Saturday, June 30, 2007

Embracing My Inner Asshole

Ask anyone who knows me pretty well -- Can Paully be an asshole? And they will probably laugh at your naivety. I don't think people who don't know me (or had never seen me behave in normal day-to-day activities) would have the same opinion, because I'm generally a lot more quiet, reserved, and 'neutral' with people I don't really know/have just met.

Oddly enough, even when I rally ought to be acting like an asshole to people I don't know well (i,e. rude service, poor work ethic, failure to do their job), I usually don't, because I can't be bothered, especially when it comes to my housing and furniture, which is provided by my employer. Before, if something was wrong with a furniture item or service was really shitty, if it didn't put me out or didn't bother me, I didn't make an issue out of it. I didn't care. For instance, at my old place, the light in the bathroom flickered and never worked correctly. I never mentioned anything about it, because pooping under dim conditions just didn't motivate me enough to make a phone call.

This may have to do with me generally being treated poorly by whoever/whatever I've been working for for the last, oh, 8 years. My wife would probably agree with the following assessment -- my expectations of costumer service and general living standards are pretty low.

Me not gettin'er done using my willingness to leverage, use colorful (not foul) language, and generally say what's on my mind when dealing with customer service people and/or strangers has always seemed a little strange to me. Sure, there are times where someone I don't know catches me in a bad moment and I lay it on thick, but like I said, I reserve such behavior for friends and loved ones (yeah, it's shitty isn't it?) In any case, having a wife has changed that in a few ways, because substandard customer service leads to the Wrath of Wife, which trumps any feelings of hesitation I have when dealing with these people and unleashes the military might ...which being a meanie.

So dropped by housing (you remember, the housing mafia) and asked for another chair for our dining room set and a carpet for one of our rooms. They said they'd be by sometime between 8:30 and 11:30 (yeah thanks) but that was OK, because I was taking some time off to recover from my friends' new bar opening in Shibuya. Long story short, i got home at about 7am and they showed up at about 9:30. While I didn't go overboard with the drinks, I was still tired, and when they unrolled the carpet it had a stain that only a large 4 legged animal (or a 2 legged animal with dysentery) could have produced. The three dudes rolled it out, and I immediately knew my wife would flip if she saw it. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: No.
Guy: What?
Me: Look at that stain.
Guy: *pause, looks confused* Yeah, but the description on the inventory sheet is that it's in 'good condition'.
Me: Really? Cuz the rug looks like something went to the toilet on it.
Guy: *pauses again* Does it smell?
Me: I didn't say it smells like something went to the toilet on it, I said it looks like something did. Can you not see that stain?
Guy: *considers stain for a moment*
Me: *Getting irritated* Get it outta here.
So the guy did what I knew he'd do, and called up his supervisor. This always happens in Japan, as opposed to what I'm used to, which would be a supervisor telling someone to 'figure it out' and not bother them with bullshit. I go through a pattern of initially feeling sorry for the supervisor I'm talking to (because I can tell it's some tiny Japanese woman) and then getting pissed off them 2 or 3 minutes into the conversation. Here's how the conversation went:

Her: What's the problem?
Me: There's a huge stain on the carpet and I don't want it in my house.
Her: Is it bad?
Me: It looks like something went to the bathroom on the carpet. It's big.
Her: What?
Me: It looks like something went to the toilet on the carpet.
Her: What do you mean?
Me: (this is the transition from feeling bad to anger) It. Looks. Like. Something. Took. A. Shit. On. The. Carpet. Maybe. An. Animal. Or. A. Human.
Her: Does it smell?
Me: Whether it smells is neither here nor there. I don't want it here because it looks bad.
Her: All of our carpets have stains on them.
Me: The one in my living room is the exact same and it doesn't.
Her: OK, we can bring another carpet by sometime in the afternoon.
Me: Sometime in the afternoon?
Her: Yes, sometime after 12:30.

This is anger time. In order to get a carpet without a huge shit stain on it, I have to potentially hang out at my place all day, which was a no-go, cuz my wife had to go to the dentist.

Her: Why don't you come by and make another appointment for next week.

I did something now that I usually don't do, in fact I don't think I've ever actually said it, because it's usually invoked under such obnoxious circumstances:

Me: Who's the customer here? Why does it seem like I'm servicing you guys or that I'm working at your pleasure or convenience?

I was about to go on a full blown tirade, but she interrupted me and asked me to give the workman the phone. They chatted, he left, and they were back 10 minutes later with a new damn carpet. 10 minutes!!!! That's it, lickity split!

Instead of just going and getting a different carpet, or woe hold on, just not giving me a shitstained carpet to begin with, they took a perfectly good ruined morning and made it even worse. They wanted me to wait a couple days, or sacrifice an entire day to accommodate their shitty customer service.

A lot of people say stuff like, "Well, what can you do? They're in charge." If it weren't for the fact that my wife's expectation levels are much higher than my own, I'd probably say the same thing. But in holding these people accountable for providing good service, I've discovered that they're in charge and call the shots because they're empowered by people who are intimidated by them or don't care enough to ask them difficult questions.

So yeah. Join me in finding the fine line between getting the service you rate but still not be a complete asswipe. Make it humorous for those around you, or if nothing else, make it bloggable, unlike this piece of tripe of a post. Sheeit.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

LA Story

Or should it be LA Times? Or LA Law? Or LA Confidential? Whatever. The trip to LA was completely awesome, but not really because of LA itself. And yeah, I know Fast Times was set in San Diego. Or at least that the actual high school is there, cuz my novice rowing coach graduated from it.

OK, so where to start? I guess I'll kick it off with the touristy thing we did. We went to Hollywood, because that's something you ought to do when you're in LA. I knew Hollywood was a shithole, but it was really nice to go there and see just what a shithole it is with my own two eyes. I'm amazed that it can be portrayed as somewhat glamorous of a place at all. We went to the Chinese Theatre, where the hand prints are, which is just a bunch of tourists milling around looking at hand prints, of which we were a part of. There are people there dressed as Darth Vader, Spiderman, Shrek, etc, but the costumes aren't professional. I might even go so far as to say they're home made. By unskilled people. Like unskilled homeless people. Like I felt embarrassed for them, and embarrassed that for whatever reason they felt that by dressing up in a $5 costume they somehow enhanced the Hollywood experience. I bet they have a union and everything, and a code of rules and etiquette, and refer to themselves as "practitioners" of a "craft". If anything, they underlined, italicized, and boldfaced how sad the myth of Hollywood is, an empty cicada shell of a town. I didn't take any pictures of anything there, because it was all a bit depressing.

My uncle lives about 5 minutes from Magic Mountain (6 flags), so we spent the day there with my cousin and his new wife. A lot of the schools are still in session so we didn't have to wait in line for too many of the rides, and it was a complete roller coaster fest. Awesome. Whenever I ride a roller coaster, I think about what it would be like to bring a a villager from the Amazon basin along with me, and what their likely reaction would be. I've always thought that would really be a lot of fun. Since I don't have one handy, I have to bully my wife into riding rides that make her uncomfortable, and her initial reaction when asked to ride the DEVIL DIVE seemed like a good opportunity to ellicit a similar response. We also decided that she would be the one to pull the release, which was awesome. Here we are being hoisted up.

Here we are after screaming back and forth a few times.

We had a video made, but I don't know how to rip it and put it on the googles.

My cousin's wedding was really nice, the food was great, and it was nice to hobnob with some folks I hadn't seen for 9+ years. Weddings are not-so-good for actually getting to spend a lot of quality time with people though, especially the people being wed. I think that flying back from Japan for just a wedding might not be such a great investment, and likewise, flying to Japan just for my wedding ceremony would have the same effects. So if you want to come see me, don't come during my wedding ceremony. My request for prima nocturna was also rejected, which put me off a little bit, but the open bar made everything OK. Here's a pic of me and the Mrs before heading over. Get a good look, cuz I hate wearin' suits.

I shanghai'd one of my dad's ties with Chinese characters on it.

All in all, it was an awesome trip. One of those week-and-a-half trips that seems like it lasted a month, and that you really don't want to see end. I came back to work today (Friday) for the helluvit and because I knew I'd have 200 emails of madness waiting for me, and got about a week's worth of work done. Our Japanese workers were chilling while I was gone, it seems, so I didn't have to worry about too much. God bless'um.

Some a la carte observations about the USA and my little trip:

  • In Japan, drivers enrage me due to their obliviousness. In the USA, drivers enrage me because they're assholes. Maybe these are accurate reflections on each respective culture's personalities in general. When I'm signaling to get into a lane in Japan and I look at the other driver, I can tell they're thinking about manga and schoolgirl porn. They're just staring straight ahead. In the USA though, they make eye contact and speed forward. Road rage central.

  • I thought Reality TV was out of control 2 years ago, and it still is.

  • Pop culture is out of control too. I wanted to bring it up but I didn't want to be another person being overheard talking about pop culture icons like everyone else I was around and overhearing.

  • The Spicoli look really seems to be in with the youngsters these days. I couldn't help but feel like an old man constantly thinking stuff like "get a damn haircut" or "learn how to wear a hat". Then again, during our high school years we had a choice between the Zach Morris and the mullet.

  • Flying on a plane full of Chinese people is an experience. You know how Americans act in movie theatres these days? It's like that times 10 only on an airplane, and the humor/irritation (depending on your position on the plane) of it is compounded by strict FAA regulations, terror threats, and ornery post-menopausal flight attendants. I'm wondering when American Airlines is going to figure out that they need at least one Chinese speaking attendant in economy class on flights from Cali to Japan.

  • Most shocking experience: At Magic Mountain this big fat lady whacked her 5-or-so-year-old son right in the mouth, then told him to "quit his fucking whining".

    I wanted to pull a Benicio and Ryan on her fat ass. Don't click on this if you're offended by strong language, but it's probably my favoritest film moment ever.

  • And that's how it all went down.


    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    The Americas

    Here I am, back in America, while my wife and sister and mother run around town and look at wedding dresses. If I have to look at another dress or hear another conversation about shoes, I'm going to scream... So I thought I'd chill here at home while they did their thing.

    Anyway, we flew in to Chicago, which is an awesome city as always. One thing that really strikes me about Chicago (as opposed to Tokyo) is the amount of personality the city has. With the exception of Kyoto, everything in Japan was pretty much leveled during WWII, and the newer cities don't really have much personality to them. If it's not a shrine or a temple and it's oldish, the Japanese will destroy and build something fresh and new. Walking around Chicago with its wide streets and building fronts made of brick or constructed in art-deco, the city feels that much more vibrant. We stayed at a family friend's apartment, which is on the 30th floor of a building right on the river. The view was, in a word, ridonkulous, because you're pretty much right there amongst the buildings in the skyline. Here's a pic of me and the missez (click for larger version).

    I have some awesome pics of the buildings at night that I will put up when I get back to Japan, because I didn't bring a cable for the missezes camera. The apartment is right across from the East River Fitness Club, where Oprah works out. It's always fun to come home and listen to my father trash talk Oprah. He says stuff like "She uses adoration for oxygen" and "She doesn't so much 'have guests' as much as she 'holds court'". I've also found that chasing my sister (now 33) around the house with used kleenex is just as fun as it was when I was 6.

    After a couple days running around Chicago, we made the 3.5 hour drive back to Iowa City. Coming back to Iowa City (where I went to college and where my parents live) is always kind've weird. It never changes but it's always different -- bars and sandwich shops close, and new ones take their place. Every time I come back I can be guaranteed to see some of the same people doing pretty much the same thing they were doing when I was here 10 years ago. The Java House coffee shop, where I studied at before it was cool to study in coffee shops and before Starbucks took over the world, still smells of custom coffees and pretension, and Brueggers Bagels still rock my socks. Eventually though it seems like everything turns into a bar, making this a pretty cool place to go to college, but not such a good place for getting burger king or hardees, both of which are now bars.

    Seeing as how I only went to college here (one of which was spent in Japan), I don't really feel a connection to the city and I dont consider it "home" in any sense of the word. All my friends have since graduated and generally left, so it's pretty much a hang-out-with-the-fam type place, but it's still a good place to walk around and look at all the weird people. But in general it's always just kind've eerie to revisit where we used to live, especially since I came here when I was 17 years old, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ripe with hope and optimism and ready for adventure. I think of the person I was back then, what I've done in the last 12 or 13 years, the person I've become, and yeah, the word I can really use to describe the whole experience is "eerie". Like Iowa City, somehow I'm basically the same, but basically different. It's just one of those things you can't really put your finger on I guess.

    Anyway, here are a couple other pics. My mom, dad, me and the misses:

    And my sister and I:

    Tomorrow we'll head out to LA for my cousin's wedding, hang out there for 5 or 6 days, and then head back to Japanistan. I'll update on the bottom of this post, so stay tuned, ye 2 or 3 readers. (I'd also apologize in advance for not calling anyone yet. Busy + family time + introducing new wife to family + jetlag = not a lot of time for that, nyam sayin? I know you understand.)