Folded Footnotes

‘ The Japanese Method.’

It was two or three minutes before he took my order. “Would you care for a drink?” he said, washing glasses, putting a few dishes away and drying his hands. “I’ll be right with you.” he added and he continued to clean up. Realizing that he had been washing glasses instead of waiting on me,  I smiled. I had fallen for my own tactic: “The Japanese Method.”

I learned to call my process of passive positive progress ‘The Japanese Method.’ It seemed like an appropriate title for a method of verbal jujitsu. It is my personal theory of proactive overt opposition  and it works like this: under the guise of working together, people will wait while you do your work. Do it graciously and there is no conflict. A good bartender knows this. Me? It took a long time.

For years I  performed at elementary schools. Schedules required a show in the morning, and one in the afternoon. To make this happen however required clockwork precision. There wasn’t a minute to spare. I competed with buses in the morning and buses in the afternoon with lunch scheduled in the middle. Each show required unloading and  setting up prop cases, sound systems, backdrops and an assortment of other items. Each process took at least an hour. Each school required trips to the office for permission and confirmation and lighting and stage considerations. No two schools were alike and a loss of 10 minutes could mean running like crazy to do a show or waiting 20 minutes for buses. It became imperative that everything worked seamlessly.

Maximizing success required implementing the ‘Japanese Method.’ Perform all my necessary tasks without always doing as ordered. “You can’t park here, the buses are coming!”  “Okay.” I’d say ignoring the request while acknowledging it with a smile. Then I would go to the office to confirm the show, leaving the truck right where it was.  “Wait here and I’ll page the maintenance person,” they’d say in the office. “I’ll just peek in the all purpose room.” I’d respond smiling as I left, moving the truck and then quietly setting up knowing that permission will find me. As long as I was agreeable and kept moving I bought enough time to “take the order,” yet perform my work. Sign the paperwork. Move the truck to the loading dock. Unload. Set up. Check the sound. Move tables or chairs. As long as I smiled and said yes.

Acknowledge the request, be polite. “I’ll be right with you.” Agree. And then? Do what needs to be done. I can set up and you won’t even know I’m here… Judicious judo. “Do the dishes.” Control the game. Achieve the objective. Be polite. Be respectful, “I’ll be right with you,” if you smile, they will wait. Domo arigato.