complain about our services with a shower of insulting words. That happened to me five days ago.”