Guest writer Jamon is back with another tale to make you wonder how he can possibly still be employed in a professional capacity, hot on the heels of his emotional baggage story.
This story gives new meaning to idea of telling people you’re having a shit time…
It seems I am re-invited to share more shameful tales on Alan’s blog. Why should I put myself through any further humiliation reliving the past embarrassments of my life? I could say it is catharsis, drawing a line under a dark past, a confessional monologue even, but I’m not like Woody Allen. The truth is, it’s just funny and it would be a shame to leave you feeling deprived.
My last guest entry was about misfortunes with my luggage at a company conference in Malta. You may be surprised to know, I was holding back. There was more to tell. As part of my job I work with a number of our local Directors within each country. Our French representative, who we shall refer to as ‘Jean-Jacques C’, is a true gentleman. He always has a happy smile and an easy manner, he’s all geniality smiling through a cloud of Galouise smoke. He is also a qualified chef, I learned, and I admit I have often entertained a fantasy of being invited to Maison de Jean-Jacques, where he serves me and my friends wonderfully cooked Lobster Bisque al fresco on his sun-soaked and verdant Parisian roof terrace, while what I imagine might be his distractingly beautiful niece asks me fascinating questions about life in England (and her planned sabbatical in London where she has no friends yet and maybe I can show her round). I can tell you the invite has not exactly been forthcoming. Moreover, I must admit, I am probably a whisker away from receiving a French Le ASBEAU and I’ll never be allowed in that country again. The sordid turn of events started at the famed Malta conference in 2005 (featured in my last entry). I had important business with Jean-Jacques C, and took a quick break to call him and see if we could meet up. No answer. I was desperate for the loo and so, before returning to the conference, went. I was in there for at least five minutes, it wasn’t pretty. Coming out I checked my phone for messages, and had a slow dawning sinking feeling (I have this feeling often and know its sharp edges and dull textures well), as I noticed my phone was still connected to ‘Jean-Jacques C’. His voicemail had recorded the entire detail of the previous five minutes proceedings without complaint or reservation. There was no way to take it back.
There was a period that followed in which I avoided any sort of contact with ‘Jean-Jacques C’. Eventually we met, because we had to, and he looked at me with an unreadable, solid, expressionless face. I mumbled an apology about accidental voicemails, and he efficiently dismissed it as ‘not a worry’. Relieved, we continued normal relations; no mention was made of what had passed between us again.
At this stage I could still see in my mind Jean-Jacque’s vibrant begonias, hear the pleasant chatter of friends, and smell the rose scent of sweet perfume. My mouth watered at the thought of the perfectly prepared Tarte au Citron. It was all still within my reach….
Due to Jean-Jacques C’s real name, his number was easy to find, at the top of my contacts list. One morning one of my team approached and sternly demanded my phone, and changed the contact to ‘XJean-Jacques C.’ To address my shock she printed and showed a very patient and restrained email from Monsieur C. That morning on the train, at 6AM Parisian time, my pocket, phone, keys, and assorted paraphernalia had conspired and arranged themselves in such a way to send this poor aged gentleman around 1 text every 15 seconds for about half an hour. There was a helpful indicative digital photo of the phone text inbox included in his mail.
Next time we met, ‘XJean-Jacques C’ stood back, shook his head, and smiled. I was so relieved, he had understood me, and accepted me. My invite was surely on the way. ‘Just keep my number at the bottom of your list and I will be ‘appy’ the charming man suggested to me.
Shortly after that, I left Sony for another job, setting up a national recycling scheme in the UK. It was then that I met ‘Jean-Jacques A’. He was much younger, a keen business man and negotiator. I was the Commercial front-man, and he was the Procurement and Operations hot-shot. We got on extremely well and made a great team together. I was even confident enough to share my embarrassing stories involving his Sony namesake, and we smiled and laughed at the ridiculousness of it. Jean-Jacques A was happy to be at the top of my new phone contacts list, I felt restored to my former status, a friend to the Frenchmen of the world, and their potential nieces of a marriageable age.
In the business of setting up our nationwide recycling system, we had dealings with many waste companies. I got tired of talking to them all and asking them to call Jean-Jacques A, so I sent an email asking them all to call him directly. By this time Sony was a distant memory. I had moved on. Quite shortly after this, however, I received a short terse email from the original Jean-Jacques C asking me to permanently remove him from my contacts list. Had he found that I had betrayed his trust with another Jean-Jacques? No. Over the previous 2 weeks, poor humble Monsieur Jean-Jacques C had been called and emailed non-stop by a very long queue of highly frustrated recycling companies, all demanding meetings with him for entirely unknown reasons. Eventually, through tireless investigation, he found the cause of his latest problems. I knew I’d blown all my chances then, it was ‘game over’.
I returned to Sony eventually, and now still deal with Jean-Jacques C, but it’s different. It seems the country managers, like Jean-Jacques, are always happy to see me, but it feels a little like they bring along a deck chair and a big bag of popcorn, and watch me hungrily from about 5 metres away. Eventually when I fall over something or spill Linguini down my white shirt, they erupt into knee-slapping laughter, sharing their mirth with whoever is nearby, as if they were all in on the conspiracy: “I knew eet! Eet was only a matter of time! I knew eet Jamon, this eez typical! Eet had to ‘appen”.
Like my story with the forgotten suitcase, this sorry sequence of events also has turned full-circle, and balance is restored. This summer I had a very important meeting with the French government, and was accompanied by an excited and bemused Jean-Jacques C, clutching at his popcorn and watching my every move. The meeting went quite well, and I sent a sincere thank-you email to our French office and Managing Director, thanking them for their time. Management at our Japanese office in CC reciprocated and all was good. I could feel that invite being prepared and a stamp affixed to the envelope once again. Then, Jean-Jacques A took some time out of his busy schedule fighting down recycling prices, and replied to us all explaining that he thought, perhaps, the email was intended for someone else. Jean-Jacques C is very possibly still laughing somewhere, or crying. Maybe both.
Thanks Jamon, you are a true buffoon, the Leslie Nielsen of international business politics…