Friday, June 12, 2009

"Roaring Office Voices & Whispering Trains..."

An amazing thing I've noticed at some offices I've worked at in Japan (is this similar elsewhere, or peculiar to this country?) is how there seems to be a general awareness and appreciation of a graphic artist's need for a relatively quiet workspace in which to properly concentrate on their work, but this professional courtesy does not extend to writing and translating! And so you will find a special floor with quiet music and no talking where a group of graphic artists go about their work - some with earphones in to listen to something other than the quiet background music - and on another floor of the same building, the same company will seat a translator and/or writer next to sales and service people, who are constantly talking on the phone or to each other (or to themselves - I wish I were making this up) in very loud voices. If said writer/translator attempts to block out the extraordinarily irritating surrounding noises by plugging in earphones with noise-blocking music or wildlife sounds, more often than not they will receive a reprimand from their supervisor and possible threat of being thrown out on the street for being unprofessional! (Keep in mind that most offices here have no partitions, so everyone can see everyone else.)

Why this respect for hand-drawn visual images, and yet complete lack of respect for quality text? I suppose that since the sales and service people couldn't draw a passable picture to save their lives, but can write (very badly, generally, but certainly they are not stone-dead illiterate), they equate their own mindless, sloppy writing with the work the professional writers/translators are doing? Or is it just a failure of management to find humane seating for people who actually need to concentrate on their work, as opposed to people who need to play office games and back-stabbing office jungle warfare?

And so a poor soul can be suffering appalling audio conditions at work while writing - struggling through secretaries who talk needlessly to themselves, service/sales people who talk so loudly on the phone that you wonder if they think their voice needs to carry over to the next city (or country) on the strength of loudness alone, without the electronic aid of the newfangled devices known as microphones and speakers in the communication device they have in their hands - and when said writer goes out and waits for a train with a stress level that is likely to kill their overstressed heart, the train comes in not with a roar, but a whisper. How loud that vapid secretary's muttering! How quiet the roaring/rushing train!

Of course none of this has anything to do with my own work environment, which is wonderful-wonderful-wonderful, but here's a video of a whispering, not roaring train:

Details: This video is of a Shinjuku/Ikebukuro-bound Yamanote Line train coming into Shibuya Station. It looks like a subway, but the entire Yamanote Line is an elevated system, and this effect is created at stations where they have built large buildings over the station, in this case a Tokyu Department Store. So you can get off of this train in the middle, walk straight out the ticket gates (there are stairs going up or down to other exits as well), and then walk over and get in a department store elevator at the second floor. (This only works for the Shinjuku/Ikebukuro-bound trains however - the Shinagawa/Tokyo-bound trains require going up or down to get around the intervening rails.)

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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