There are many sad jobs in Japan: The over-worked salary-man going home at ridiculous hours only to dejectedly discover his wife and kids long asleep, the frustrated office lady who may just one day snap and pour boiling hot tea over her male colleagues. Not that many people could say they are ecstatic in their job, it's part of Japan's working culture, people are miserable, it shows how hard they are working after all. But I think the saddest job of all, is the guard man. I mean, security guards in most countries are seen as pretty lowly type jobs, but in Japan, the guard man has hit rock bottom. They are generally the same type, old, over 50, probably been retrenched just those few years too early and have no other option than to do the work. They can be bossy, probably bitter with the fact that they are the saddest form of human being within a 1km radius. And often they are totally unnecessary, people ignore them and depending on how big their big red flashing stick is, there's nothing they can do about being at the bottom of the food chain. No respect. No dignity. That, is the Japanese guard man.
But before we feel too sorry for them, we have to look at the up side, they get paid for doing a job that a sign could do. Fair enough it's minimum wage, and the Winter and Summer must be gruelling, but Spring and Autumn must be bearable?? OK then, there really aren't too many plus'...
I didn't think it was possible to have a level of sadness within the guard man ranks, but on the weekend I met him, the saddest guard man of all. I felt so bad for him I almost went back and told him not to give up on his life...
We pulled in to the popular cake shop on Sunday afternoon, the place wasn't that busy, but sad guard man was still there, waving his red stick for Ryota to go in the furthest entrance, Ryota, because he's an arsehole in general, ignored the guard man, and went in the closest one, pulling in to a space close to the door with such precision that it must have made the guard man feel even more insignificant. As we clambered out of the car with high hopes of yummy cake and hot coffee to warm us up, we spied two cats, to which of course Ashton and I had to pet and Ryota had to drag me away for fear I would adopt them and smuggle them into my bag. Now guard men rarely interact with customers unless it's direction related, but I noticed the guard man watching Ashton and I intently as we talked to the cats. I noticed, but just assumed it was because we were quite randomly talking to two stray cats in a busy car park, I paid no attention, nobody ever does.
After we'd spent enough time orgasming over fresh cream and apple pies with piping hot coffee, we once again braved the windy car park, rushing to bundle up inside our little car, when we were intercepted. I'd gone ahead of Ryota and suddenly the guard man was there, asking me what country I was from. "Ohh, ummm, Australia.." I'd hesitated because a guard man has never tried to make contact with me, he must have taken my hesitation as lack of language skills because he spoke quite slowly from that point, not that I minded, made a nice change! He then looked at Ashton and inquired his age and how cute he was, how lucky he was to speak 2 languages. Ash was looking under the cars for the cats so I felt a little awkward, where was the guard man going with this conversation? Was it OK to just excuse myself and go get my kid before he got run over?
He sensed my awkwardness because he felt the need to explain that his ex-wife was from New Zealand. I then understood why he'd taken such an interest, so I made small talk with him until a look of sheer pain and regret washed over his tired, wrinkled face and he said. "She left though... She went back, and I... don't know..."
I stood rooted to the spot, frantically searching for the words, in either language, to respond, but all I could come up with was the very convenient Japanese phrase of "Ohh, I see..." Ryota then came over and started bowing, wondering why I was engaging in conversation with a lowly guard man, and I said good bye, and for some reason I said thank you, it's a strange habit I've picked up from being in Japan, but I panicked and didn't know what else to say to him, his shoulders were flat, his red stick lay limp at his side as cars piled in to the car park. I really think seeing our family hit a nerve and he was genuinely sad.
So this may be the saddest man in Japan, he had a foreign wife and she took off and left him. Later, Ryota said he feels that will be his future, he'll quit his job but fail so will be forced to be a guard man and I'll up and leave him in disgust. Who knows, maybe that will happen. I told Ryota to at least stand tall in his failure, nobody likes a guard man to be even more pathetic than he has to be!