His sparse long white hair, bald scalp, and bent back made J look much
older than he was. At about 5'6", he weighed less than 130 lbs. His
spindly legs and arms matched a measured gait giving the impression of a
wandering member of a senior care facility. Under the white bushy brows,
however, were a pair of lively and penetrating eyes above a
Pinocchio-style pointy nose and thin lips, all pro rata with the tiny
round face. Under the overall senile appearance, however, he was a
jovial fellow and he smiled often in a boyishly mischievous way.
J joined our group six months ago. For someone who sat silently at the
corner cube day in day out staring at screens, he enjoyed conversations,
which I discovered only recently. Once started, it was hard to get him
to stop talking, in smooth and extra-heavily accented Indian English,
about work, family, health, his family's health, etc., with all the
sincerity of a beaver gnawing a tree.
He worked in Japan for six years, he told us in last week's group
outing, and didn't miss it. "You show up at 9:00am sharp and punch your
card. Next comes meeting after meeting. Nothing gets decided but you
keep discussing with colleagues until late in the afternoon. Parties
often follow and you drink beer. You go back and work for a while and
then you smoke and drink whiskey. By 3:00am, you take a taxi home and
return in six hours. The good thing is, the company pays for the fare
and even the clean-up if you throw up in the car."
"The company takes care of your housing needs, too, and the longer you
stay the more senority on which, and on nothing else, your title and
salary are based."
"For a brief period, we had to punch timecards when using the restroom
because people were found taking a break and sleeping in there."
"It was a great place to visit. The people were super-nice and helpful.
That could be a front, however, at the work place. When my Japanese
colleagues got drunk, they'd spill out their discontent. Because I
didn't drink, they often asked me 'Did I just bad-mouth the boss?'"