This Will Week-End You

, , , , | Working | August 22, 2019

(My company provides English tutoring in Japan, and we are contracted to work a certain number of days each month. If we are unable to work but have no sick days or vacation days available, we are asked to trade a later day off. If we choose not to do that, our pay is docked accordingly as we are not working the contracted number of days. [Coworker #1] does not seem to get this. He’s only been here a couple of months, but he’s constantly calling out, and [Coworker #2], who follows [Coworker #1]’s social media accounts, says she’s seen him posting pictures of himself at clubs or in other cities on some of the days he claims he’s sick. Finally, one day, a few of us are hanging out and he starts complaining about things.)

Coworker #1: “Man, I’m so broke… I have to go pay my electricity bill tonight, but I don’t know if I’ve got enough money to buy food next week…”

Coworker #2: “Didn’t you just go to a club last night? Maybe you should cut down on things like that until you’ve got a little more money saved up.”

Coworker #1: “But this job is just so boring! I have to have something fun to do on my days off. But yeah… I guess you’re right. It just sucks that they tell you that you’ll be getting [salary] and then they do everything they can not to give it to you.”

Coworker #3: “What do you mean by that?”

Coworker #1: “You know, they tell you they pay [salary], but then they cut your pay when you get sick.”

Me: “They only cut your pay if you’re working fewer days than you’re scheduled for. Didn’t you call out like eight times last month? How many of those did you use sick days for? Or make up later?”

Coworker #1: “Well, yeah, but I wasn’t feeling good! I’m all out of sick days. I didn’t make them up, but that’s another piece of bulls***! They tell you that you get 117 days off and then they don’t want you to use them!”

Coworker #2: “Uh, dude. You realize those are your regular days off, right? Not vacation days.”

Coworker #1: “What?!”

Me: “That’s weekends and holidays. We get a total of 117 regular days off during the year. Then, we get [number] sick days and [number] vacation days. Did… did you think you got 117 vacation days to just take off whenever?”

Coworker #1: “Well, yeah, that’s what the contract makes it sound like!”

Coworker #3: “No. No, it isn’t. Go back and read your contract again.”

(We’ve been trying to give him advice and encouragement from the start, but between how often he calls out and how unenthusiastic he seems about the job in general, we’re not expecting him to last much longer.)

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Giajin-People Problems

, , , , , | Friendly | May 5, 2019

I had the opportunity to study abroad in Japan while I was in college. During our orientation week, one of the staff volunteers mentioned that those of us who were taller might get some extra attention, but not to worry about it. I didn’t think much about it, because I’m average height by Japanese standards, until random events like the ones below started happening to the taller students in the group:

1) While visiting a Japanese onsen — public bathhouse — my friend, who was at least 5’10”, had just removed her robe and was about to step into the water — we’re both women, so we were on the women’s side of the onsen — when a tiny, elderly Japanese lady popped out of the water and hustled over to us, completely naked. I thought, at first, that maybe we had forgotten to do one of the pre-bathing steps and she was warning us, but when she reached us she stretched up as far as she could and patted the air somewhere around my friend’s shoulder.

“Takai!” she said, which means “big/tall.” She giggled, and then quickly hopped back into the onsen where her friends were all cracking up.

2) Another friend of mine in the group, a man, was over six feet tall, and had long hair down to his shoulders. One day, we were waiting for a crosswalk sign to change when a group of Japanese middle-school-aged girls ran up to me, asking if they could take a picture with him. I said they’d have to ask him, and he was usually a good sport about that kind of thing, so I ended up with five phones and cameras shoved into my hands to take pictures of them with my friend. I don’t know if they thought he was a celebrity or were just excited to take a picture with a tall foreigner, but they were so happy.

3) When the same male friend was going through the airport on a flight from Japan to Korea, he got pulled over to the bag inspection table, but when the customs agents pulled out a pair of his shoes they forgot about the check and instead spent a few minutes talking about how big his shoes were! That was it; they didn’t pull anything else out of the bag.

Overall, there were never any negative encounters for my taller friends, except for maybe not fitting comfortably in some spaces, and house slippers never fitting.

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Wheelchairs, Trains, And Automobiles

, , , , | Hopeless | April 26, 2019

My parents came to visit me in Japan. On the second day of us all being together, we were walking through the hotel garden and my mom hurt her foot. She iced it as soon as we got back to our room, but an hour later she couldn’t put any weight on it. The hotel we were staying at organized a taxi for us to a local hospital that had an ER open at midnight. We got there and the doc and nurse that cared for my mom spoke English. It was midnight and they had English-speaking staff on duty!

When they wheeled my mom into the ER from the waiting room, she had an anxiety attack, so back to the empty waiting room we went for the rest of her care. In the end, she had broken her foot — her big toe really. There was nothing that could be done for that but for her to stay off it.

Yeah, right. Day two of a two-week vacation in Japan? Ha! We rented crutches for the next two weeks and borrowed the hotel wheelchairs wherever we stayed.

After getting back to the hotel, the staff there were able to organize a rental wheelchair for us for our week in Kyoto.

Before Kyoto was Hiroshima. Our hotel was basically connected to the train station by a long walkway. Dad contacted the hotel, and two employees met us at the ticket gates with a luggage trolley and a wheelchair. At the end of our stay, one pushed Mom to the station as Dad and I had the luggage. Dad used the wheelchair to get Mom up to the shinkansen waiting room and returned the empty chair to the hotel staff member.

In Kyoto, the rental company delivered the wheelchair to the door of our B&B and collected it from Kyoto station, after we wheeled Mom up to the shinkansen platform.

After returning to Tokyo from Kyoto, Mom made her way to a waiting room. I went from ticket gate to ticket gate to get a wheelchair to get her from the shinkansen waiting room to the local train line. The employee wheeled her from the waiting line to the ticket transfer gate where two local line employees met us. One pushed Mom and the other lead the way, breaking traffic. It was over 700m to get to our train and Mom would never have made it on her crutches.

At the train, Mom was asked to sit on the train seat and the ladies took the wheelchair. At our exit, another employee was there with a wheelchair. She took us to the Tokyo Monorail line where we had another employee and chair. He got Mom onto the monorail where yet again there was an employee waiting with a chair for Mom.

Japan is nowhere near as wheelchair friendly as the US. People here have smaller personal bubbles and got too close to my mom for her comfort, but the level of care my mom got from train and hotel employees was amazing.

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It’s Good For The Boss That You Have Internal Filters

, , , | Working | March 18, 2019

(I work as an intern in the lab. One of my jobs is filtrate mud to separate clear water from solid particles. This batch’s mud is exceptionally thick and the filter paper tears easily, so I use two layers of paper per filtration, as my supervisor recommended. It means a filtration that usually takes half an hour now takes two to three hours, but it is the only way to get it done properly. The boss of the lab pops up and see me preparing the layers. He is not a great listener and thinks he is always right.)

Boss: “Why are you doing it this way? It’s going to take forever! You only need one filter paper.”

Me: “I need to use two this time or it doesn’t filter properly. [Supervisor] told me—“

Boss: “Don’t be ridiculous. Here, let me show you.”

(I internally cringe, as him doing experiments always results in me and my supervisor spending hours cleaning after him, and I just know this time is not going to be any different. But he is my boss, so I let him to it and go work on other tasks. I keep an eye on him for twenty minutes and see him struggle and keep tearing the filter paper, mud going through instead of clear water. He finally “has something urgent to do in his office,” which is my cue to clean up the huge mess. I try my best to scoop mud from the flasks and everything the boss used as quickly and efficiently as possible, so we can still analyze the sample before it dries up. Seeing the disaster, my supervisor gives up what he is doing and helps me. As we are finishing up, the boss comes back from his urgent matter. He looks at us cleaning for a little while and tell us patronizingly:)

Boss: “Yes, you see, for this batch, you should use two layers of filter or it goes everywhere! Remember it for next time.”

(He promptly exited and let us bask in his wisdom.)

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Need A Worst Customer Of The Day? Hold My Beer

, , , , | Right | February 22, 2019

(It is fifteen minutes before I clock out and a few tables have just emptied, so I am cleaning up as much as possible before I leave the bar understaffed to catch the last train home. Three men are ready to order, so I drop everything to take their order of two whiskeys and a beer. They don’t ask for anything with their whiskey so I bring it to them neat and go back to cleaning up. The guy drinking beer calls me over and starts in on me angrily.)

Beer Drinker: “Is this how you serve in this place?”

Me: “Yes?”

(I don’t know what he wants but he is gesturing at the whiskey, so I assume ice.)

Beer Drinker: “This is horrible service! This is not how you serve customers! Where is the ice?”

Me: “You didn’t ask for ice, so I assumed you wanted it neat.”

Beer Drinker: “This is not how you should treat a customer! Where is the owner?! How dare you treat me like this! You are a horrible waitress! How long have you been here? You’re new. aren’t you?! You won’t be here for long…”

(He just continues on his tirade while I continue cleaning tables nearby. His friends who are actually going to drink the whiskey try to stop him but he isn’t stopping.)

Me: “If you have a problem with the service here, you are welcome to leave. I am not obligated to serve rude customers with a smile. You did not say, ‘please,’ or, ‘thank you.’ I gave you what you asked for, so if that’s still not good enough for you, then there’s the door.”

(The beer drinker at this point starts swearing at me, and his friends start to drag him away. At the door, he yells, “F*** off!” at me. Since they haven’t touched their drinks I yell back.)

Me: “Bye! Thanks for the drinks!”

(Staff got free whiskey and beer out of it.)

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