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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bad Week - At A Loss

Friday Evening 6.15pm : Bus Stop, Ome. Bus to Okasu Station

By the time we left the building, Tokyo's noon heat had faded and a pleasant breeze was teasing the tops of trees, cool on our faces. Twilight was sucking up the last brightness of daytime. Soon it would be night and dinner time, and we would have little time to change and freshen up before we met M***.

M*** who now worked for Taicheebye. Usually worth a giggle, that name, but I could hardly raise a smile.

We had stayed back, we were the last to leave the dark corridors of the office. We had to incorporate some extra slides into our presentation. Slides we hadn't seen in the past months after being told we were to prepare the training, even though it was to start next week. The possibility that they were setting us up to fail tried to squeeze into the paranoia part of my brain, but kindly, perhaps naively, I dismissed the thought and decided that their failings were merely incompetence and inexperience. Although, as I was aware, they had squeezed out M***, our dinner host tonight, the previous trainer, the best one, the only one who could speak English fluently and who knew the product inside and out.

- This really gives the shits. They always have something we don't know about.

- Absolutely. How are we to do proper training if they keep this stuff from us?

- We wouldn't have known about those features if I hadn't seen that PPT from over Z***'s shoulder. Fucking idiots.

The bus was bouncing up the street towards us on its pneumatic suspension. We could see it clearly enough, but its lights were on. I felt in my shirt pocket for my Suica card. I felt in my front trouser pockets, left and right. I felt in my back pocket. The bus was hissing to a stop in front of us, and the rear door opened. I quickly unzipped the front compartment of my bag, felt for the Suica card, found instead my bag of coins. I mounted the bus and sighed.

- Fuck, I've lost my card already.

I had used it this morning. For the train and then for the bus. Where had I left it? In the office somewhere. It must have slipped out of my pocket. Maybe in the toilet.

- Your Suica? Oh no, you lose everything. It's OK you pay when we get to the station.

- Do you still have your phone?

They laughed. I showed them the Samsung smart-phone and pulled a fuck-you face.

- Maybe the card is left on the desk. Or someone picked up it.

- But we were still in the room, they would have asked, surely.

- You should write a note to yourself every time you put something down, or pick it up.

- Tattoo it somewhere.

The staff had rearranged some of the tables in our work room while we were still working on those late slides They had been shuffling tables and chairs around us, trying not to disturb our cables. This was preparation for next week's training. Surely someone would have found the card in all that lifting and rearranging, that exposure of different sections of the floor. They had left before we did.

- Maybe it's with your wallet...

They laughed.

I was embarrassed, resigned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Thursday 6.15pm: Tachikawa Train Station

- You guys should be getting a Suica card. If we are here for over one week, it'll save you fishing into your coin bags all the time. It's 2000Y, I think. I have this one still from last time.

The train was 210Y, the bus 190Y to the office and the same again back to Tachikawa. The trips to the office and back for seven working days of preparation and training would be 2800Y. 2400Y, not counting what I'd already feed the ticket machines today.

- You can top it up the machine; it's just like the eZlink card in Singapore. It lasts I think for five years.

- OK, I'll get one. Where? If I use it correctly, at least the bus-driver won't shout at me, like he did to you.

- I didn't know you had to tap it as you went in.

- Of course you do, freaking idiot. Man, the driver was getting angry. How loud was he getting?

- He's like anyone. The louder you shout the more a foreigner will understand.

- Words get translated automatically at higher volume, everyone knows that.

- He seemed to think so.

- OK, where do I get the card?

- I'll get one too.

- They're at the JR ticket office.

- Can you lend me the money?

- OK I'll pay for you.

When the three of us entered there was one counter already free and no queue so we skipped the winding path of poles and retractable nylon strips and approached the older man directly. He was probably not older than us, but older enough to be called older. He had a little English, not much, but enough so that we didn't need volume to explain what we needed. His ear for English was good enough for him to almost handle our mixed accents (German, Indian, Australian). At first he thought we wanted merely to top up existing Siuca cards. We convinced him that only one of us had a card. We wanted two new ones. He smiled and set two of them up, first one then the other for me.

- One thousand, hundered five. For train. Hundered five. Card. 2000Y, dozo.

We indicated that we wanted receipts. For expenses.

- Domo arrigato.

- Arrigato gozaimahss.

- Do-itashimashite


I placed the Suica card in my shirt pocket.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Thursday Afternoon 5.45pm: Train to Tachikawa Station.

I felt in my right front pocket. I felt in my back pocket. These are the place where I normally might have it. I opened my the front compartment of my bag. Maybe I had slipped it in. When? At lunch? In the bag I found only the bag of coins I had collected over the years and brought with to use for lunch, for the coffee machine, for the bus and train fares. This was not what I wanted. I felt my heart sink. I opened to middle compartment. Nothing except the paper with its unfinished Sudoku puzzle. I closed these compartments and pulled at the zipper of the larger laptop copmpartment. I dug into the rear of the bag behind the laptop. Camera, unused. Two glasses cases. The bag of cables, cords and USB sticks. Didn't I slip it into the rear compartment somewhere, sometime?

I have this vision, this sensation of leather against leather, sliding, but it is all unclear, like the half-remembered flash of a prior deja-vu.

- I can't find my wallet.

My abdomen and thorax hollowed out and my voice choked on the spirit leaving my heart. I was vacant inside, a deserted house.

- What? Is it in the bag? With your cables. Is it in there?

- No. I've fucking looked.

- When did you last have it? Do you remember when you last took some money out? When did you buy something?

- I got coffee from the coffee machine.

Terrible coffee.

- But I was with you then, you had your plastic bag of coins. You paid with the coins.

- Maybe I looked in my wallet first?

- I didn't see that, you used coins from the bag, I am certain.

Massive sigh. Silence. Only the train's rhythmical pounding and something like a distant three-dimensional scream whipping around the inside of my skull.

- Have you used it since you came to Tokyo?

- Of course, I had to pay for the Airport bus. And you know what? I fucking forgot my passport at a shop in the airport. But they still had it. Fuck.

- You're in a bad way. Your mind.

He twirled his finger by his temple. The sign for idiot. He whistled as well and I could hear the sibilance only faintly against the rattle and roar of our carriage, and the buzz of panic in my ears. Every sound seemed to bounce around an echo chamber.

- It must be either still in the office, in one of the rooms we used today. Someone will hand it in. The Japanese never steal anything, it wouldn't be polite...

- Or it's in your hotel. Did you use it after the hotel this morning?.

- I don't know. I can't remember. I'm almost certain I brought it with me. I think I put it into my bag, pretty sure.

The vision of the wallet going into my bag returned. When was that? Last night? This morning. Almost certainly this morning. Or yesterday, before going out for dinner. It's not in my room. I knew already it in my soul. My empty soul. Sigh again, a deep deep sigh, to push away the bad feeling of self-esteem falling through the floor onto the train tracks. One more time I went through my bag. Thorough, like a Japanese bank clerk, everything check, reread, read backwards, three times.

- It must be in your hotel room.

I felt my lacrimal ducts dilate, but swallowed the tears away. I know it's not in my hotel room. I know it's somewhere else. Gone.

- What was in it?

- Amex. Mastercard. Visa. Fuck - my driver's license; I won't be able to rent a car in Australia when I go for the Grand Final. What an arse. 35,000Y. 200 Sing dollars. My golf handicap card.

- Shit, that's a lot of money.

Captain Obvious.

- You'll find it. It'll be somewhere.

No it won't, I thought. It's nowhere, nowhere I can reach it. I couldn't help myself, but the corners of my mouth went down.

I shrugged with a deep sense of embarrassment and resignation.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wednesday 9.15am: Singapore Airport, Terminal 3

- How much this iPod mini-speaker?

- This JBL one $169. This one is better, bigger. $296.

- Is the quality OK on the smaller one. I don't want to carry such a big one. It's for travel.

- Would you like to try it?

- Sure.

He took my iPod and the speaker to a spare power point. I set some ambient stuff from Shpongle and let it play for a minute or two. The music's deep throaty beat and the wandering tonal expressions created a pleasant 'cone of relax' - it swept over me like an oil massage. I smiled, impressed.

- That's good enough. I'll take it.

We moved through the display shelves to the checkout counter. A lady was dealing with another customer, but the POS computer obviously could handle two transactions at once.

- Flight number?

- SQ12.

I showed him my ticket, nestled inside the cover of my leather passport wallet.

- Pay by NETS, OK?

- Can.

I took out my wallet from the side pocket of my cargo shorts. He swiped the card and passed me the small customer console. I typed my pass-code. We waited a second until the Approval beep came through and a baby-printer spat out a stream of paper, as did a second baby-printer. We are swamped by irritatingly unnecessary receipts in this age of distrust and its need for verification. He placed the speaker, within an nearly indestructible plastic mold, into a bag and passed it across. He returned my card and the receipts. I threw little the bits of paper into the bag, just in case the thing failed, and returned my NETS card to my wallet.

- Oh, I'll need another converter plug. For Japan. Yes that's the type. How much?

- Five dollars.

Robbery.

- I pulled a $5 note from the wallet, still in my hand, threw the converter into the bag and walked off without waiting for the receipt, a few micro-grams less burdened.

Through caverns measureless to man, I walked slowly down the enormous halls of T3 past the vast duty-free shopping area between Gates A and Gates B. I often wonder what species of giant creature this terminal was meant to house.

The 20 minute limit was approaching for boarding my plane. As I approached my gate (B3), I quickly took my briefcase and the duty-free bag from the small trolley, placed my phone in the briefcase. The guy at the front of the queue was taking forever.

Why do people never get ready for the security queue? They wait until they are the front. THEN they take off their jacket. THEN then take the keys from their pocket. They always neglect to take their laptop out of the bag until the security person asks them if the have a laptop in their bag. Oh, did they forget that? They go to walk away and the security officer asks if they have mobile phone. They come back take their phones out and place them in a tray. They decide to take their shoes off. The decide to take off their belt, their jewelry. And then try to walk through with their pack-pack still over their shoulders, or with their purse. They still beep as they go through. They have water bottles in their carry-on.

Sigh.

As I finally moved towards the front I felt my side pocket for my passport. Empty. I went to my front pocket, my back pocket. Shit. My guts dropped. At the shop.

I walked quickly all the way back, a journey that reinforced my annoyance at the architects of this building. The lady saw me coming back into the duty-free electronics store and smiled as she held my passport wallet and boarding in front of her.

She thought I was an idiot.

I shrugged my shoulders and pulled a face of resignation and embarrassment.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Sunday 3.40pm: Phuket International Terminal

D**** was sweating, his face red. It was another hot day in Phuket, but we were leaving after quick weekend holiday. We were in fact at the check-in counter with only 35 minutes before our flight to Singapore was due to ascend into the crystal pure azure sky and home for a few days, before my trip to Tokyo.

ED*** and I had pushed the time limit with a final massage in Beach Rd. D**** had gone to Starbucks, had a coffee, tried to get WiFi on the phone. He had lookedup and seen the time. He knocked back the last of his coffee, picjed up his backpack and walked quickly to the Soi where we were to meet. It took a few minutes to find a taxi ready to take us to the airport for a reasonable fee, and even then he put on a surcharge because we were all big guys. Time was getting tight for our ride to the airport. But we got there, the taxi driver hitting 120km/hr whenever he wasn't stuck at a 120sec red traffic light.. ED*** and I had our bags x-rayed and went to counter first. D**** was still outside at the taxi for some reason. Then he was behind us, puffing...

- Don't laugh.

----------

D****'s Blackberry was almost brand new. He had it only two weeks. He'd lost the other one. We all had our phones on the table-top next to our beers. We were in Molly Malone's for lunch. I couldn't find the Samsung to find the same hotspot that the others had had no trouble getting. I took my phone up and down the pub but couldn't find the one called 'Office'. I sighed. D**** and ED*** compared their Blackberry'a to see which had the most recent operating system. ED*** took out his iPad and played Angery Birds, and a few rounds of Words With Friends.

- I've lost eight phones in the last two years.

- Fuck. That's what? One every three months. What does work say.

- They pay up for a new one.

He shrugged, chuckled.

----------

- Don't laugh.

D**** wiped at the sweat on his forehead. When I looked at him, I saw a hint of embarrassment and resignation in his expression . ED*** faced him and raised his right eyebrow. We both knew what he about to say. ED*** cocked his head, which together with that raised eyebrow threw him into parental mode. He had no kids to discipline, but he had all the moves.

- What have you done?

Pause.

- I've lost my phone.

A laugh burst forth, nothing I could do. I couldn't believe it, after all our conversations about lost phones, after I told him about mine traveling in a taxi around Kata Beach for the last three years. What a prize goose, I thought.

Imagine losing things so often. I couldn't credit it, what a drama. I slapped him on the shoulder.

- You're an idiot. No doubt about it...


E@L

11 comments:

The Bludger said...

Had a Memento moment as I read this, the time warping was spinning me out.

expat@large said...

Memento? Really? Fancy that!

savannah said...

i am sooooooonot going to complain about my week, sugar! ;~D xoxoxoxoxoxo

scott said...

I got a little lost in the backwards and forwards of time also Phil.

Initially I thought you have left the wallet in your shorts and you found it again at the airport on the way home. I have done somewhat similar while travelling leaving stuff in jackets I did not wear again until a change of climate.

Well written though, I enjoyed it.

expat@large said...

Sav: nor me.

Scott: so the days and times didn't clue you in. I actually wrote if the other way, then simply(!) moved each section to give a reverse flow and then put in the Memento hint as an afterthought..

Glad you enjoyed it.

Keep those cards letters and approbations coming in folks. We narcissists need them.

The Bludger said...

Memento hint? that went right over my head and I still can't see it.
Thought I had come to that point of view with out hints,
Your subtlety must elevate you to genius class.

savannah said...

damn, i missed the momento moment, too! *sigh* my only excuse is...i'm under duress, yeah, that's it...not that i'm complaining, sugar. by the by, where's indy these days? xoxoxooxoxo

(i've been tasked with a meme and you and indy will be mentioned!!)

DanPloy said...

In my limited experience this sort of malaise is brought about by discontentment. With what is for you to discover. But if you feel you are being undermined in your job that might be a place to start looking.

Maybe time to move on.

expat@large said...

Sav: I'm just happy y'all had a look at it!

Dan: or maybe it's time to TAKE OVER!

That bit was overdramatized for, um dramatic purposes.

BTW - all has gone very well with the training; feedback has been excellent, support was been terrific, sake has been junmai daiginjo.

scott said...

So in the end you recover the lost wallet and the whole episode is not only hopefully and lesson for you. But also motivation and fodder for the writing ambitions.

How would Bruce have reacted given a similar set of circumstances?

expat@large said...

Scott: I did learn how supportive my friends in Singapore are. They jumped in with offers to bail me out, as it were, straight away.

Great bunch of people. Don't go champagne brunching with them if you want to lose weight though, OMG! - put on 2kg yesterday and most of that is headache.

We started 11:30am, finished I don't know when. Maybe 11pm or so. Did I post last night? Send any emails? Call my mother? Make a move in my chess games?

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