"working on my faults and cracks..."

4.16.2009

hyperbole pissing contest

Two and a half years in Japan should be enough for any man to assume some level of confidence with regard to the Japanese society as a whole--the rules, politics, expectations, and mandatory absurdity that underhandedly govern it at every corner.

I've been here long enough. Which is to say, I get it. And it gets me. Or rather, to me.

But before I begin my story, I should clarify one small bit for those of you not familiar with the Disappointed Idealist. I do not work from atop a skyscraper with the New York Times, or inside the Pentagon with the US Department of Defense.
I work in a middle school so far out of the big leagues, our bloated, schizophrenic curriculum exists only to create an equally ridiculous, academic league of our own--one we can rule with impunity.

I made the mistake of once requesting time off from work--something no true Japanese person would attempt under even the most crushing periods of psychological duress. To say that requesting vacation time required the cutting through of some proverbial red tape would be fairly close--should one be 'drilling' rather than 'cutting,' and 'through a wall of brick,' rather than 'through tape.' Perhaps our metaphorical bricks could be painted red, just to keep things grounded.

The procedure for getting time off is deceptively simple: collect a number of signatures from various authoritative figures around the institution, then submit the paperwork to be "rewarded" with what I am already legally entitled to. It's like getting your car grounded by your parents, then having to perform menial backyard chores to get the keys back. But whatever, I'm not bitter. I'll show them. I'll get their goddamn signatures.

The traditional Japanese signature is pressed from a hanko, which is actually just an overpriced rubber stamp (like those found in a box of Cracker Jack or Frosted Mini-Wheats) bearing the holder's name. The Head Principal. His Vice Principal. The Academic Office Manager. The Director of Student Affairs. The titles begin to get longer, more redundant. The Assistant Minister of Groundskeeping and Shrubbery Upkeep. Stern reproach, but an approving paw print from his dog, and I am on my merry way. Traipsing about Handa Mountain in search of these elusive holders, and their permissory red ink harkens back to tales of my previous generation's Boy Scout merit badge-questing days. Only their trivial grinding, and fetch-quests resulted in a power-leveling of sorts; a succession of ranks on the national Boy Scouts of America ladder (whose unfortunate tumble from significance can be traced to scandal and the Xbox Live leaderboards). However, once my task is completed, I gain only what I should have been entitled to for free in the first place. No self-satisfaction; only a pounding headache from waiting outside the stupid Administrator of Strategic Cranial Rectal Inversion's office for three hours, and a severe rash from being sent to the Vice Director of Theoretical Academic Upward Mobility's office, only to find he's been dead for 10 years--his skeletal remains still chained to his desk in a dilapidated mess of concrete overrun by poison ivy and utter irrelevancy.
His miserable hanko, the last on my contemptuous list.

And now, in the culmination of my quest to reclaim my R&R off this island; all that remains is to convene with the school's unforgiving goldfish high council for final approval. This should go about as well as a boot in the ass.

"what's that? vacation time? whoa, not so fuckin' fast mister"

3 contributions to this piece:

Chino said...

This, right here, is why I am glad I don't work at an actual school.

If I want time off, all I have to do is fill out a form with the dates and reason why, and hand it into the big boss before the middle of the month beforehand. Then I'm golden.

ryan said...

*runs and hides* Now my question is, where ya goin? Hope it's a damn good trip!

Dagbert said...

@ Chino: "Actual school." Heh. If only.

@ Ryan: *runs and hides...too?*

 
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