The entrance area to our building is not only a popular place for us smokers to blow second-hand cancer at the innocents who come and go all through the day but it seems is also a mobile phone hotspot. Whether the offices here have a “no mobiles” rule, whether they are too noisy or maybe because the reception is better there the hallway and pavement outside the office always have a few employees conducting telephone calls. I often try to listen in but it usually is boring work stuff; setting up meetings, asking for information, etc. Except for last night, when it was very interesting.

The Japanese don’t usually lose their rag but when they do (and you’re not on the receiving end of it) it is a magnificent sight to behold, and a little bit scary. Social etiquette goes right out the window and suddenly the desire to not stick out like the soon-to-be hammered down nail or the proviso to never make waves is all but forgotten. Voices are raised in volume and if you don’t understand the language the similarity to a pit bull terrier in a dogfight is remarkable. Commands are barked out, at great volume, regardless of other people who may be in the vicinity. In short bursts like a machine gun the target is questioned and the aggrieved has a slight tinge of whininess in his voice. Aggressive communication is almost exclusively broadcast as questions. “Why don’t you this?” “Why don’t you that?” “Why are you such a turd?”

Last night’s example was a small black/gray haired man in his late 40s or early 50s who obviously had had enough of whomever he was talking to. He paced the length of the hallway and the area outside for at least 20 minutes, constantly shouting into his phone so loudly that I’m sure they must have heard it streets away. At one point he was standing right on the pavement as innocent passers-by cast worried glances and picked up their pace.
At first I felt sorry for the recipient but listening to my side of the conversation (how could I not?) it became pretty clear he had it coming.
“Why didn’t you answer? Just send an answer. To anybody. Why do we have to wait? Did you lose it? We’re waiting on…no, now. To anybody. By email. We need an answer. Why don’t you answer?” He sometimes calmed down a little only to pipe up again moments later.

Looking back on that it is obvious the language itself isn’t very conducing to aggravation. Just reading the paraphrased transcript hardly communicates the vim and vigor of his demeanor. I guess this explains why angry Japanese shout, and I mean really shout. There is no good Japanese equivalent to the verb, noun and adjective “feck”. Maybe you can get a better feel of the argument if I rewrite it slightly.
“Why the feck didn’t you fecking answer? Just send a fecking answer. To any-fecking-body. Why do we have to fecking wait, you feck? Did you fecking lose it? We’re waiting the feck on…no, fecking now. To any-fecking-body. By e-fecking-mail. We need a fecking answer. Why the feck don’t you fecking answer?”
Yeah, that conveys the aggression much better. Maybe I should make it my mission to introduce the word “feck” into everyday Japanese conversational language. They all know what it means anyway, and my colleagues hear it from me often enough. If we all stick together and make a communal effort we can bring Japanese into line with English swearing averages!

In the end I couldn’t extend my cigarette break any longer and had to sheepishly pass the man in the hallway on my way to the lifts. My hats off to him, he was angry and he was damned if he was going to let it slide. I would have loved to hear the end of it, but duty called. Sightings like these are rare enough and I can highly recommend taking the time to observe them!