Lost in Translation

by Dan Malovany
Besides being an idiot, sometimes I’m also a klutz. At least, that’s what people tell me. But now I have proof that I don’t have two left feet.
Picture this. Here I am, in Tokyo at the Westin, having a great time being jet-lagged. It’s Sunday afternoon. I have a meeting with Yasuo Fukushima, the secretary for Nobuhiro Iijima, the president of Yamazaki Baking Co., one of the largest baking companies in the world, at 5 p.m.
Mr. Fukushima — they are very formal there — asked for the pre-interview meeting to, for lack of a better phrase, check me out. We had been in contact for three months setting up the interview with Mr. Iijima, who is a very busy man and normally doesn’t talk to the like of, well, me. Mr. Fukushima wanted to iron out a few last-minute details and make sure that I was, uh, respectable.
In order to prepare for the get-together, I thought I should dress up and look my best. I took out my black suit and ironed it. I took out my black shirt — sort of the Dieter European look — and pressed it. I even decided to polish my shoes.
Bad move.
I took out the first, a left one, and polished it. Then, I took out the second one and said, “Fuuuuuudge.” Or something similar to that followed by the word “Me.”
Yes, it was a second left shoe. Because I have EEE feet, I have two pairs of these comfortable shoes. Unfortunately, when packing, I grabbed two left ones.
“That’s what you get for drinking beer while packing,” said my wife.
Shut up!
Actually, she was a sport. First, she recommended that I wear the two left shoes. “That’s a really stupid idea,” I responded. She then volunteered to go to the nearby mall to find me a black pair of shoes. That was a much smarter idea. In the meantime, I put on my white gym shoes, and looking like a bleepin’ mime, went to meet Mr. Fukushima.
We had a wonderful meeting, although the gym shoes initially got lost in translation. Make that, lost in fashion. Afterward, my wife joined us, told me that she couldn’t find a shoe to fit my fat feet, and Mr. Fukushima asked me what size I wore. I told him 9-EEE. The look on his face was priceless. No go.
After dinner, which included raw chicken sushi that I passed on, we returned to the hotel around 9:30 p.m. Mr. Fukushima had a 1-hour train ride home. I told him I’d be ready at 7:30 a.m., 90 minutes before the interview. I figured, if I’m wearing white shoes with a black suit and a red tie, I’d better not be late to add insult to fashion injury.
In the morning, Mr. Fukushima greeted me, carrying a pair of black shoes. “Size 9, triple E?” he asked. Imagine that. There they were. A pair of black shoes, and they actually fit. “Don’t put them on until the interview,” he added. “You can wear gym shoes to the plant.”
How did he do that? I don’t know where he got them at that late of an hour. I never asked, but I was impressed. As Jeffrey Smyth, who works with Yamazaki, noted, “Yasuo is better than the concierge at the Ritz in New York. He solves every problem.”
The interview went great. It should have. We had two interpreters, but everyone in the room spoke English. I was the only schmoe who didn’t speak Japanese. In the end, half of the interview with Mr. Iijima was in English. The other half was in Japanese. The hour-long interview ended up lasting two. We had a great time. I encourage you to read our fascinating report on this impressive company.
So, anyway, there’s proof that I don’t have two left feet. I’m still an idiot, but thanks to Mr. Fukushima, at least, I looked mah-vel-ous.
Now, if only I could figure out a way to get my foot out of my mouth, I would be in great shape.
Editor’s Note: If you haven’t registered for IBIE 2004, the big bakery show in Las Vegas from August 15-18, do so now. Visit www.snackandbakery.com to sign up. Yes, it’s Vegas in August, but if that’s an excuse to pass on the show, my personal view is that you are not serious about being in this industry. And, if that irks you, visit me at booth 3039 and feel free to personally berate me.