While I’ve been immersed in my esoteric/artistic pursuits (writing that horror script, pitching that scifi series, fielding show running opportunities, waiting around for conference calls that never happen, etc.), Akemi has been doing her own thing – specifically, attending English classes three to four times a week. The classes vary, from pronunciation to idioms to conversation in which the students and teacher discuss all sorts of topics: tea, poutine and, today, social drinking.
As some of you may (or may not) know, social drinking is an important part of professional life in Asia. For instance, in Japan, a lot of the time, when work ends at the office, a whole new phase of the job begins at the local watering hole where salaryman get together with co-workers, bosses, or prospective clients to discuss business and drink, drink, drink! There’s nothing quite as surreal as being out on the streets of Tokyo at around 11:00 p.m. when the various bars and restaurants disgorge their inebriated clientele, pleasantly pickled as they wind and stagger their way to the nearest metro to catch the last train home (otherwise it’s a night at the capsule hotel for them!).
Beet-faced, perspiring, ties and jackets askew – occasionally boisterous, sometimes vomitous – they’re a far cry from their staid daytime selves. On my last trip to Tokyo with my buddy Ivon, we would pass them on our way back to the hotel – singing, shouting, crouched down by some bushes throwing up dinner. It’s all part of social custom promoting company harmony and it’s considered downright rude not to drink, or to drink too slowly if someone else is buying. According to one of Akemi’s fellow students, a Taiwanese national, these work-related outings can go on for a while. His longest clocked in at an impressive/insane 20 hours. 20 hours! Seriously, we’re talking about a business meeting here, not spring break in Tijuana!
Over the course of our professional lives, I’m sure that we’ve all had to participate in some irksome work-related activities be it to close a deal, secure a promotion, or satisfy Martha from accounts receivable that you had nothing to do with the recent spate of missing staplers. So, I want to know: What was the worst business outing you’ve ever attended? In my case, I think it was the mandatory company picnic where I was forced to participate in an impromptu game of volleyball and, later, caught by my boss trying to slip away during the archery competition. For what it’s worth, the food wasn’t very good either.