Before I started work on September 1, I had ten days of setting up house.
For ten days, I was “Okusan” (“the Mrs.”), or called so by movers with towels around their necks, electricity and gas guys in helmets and jumpsuits, phone line guys in white belted uniforms–all in sock feet, of course. You would be amazed at how these guys maneuver their shoes on and off while lifting heavy machinery. And how they climb ladders in their sock feet.
In just a couple of hours, this wiry, sock-footed AC installer single-handedly put in four of these split-unit ACs, with indoor fans and outdoor compressors.
The people at Nitori, a store somewhat akin to IKEA, all got to know me well. They knew that every time I walked in I would buy piles of things and call a cab to take me home. The local cab company got to know me. When I called, they answered, “Is this McAtee-san? Are you at Nitori again? Please wait on the third floor parking lot, just like usual.” Then the taxi driver would arrive and say, “荷物が多いですね. You sure do have a lot of baggage. It looks like you’re starting from scratch, not owning anything.” Exactly right, of course.
I struggled through phone calls with the electric company, the landlord, the broadband service provider. I have a cute little name stamp, and I’ve learned how to stamp it firmly in all the little circles, the equivalent of signatures in the U.S.
And I was ready, completely ready after ten days, to give up my temporary status as Okusan and go back to being a salaryman. It was a relief to be in a familiar environment, with people I knew, Japanese language that I knew how to speak, stuff I know how to do.
Now, two weeks later, I realize how hard it is to live here without an okusan. My commute’s an hour each way, I have to arrive in time for 8:30 reading of the Founder’s words and stand-up status meeting, there is no going out during the day, and in the evening no one leaves before 6:15 or so without a specific reason. So my workday is about 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (and that’s short for a salaryman). But dry cleaners, post offices, and government offices are only open from 9 to 5 on weekdays, and everything requires going in person. So people without wives, or perhaps mothers in some cases, use their vacation time to run their lives.
I’m sure there are ways. I just have to figure them out. “Don’t be in such a hurry,” my coworkers say. “Just take it easy, do things a little at a time.一遍にしなくていいから、 少しずつやりましょう。”