CH 13 FORTUNE COOKIE WISDOM (Jiro)
Jiro stands in front of his broom-sized closet, contemplating each item in his wardrobe. He wants to look nice today; give his attorneys the respect they are due, but he also wants to look like himself.
“So…you’re not yourself if you wear a suit and tie?”
Jiro smirks at Hanako. “No…that would make me Justin Timberlake.”
She acknowledges his remark with a roll of the eyes.
“It’s just not me.”
End of story. He didn’t own any real suits anyway. “The beauty of doing what I do is no one expects me to dress-up,” he says. “They expect, rock ‘n roll.” He pulls a vintage-style button down and a pair of white skinny jeans out of his closet. “This will work,” he says.
An hour later, Jiro’s stomach clenches just a hint, as he walks up to the square building housing Saito Law Offices. They are one of Japan’s top law firms, handling his visa application to work as an entertainer in Japan.
Opening the doors to the lobby, cool, expensive air, he thinks, swathes his face, sucking the humidity right off. He hopes his shirt dries before he has to see anyone.
On the twentieth floor, a pleasant-faced woman at the desk offers him a seat and refreshments. The tile floors gleam beneath Jiro’s boots and he wonders how it’s possible for a floor to look as though it’s never been walked on.
He smiles as he remembers Hanako telling him about a sock advertisement she’d seen on TV recently. The idea of attorneys sliding around the floor in their fuzzy socks, picking-up debris and polishing the floor as they glide from office to office nearly makes him laugh out loud.
It wouldn’t surprise him if the Japanese invented the cleaning sock. Something so utterly simple and efficient seems right up their ally.
Within a few minutes, a woman in a navy suit jacket and skirt appears. She bows slightly at the waist, asks Jiro to follow her. As they walk through the hall, Jiro distinctly hears the muffled giggles of a few women. He turns toward the sound and is rewarded. Hands fly to mouths, heads turn slightly away.
In the conference room, his attorneys greet him in the western style, which disappoints Jiro a little. He’s been reading Japanese Etiquette and Ethics in Business and has prepped for this moment. Before they begin going over the paperwork Jiro has come to sign, the woman who had lead him into the conference room reenters, hands one of his attorneys a note.
“So-so-so,” his attorney replies, unable to hide his surprise. “Mr. Saito would like to join us,” he says to Jiro.
When the older gentleman enters the room, everyone stands and bows deeply. Jiro follows suit, but Mr. Saito quickly reaches for his hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Jiro-san,” he says. And there is something at once elegant and sharp about the slender man’s eyes, a hint of humor, at the corners of his mouth that Jiro likes instantly.
“Sir Paul McCartney was here a couple months ago, played three sold-out shows to a crowd of 150,000. I went to his show at the Budokan. It cost me 200,000 yen for my ticket. Not even the best seat in the house.”
Jiro must have expressed his surprise that Mr. Saito would pay his own way for a client.
He waves his hand dismissively. “I always pay for my own ticket. He was marvelous. Marvelous.”
He studies Jiro for a moment and the room is silent except for the dim hum of a busy office churning out billables behind the heavy doors.
“Someday, it will be you.” A pause and Jiro waits with anticipation. Mr. Saito’s expression is full of the kind of wisdom only experience can endow.
“It is better to start with nothing.”
Jiro nods. If Mr. Saito had seen the business plan he had submitted to their offices a few weeks ago, he knew the truth of that sentiment just as much as Jiro did.
The attorney locks eyes with Jiro, smiling kindly. “Work hard and you will not be let down.”
“So-so-so,” Jiro says. He feels as though he’s being covered in blessings by this impressive man who exudes so much more than he could ever say.
If all he did was recite proverbs from Chinese fortune cookies, I would think they were prophetic, Jiro thinks.
The conversation wanders to jazz music, and the arts, and then, before Mr. Saito makes his exit, he looks fondly at Jiro and says, “I will see what I can do for you, Jiro-san.”
As Jiro sits with his attorneys, signs on the dotted line, he marvels at what has just passed.
Even if Mr. Saito can do nothing for him. Even if all that comes of their meeting is the sought work visa, he knows the value of meeting Mr. Saito face-to-face. There is a depth and a grace to the man that Jiro won’t quickly forget. And the quiet words of the attorney pass over Jiro again like a blessing.
“Someday, it will be you.”