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Society Report 6/10/95

My first day in the company was by far my most hectic one as well (so far). I had the opportunity to meet several dozen high-ranking employees. Many of those meetings required the exchange of meishis (business cards).

I had suspected that this would be the case, so while I was still in America I constructed some for the occasion. I had them printed on "robin egg speckled" cardstock, and each had a black and white halftone picture of my face in the lower right corner. I thought they looked pretty suteki, and I couldn't wait to start giving them away.

When I did, however, I noticed looks of shock and curiosity on the recipients' faces. One aite kept looking at the card, and then looking at me, and then saying, "This picture doesn't really look like you." It was less than two hours after I had given one to Takai-san, the man who appears to be the most responsible for my "well-being," that he came to me with a brand new box of freshly-printed meishis and said, "Please use these from now on." These meshis were plain and simple, sporting no graphics except for the company logo.

From that point on, I carefully examined every meishi I saw. I noticed that within a given group, all of the meishis had very similar appearances. And not a single one of them drew as much attention to the person as they did the company, as all of the meishis displayed their company association very proudly.

After the first day, every once in a while, Takai-san (my boss's boss, as far as I can tell) or Sonku-san (Takai-san's boss) would come and drag me away from my desk to go meet someone. (I was the company's gaijin mascot.) I noticed that the higher up the corporate ladder the people I met were, the higher up would be the person who took me to go meet them, and the less talking they would let me do. Regardless, before taking me away from my desk they would always say, "Put on your coat and make sure you bring meishis."

Meishis must be very important. I have gathered that one would rather forget to wear a necktie to work than forget to have meishis on hand. Of course, I learned through embarrassing experience that there is a certain "protocol" for exchanging meishis. I noticed that both Sonku-san and Takai-san always watched me very closely to make sure I did it correctly. And whenever I made a meishi blunder, they would advise me almost immediately. One time I absent-mindedly reached into my shirt pocket for a meishi and presented it to my aite, blank-side up. Sonku-san quickly corrected me and I felt very stupid. Another time I presented it with the printed side up but upside down. And another time I accidentally tried to give away a meishi that I had just received from my previous aite. My various escorts rescued me as often as I screwed up, but I now wonder how many blunders may have gotten past my loving senseis' scrutiny.

Sonku-san was finally so upset about my meishi incompetence that he pulled me aside for a meishi giving lesson. This is what I learned from Sonku-san, my blunders, and my observations: