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    Check items off, let nothing be missed / Say I to myself and my 100 lists

    I have today off, so I went out last night and flirted shamelessly while getting schnockered enough to be hung over this morning. Mark you, there was nothing self-indulgent about this: I was preparing for a round of bureaucratic errands (reregister domicile in new ward of city, reregister name seal in new ward of city, renew passport at embassy, change address at banks and credit card offices) that began at 9 a.m. sharp. The hangover was necessary to dull my irritation at the inevitable snags that come up in a full day of filling out forms at government agencies. The shameless flirting was necessary to practice the people skills you need to deal smoothly with functionaries. The woman behind the passport counter did not, it is true, lean in and ask, “So, dude, is the rest of you as hairy as those forearms you’ve got there?” But let me tell you, I’d’ve been ready to answer with aplomb if she had.

    Speaking of functionaries: as much as anyone else, I go in for orgies of complaining about them when they’re surly or clueless. But I have to say that everyone I dealt with at the embassy today was just great. The man at the next window had what sounded like a legitimate gripe about the way his passport renewal was being processed. He made his displeasure clear, but he was polite about it and didn’t blame the guy behind the counter. The guy behind the counter, for his part, apologized profusely and made sure the poor man knew exactly what needed to happen for his passport to be done as quickly as possible. There’s a lot that I value about Japanese politeness; as long as you act like a civilized person, you don’t really have to mean it, and that understanding can make difficult situations much easier. You deal with what people say and do and don’t get worked up over what you assume they’re thinking. But as an American, I have to say that it’s a beautiful thing to see forthright goodwill in trying circumstances. It made the rest of the day much easier to deal with–how many times can you write your address in six hours before cracking, after all?–even after the hangover wore off.

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