Monday, March 26, 2007

Personnel changes, and the bubonic plague

Ok, I'm covering 2 things this time around. First, I'm getting over a case of the plague... I mean, the flu. The way my boss reacted when I told him I had the flu though, you would've thought it was the plague. They didn't want me in the office for a total of 5 days from the day I first started showing symptoms, I was told to stay home and rest with my meds, and if I did go out to wear one of those stupid surgical masks as to not spread germs. Oh, teh hawtness. Ok, I get it - Japanese people are overly concerned with not inconveniencing their neighbors (even at their own expense), and thus I'm expected to be as well. Whatever. That doesn't mean that I have to enjoy those uncomfortable, itchy, and fashion disaster statements known as masks though. Japanese people, on the other hand, don't mind them at all - they'll wear masks if they have a cold, or just because they don't want to get a cold, or because they have allergies, or because hell everyone else is so why not? Or so it seems sometimes. I remember even seeing someone come out a while back with designer masks, which came in different colors and styles in order to not look so white and... sterile. So yeah anyway, I'll take my quarantine and you can keep your little mask. I was actually in bad shape there for a little bit - fever reaching 102F at one point with no appetite, curled up in a ball in bed for the better part of 2 days or so alternating between sleep and movie time. I've actually downloaded and gone through the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy - extended edition no less.

Ok, so now onto the next point of business, which has absolutely no connection whatsoever (sorry to disappoint): the annual changing of the guard. In Japan and probably some other nearby countries, April is when everything starts, including schools and most job contracts. Everyone graduates in March and following a slight period of ritual binging, moves straight to work the following month, where more ritual binging occurs. You rarely get people coming in any other time of year, except in rare cases like mine where the contract is set for a different period.

That's not the strange part - the strange part is that everyone else in the office will switch periodically around this time of year as well, usually once every 3 or 5 years or so. Not only that, but they do so sometimes at the drop of a hat - people in government offices get 1-2 weeks notice to pack up and move to a different office with a new position, sometimes in a new town... in bigger companies this can mean moving to a whole different part of the country. Now you would think these are promotions, and sometimes they are, but oft times it's just a big shift, moving you to a different section with no relation to what you were doing before, meaning you need to learn a whole new set of rules and skills. In most of these cases, especially lower down the chain, it doesn't really seem like they're asked if they want to move, but rather told where they're going to move.

Personally, I'm a bit boggled by what advantage this system can serve at the moment and how that would balance out sending someone who's been doing a job for 5 years to start over in a different section and replace him with some new guy who has to start from scratch himself. Maybe they do it so they can have their going away parties in late March, followed by their welcoming parties in April. If there's one thing I have realized, it's that Japanese love excuses to have a party and celebrating BS holidays like Spring solstice, which I actually got the day off for, and White Day.

I'll tell you, the second you figure out one thing about this place, something else comes right along to make sure there's always at least that slight tinge of confusion flittering in the background.

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