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Saturday, November 10

Japanese Peculiarities #2

Jobs in Japan take on some interesting forms. I have often wondered if there is such a low unemployment rate here because people are sometimes given such ridiculously small jobs just to keep them out of unemployment lines. Are there even unemployment lines here? I honestly have no idea, but I have never seen one or heard about them.

The greatest thing I notice about these jobs, that foreigners see as tedious, redundant or even a bit meaningless, is that the man or woman doing them always takes such great pride in it. For everything they do, big and small, it is down with such care and awareness. Perhaps this is all a testament to the fact that Japanese society is so conforming and therefore so cohesive. Every person does their share and every person reaps the rewards. But sometimes what is so odd to me is still the job they are doing or often how they are doing it.

There is the ever present traffic director working either on some street corner, or directing traffic around a construction site or even the traffic guy that directs people out of the department store parking lot. You will find them wearing their ever present, pristine white gloves as they point you to and fro. Is it really necessary to have a traffic director at the entrance and exit of every department store? If you can’t handle getting out of the parking lot, perhaps you shouldn’t be driving. There was the guy last week hanging from the power lines right off of my balcony for several hours. Everything he needed for the hours that he hung there were in a basket in front of him. If you were this man, wouldn’t you get tired of hanging there and instead just crawl back down the ladder to get the next tool, actually using the excuse as a guise for rest and a cigarette break? There are the people that drive around at all hours with their loudspeakers on top of their trucks spewing out political or sales garble or whatever it is they want me to understand but can’t. Is spreading this information really so necessary and influential to the buyer or constituent that they need to start at 7 in the morning and work until sometimes 9 at night driving slow up and down each street so you are sure to hear the message for a good twenty minutes?

And then there was my favorite job last week. On the main route through Zushi, a crew was resurfacing the road. Typically when they are doing road work, there is also a white gloved man pointing you around the site. This time, when a man was actually necessary, there was no one. Instead there was a man with a canister and a tube shooting out some sort of flammable gas. Do you know those temporary strips they put down before they paint the road? This guy was burning them off with his little tube. This seems perfectly acceptable right? The problem was… he was doing so less than two feet from my tailpipe! As the light had changed, I had made my way past the intersection to a stop. This man rushes out behind me and starts shooting the flammable substance directly behind my car. If he was feeling tired, he could have sat down on the read bumper while he worked. The hell? Is this safe?!? I watched flaming pieces of material floating around in the breeze behind my car and couldn’t help but worry about the next time I step on the gas. Would it be enough to ignite my car and consequently myself on fire too? The man was wearing protective gear, but I wasn’t and my car that also shoots out flammable gas sure as hell wasn’t.

Remember the guy last year with the open flame in the back of his truck as he drove down the road? And remember the guy lighting a cigarette as he drove down the road on his scooter? I seriously think someone needs to reconsider using open flames on the roads here.


Heather Meadows said...

Eek, that's scary!

Mike S said...

When I was there we always had a small group of folks whose jobs had been eliminated and they were close to retirement, so there were a number of 'make work' positions to be filled. When the positions were well staffed it was like working in luxurious surroundings it was so well-maintained.