Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Snow Boots

Monday, January 24, 2011

Empty Suitcase - $3,000

This week had been off as usual. Since I started working at the office, I feel constantly drained of energy and never seem to recharge. I try to enrich myself with green tea, chocolate, or leg warmers; but Tuesday, out of nowhere I had serious back pains. As my depression might be returning, I ended up suffering a massive fever on Friday and hosted a party of influenza throughout the weekend.

My death metal hubby chased me with TheraFlu, heating pads, and that incessantly beeping thermometer.
But I screamed that “I really want to be sick! Leave me alone!” My hubby left my sleeping body and cranky disposition to watch the NFC championship game Sunday at his parent’s house. I think that it was the best decision that he ever made.

Maybe my karma caught up with me because my body was not well rested. I had several mistakes at work the day before the fever. I accidentally ordered a large amount of custom tool holders last fall, and I started Thursday morning in my boss’ office trying to answer why a bunch of tool holders were shipping all the way from Japan without an order.

I would not like to be asked, “Why?” I did admit that it is 80% my fault because I wrote an email that read, “Please make them” in ambiguous Japanese, instead of specifically asking for a price quotation. I really meant, “If the customer has the particular request, can you make them?”

Anyway, it was already too late. The tools were made, packed, and waiting to cross the Pacific Ocean. I also had to tell the company that made the stuff about the mistake, writing an email that read in ambiguous, yet polite Japanese with smiley faces: “You and I had a misunderstanding. Since this is a custom part and we cannot sell it to anyone other than the vender in question, please give us a special discount and hold it in your warehouses until further notice.” At least my company was still going through with it and paying them, despite a beginner's mistake.

I wish that all Japanese people communicated in English when they have business with English language-based companies. If I wrote the email in English and did not have to translate alphabets and sentence structures, this misunderstanding would not have occurred. But the problem is that I still have a difficult time critically thinking in Japanese and explaining technical processes in English.

My company tries to reduce 1% of our costs; however, this mistaken order cost about $3,000. I am kind of relieved that the tool was not as expensive as other products we normally deal with. Some tools are madly expensive—like three new German cars expensive—but $3,000 is still more than my monthly salary.

As if that wasn’t enough for a Friday morning, I also had to answer the question, “Why have we have not received stock numbers from Japan?”

I wanted to plead, “Please stop asking me why I totally forgot to email this same Japanese company yesterday about the stock because my brain is still stuck on last fall…” Because of the time zone difference, if I accidentally go home without emailing Japan by 6:00pm in Eastern Time, I cannot receive answers from Japan the next day because our morning hours start after everything over there closes.

I wonder how ancient international business people communicated and exchanged stock information without emails. My grandfather was a trader during World War II in China. I am amazed at his customers’ patience. Modern customers cannot seem to wait seven hours for anything, let alone two weeks.

“I will be careful next time,” is all I can say right now. Then I try to refresh my mind and be ready for next Monday. I need to be positive, especially working in a cubicle.

With that built-up aggravation, I suddenly wanted to eat a whole chicken. I purchased an organic, cage-free chicken at a local store and dumped it into a pressure cooker. After fifteen minutes of cooking and some cooling, I ate it with soy-sauce and wasabi. I ate 3/4 of it and shared the other 1/4 with my cat and hubby. We performed a toast with the chicken bones to my job for letting me pay my rent.

Then, before I can even hear a cock-a-doodle-doo from my stomach, I start my car’s engine and head to the office. It is freezing this Chicago morning.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Empty Suitcase + Wrench
No. 51

Happy New Year! It has been a long time since updating my real life inspired but grossly exaggerated stories. (Thank you very much to the nine people who still visit my blog!) Well, I am still writing poetry, but not very much. I instead write business emails in Japanese a lot.

I am working for in the live tool industry supporting engineers and purchasing wrenches, more wrenches, and other wrench-like parts that I have never seen before in my life. The live tool industry makes tools for cutting or shaping metal, wood, and other industrial substances. Industries such as cars, cellular phones, pots, and everything that we often use need the live tools to create their products.

I am sure it is one of the more important, but overlooked jobs in human history. I am basically now a typical, hard working Japanese office worker who devotes their life to increasing quarterly profits and streamlining mass production; just like my father, who had a serious cerebral hemorrhage last summer. Basically, an easily replaceable human cog in the machine.

The company’s—therefore my—only interest is to generate 1% more profit, so workers and their families don’t later find themselves out in the streets, which are pretty cold now in Chicago. This also allows me to pay my rent and support my death-metal hubby and cat with organic carrots.

It is obvious that this world is completely unlike the one I used to belong to. But in a way, the live tool industry is poetic. I like reading tool holders’ drawings and am amazed how human technology creates the modern world; especially aerospace and military achievements, even stuff used by some terrorists. If people use live tools in appropriate ways, humanity’s quality of life is improved. But if live tools are misused, they can really create some social blow outs.

I feel that I am a well paid student who learns business and technology under professional people. I believe that the knowledge will open up the next big door in my life. After working at this company for six months, I am happy to say I am progressing.

At first, I did not know how to use a wrench (appropriately anyway); however, now I am familiar with nearly any sized wrench— some wrenches are as heavy as my legs— and know which applications they were designed for from the top of my head. In addition, I can read dozens of technical drawings for them and have even purchased seventy eight wrenches last year (for the company, it is not replacing my spatula fetish).

My personal purchasing habits are even improving as a result. Before, I could have bought stuff without looking at its price tags, like my grandmother in a clothing store, or my mother, who would primarily notice of the prices of things from her credit card statement.

However, after learning standard Japanese business practices, I now hunt for discounts. Then I even mentally negotiate the discounts before I decide to order minimum quantities within my budget. Moreover, for the company, I double check that it still makes a profit with the current purchasing price (to get that magic 1%).

I know that I sold my soul to capitalism. I am operating as one of the disposable pawns in a profit-driven chess game, but I am still the “Blueberry Dope-Pusher” when off the clock. I still write stories while listening to “Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall like I used to do in college (in a cloud of flatulence I never notice because of my brilliantly placed fingers).

A quick note for 2011: I am ready to submit poems in February and have a small art exhibition in a gallery in Tokyo later this year, though I have not finished painting for it yet. But now you know why I am trying to figure out how to pack seventy eight wrenches into my suitcase.