A couple posts back I described all the new and exciting things going on for me here in my little corner of the world. While there are a lot, arguably the biggest change is transitioning out of the world of teaching English and into a new, totally unrelated field.
My main job at the beer import company has me split in two directions; on one hand I’m supporting the new e-commerce site (public launch coming ever closer; stay tuned with wallets ready, residents of Japan!) in a variety of ways including debugging, creating manuals and graphics, and managing an ever-growing database. On the other hand, I’m helping the COO/Owner with planning and reporting for some of the beer brands our company offers. I can truly say I’m thoroughly enjoying both sections of my job. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn a lot, and I’m also finding my business/sales Japanese vocabulary growing rapidly.
Due, of course, to the nature of the business, we have alcohol in the office. I do, however, want to make it clear that by no means do we sit around all day with a beer on our desks while we try to do work. We’re all genuinely trying to do the best we can, so we save the beverages for non-working hours.
Those hours occasionally blur. One week recently I spent around 63 hours working, with 55.5 of those hours being for the beer folks. This includes a 9-6 work day four days a week, evening meetings/events on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and a half-ish day event in Yokohama from 9:30-3:30 on Saturday. Needless to say, on Sunday, I was wiped out.
That week also solidified some very, very important concepts in my brain, one of which will be vital to my survival (literally) at this company:
Do NOT try to match drinks with your six foot, 40-something Irish boss.
You would think this is common sense for a small 25 year old white girl from Oregon. But oh, no. I had to learn the hard way because I’m either stubborn, dumb, or both. It’s truly amazing just how effectively we learn from our extremely bad mistakes. That week was a shining, shining example.
My boss (hereafter and forever referred to as “The Irishman”), a sales guy, and I had a meeting with a guy about an event (“Event Dude”) on a Tuesday night. It was to be a dinner meeting conducted over a drink and a little food. I hopped in a cab with my group at the office, and we sped off to our location.
We were seated at the bar because the rest of the restaurant area was full; it’s a popular place with good food and drinks in a fairly trendy part of town. Our guy was already waiting for us. We each ordered a drink, and my boss began chatting with Event Dude while the sales guy and I took notes. We all sipped our beers and listened, asking questions where applicable.
When round one was done, another round was ordered. Conversation between my boss and Event Dude was becoming less and less event organized and more generic chatter, so I was making fewer and fewer notes. Our sales guy started looking bored because the conversation was held almost entirely in English, and my boss had stopped translating into Japanese for him. We were both sipping our drinks a little faster because it was just something to do while the others discussed.
Round three came along with some food, and by that time talk had become solely about pubs, restaurants, and anecdotes. I put my notebook away. Sales guy saw his window and escaped the meeting, fleeing home. Event Dude also decided he was finished, and headed out. My boss turned to me (and the other co-owner of the company, who had joined us) to ask if we wanted to get dinner there. It was about 9:30 at that point. I knew if I went home it would take me an hour to get there on the train, I would have to find an open supermarket to get some food, and I would have to cook, which I was not in the mood for at that point. I opted to stay for dinner.
Little did I know that along with dinner would come a bottle of strong wine for the three of us to split with our meal and two glasses of a delicious port for dessert. At about 11 PM, someone decided it was time to go. My boss and I got a cab. We dropped him off near his home, and he handed me some cash to give to the driver when I arrived at my place. I directed the driver near my apartment, and then shuffled/stumbled the 2-3 minute walk to my door. Upon entering, I promptly collapsed on my sofa and engaged a friend via Skype in what I imagine must have been a rather unexciting ramble about all the cool new city developments in my neighborhood.
It’s sad when neighborhood construction is your go-to drinking topic.
Following this, I rolled into bed at around 1:30 after murmuring “set an alarm for 6:45 AM” to my iPhone.
I am not a lightweight, but I certainly can’t drink a ton. After 3 beers, 3 glasses of wine, and 2 glasses of port, 6:45 AM came fast and hard.
When I heard my alarm go off, it first sounded like it was calling to me from another dimension. I couldn’t comprehend the sound my brain was hearing. It went off for a full 6 minutes before I a) woke up, b) understood what that sound was, and c) could drag myself out of bed to silence it.
I was a wreck. I was still in that horrible zone where you feel like you might still be intoxicated, but the hangover has started too. I lumbered around my apartment for 10-15 minutes wondering if I should go to work. I had been awakened and was uncomfortable. I was like the human female equivalent of a bear who had been disturbed mid-hibernation. I laid back down in bed, but I felt so awful it quickly became apparent I wouldn’t be getting any sleep.
Resigning myself to this, I dragged myself into my shower, where I slowly tried to wake myself up and get clean. I did all my regular showering at a snail’s pace and spent most of my time curled up in a ball on the floor. After about 20 minutes, I emerged clean, though still not a full participant in the land of the living. I did hair and makeup at a glacial pace, then crawled back into bed, where I told myself that if I could manage to relax and feel tired within 15 minutes, I’d call work and tell them I’d be in late. No luck. I tossed and turned uncomfortably for about 10 minutes before giving up.
My brain was so out of it that the thought of finding TWO WHOLE PIECES OF CLOTHING to wear to work was too much, so ironically I pulled a simple black party dress on, threw some mikans in a bag, slipped on a pair of shoes, donned my sunglasses, and set off for the office.
If a casting director had seen my performance that morning, I would have immediately been placed in the lead zombie role in every undead movie from now until the day I die. My 20 minute walk to work became a challenge where I could neither allow myself to stop nor move my head due to the waves of nausea and pain that would result. My pride would now like me to point out that at no point during this ordeal did I get even remotely sick, though I was certainly unsteady. I also managed to arrive at the office before any of my coworkers (about 10 minutes to 9). This did, however, mean that I had no key to access our office/basement lair, and was stuck waiting for someone else to come.
One of my coworkers, (hereafter referred to as “The Canadian”), arrived a few minutes later to find me sitting at the bottom of the stairs in a ball.
“Good morning! How are you today?!” he asked, cheerfully.
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that.”
I related my woes of the previous night to him upon gaining access to the office (and our chairs). He understood completely.
“Oh, yeah, the drunkest I’ve ever been was in a ‘meeting’ with The Irishman at an Outback Steakhouse. HA!”
I should note here that The Canadian is not a drinker; he enjoys a beer now and then with friends, but generally does not partake to excess.
The Canadian: “We were talking about the details of my contract with The Englishman (more on him another time), and one drink and a chat lead to another…before I knew it we were pouring ourselves into taxis to get home.”
He was, at least, sympathetic to my plight and merely laughed at me good naturedly at the moments when I had to put my head down on my desk for a few minutes. The Englishman (our supervisor) was also quite understanding when he arrived. Thankfully, they were both fine to let me ease into the day at my own pace.
2 hours, a few sips of water, a couple mikans, some crackers, and a little bit of David Bowie later, and I was mostly back on my feet. I joined The Canadian for lunch and enjoyed a fun, productive afternoon.
So, my lesson was learned; don’t try to keep up with your Irish boss. While I did score some points with my coworkers for showing up in such a state (“You are a stone cold professional”), it just wasn’t worth the pain. Regardless of one’s boss’s nationality and proclivity for drinking, this business-alcohol culture is prevalent in Japan. I learned the hard way how NOT to pace myself at these events, but at least I can say I learned. Later that week I participated in a wine tasting event at the Australian embassy, an Oktoberfest, and Yokohama’s Philippines festival, all of which I survived while partaking only minimally, though they all included drinking as the central focus. I am aware that this sounds awesome and fun. To a degree, it is. I get to enjoy beer (often times at a 100% discount) and food and events with some good people on a regular basis. The important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself within reason so as to maximize enjoyment of the rest of your week. I most certainly didn’t do that Tuesday night, and I paid the price.
While I like to think I have my future evening meetings with The Irishman figured out, I imagine there will be instances in the future where I am tempted to push myself a little further than I should.
I’ll be okay as long as I carry a liter of water to our meetings and hire a hitman to knock me out and throw me in a cab by 9 PM.