In the past few years, I’ve several times worked with men who irritated me no end when I first met them. I’d quickly find myself in a battle of wills. And then something would settle. They would do me a favor, or I would suddenly recognize in them an amazing quality. And then they would become my favorite people.
Kando-san is one of these.
Kando-san’s work partner is Nodo-san. They are complete opposites. Kando-san works hard, stands straight, wears crisp white shirts tucked neatly into dark pants. He’s fit and trim, with a full head of clean-cut, dark hair. His skin is smooth, belying his age. His rosy cheeks and straight white teeth shout, “I’m healthy! I’m vigorous! I embody Aristotelian virtues of moderation!” He walks everywhere, refusing rides, is careful with his diet, and is careful with spending company money. And he treats me with total respect. He has said explicitly that in the work place he sees no difference between men, women, Japanese, non-Japanese. Even more than how he treats me, I’ve appreciated how he treats my one woman coworker in that department. He drives her crazy, too, but only because he recognizes her value and places high demands on her. (Her three bosses place high demands on her, too, but primarily demands that lock her in place rather than allow her to stretch her wings.)
When I first met Nodo-san, I thought he was Kando-san’s supervisor, because Kando-san did all of the work and the talking, while Nodo-san sat back. I later found out that they rank equally and negotiate the sharing of their tasks. Nodo-san drives a sport car to work, smokes, is overweight, has yellowing, crooked teeth, thinning graying hair. His shirts are of nondescript colors, and the tails always seem to be pulled out and flying askew. He’s cynical and lazy. And smart. He laughs at jokes that Kando-san never smiles at. He, too, treats me with respect, but he treats me as a woman. There is that unmistakable twinkle in his eye, and the occasional comment followed by a chuckle.
When I describe them this way, I make Kando-san sound like a saint and Nodo-san like a knave, but I enjoy Nodo-san’s sense of humor and his gentlemanly treatment.
And it’s Nodo-san who has seen my potential beyond their group and quietly advocated for me behind the scenes. He has pushed them to let me go, to be free of the details so that I can concentrate on my new work.
If it were up to Kando-san, I would be there forever, supporting him. He doesn’t want to be there in that job, either, but he has no choice about leaving. So he doesn’t see why anyone else should be able to leave.
It’s nice to be appreciated for what I do now, and it’s nice to be heaved off to grow in new directions. Kando-san and Nodo-san have been my guardian angels the last few years. I feel sad that my time with them is winding down.
(See also, Kando-san’s Assurances.)