Thursday, March 15, 2007

Papers, Please! (Fiction)

"Yes, W___-sensei, your application for employment at M___ University is almost complete. We just need one more piece of documentation."

Damn. He'd already been teaching here for two weeks and they still weren't finished with their little game of paper-chase. In the past month he's had to get letters of confirmation from every place he's worked since graduating university. He's had to give them copies of his degrees and his high-school diploma, copies of his passport, visa, and "gaijin" card, letters from the city office confirming his place of residence, copies of his wife's family registry and his daughter's birth certificate, a note from his embassy confirming that he wasn't a wanted fugitive, three letters of recommendation, copies of his published work and his Master's thesis, a detailed report of his general physical health, a short essay outlining his "teaching philosophy", a copy of his driver's license, and various and sundry other bits of useless paper. What could the bastards possibly want now?

He took a deep breath.

"Yes, S___-san, what is it that you require?"

"Well, W___-sensei, you say in your application that you were a part-time teacher at M___ University for two years, but we have yet to receive any official documentation for this."

"I... what?"

"You say in your application that--"

"Yes, yes, I heard you. But this is M___ University. I worked here for two years as a part-time teacher."

"... yes?"

"Well, does this university really need official documentation from me to confirm that I worked here?"

"Yes, W___-sensei, we do."

"I see. Doesn't that strike you as being a bit absurd?"

"How so, W___-sensei?"

"How so? Well, is there any doubt that I worked here?"

"None whatsoever, W___-sensei."

"Do you believe that I worked here?"

"Of course, W___-sensei."

"Well, what exactly is the problem?"

"It's the regulations, W___-sensei."

"The regulations? What about the regulations?"

"The regulations, W___-sensei, state that we must have official documentation of all prior employment."

"Well, fine, then. Who do I see about getting the required documentation?"

"Me, W___-sensei."


"Yes, W___-sensei."

"Well, for goodness sake, S___-san, can you please give me a copy of the required document?"

"I can't, W___-sensei."

"What? Well, why not?"

"It's against regulations, W___-sensei."

"Against regulations? But I thought you said the regulations require that I have documentation showing that I worked here."

"They do, W___-sensei."

"And you said that you were the person to see about obtaining such documentation."

"I am, W___-sensei."

"Well, for Christ's sake, man, what is the problem here?"

"It's the regulations, W___-sensei."

"Will you please stop talking in circles!? Let me get this straight. The regulations state that I need documentation."

Yes, W___-sensei."

"You're the person to see for this documentation."

"Yes, W___-sensei."

"But it's against regulations to give me the documentation."

"That's right, W___-sensei."

"Strange as it seems, S___-san, I think we're getting somewhere."

"I'm happy you feel that way, W___-sensei."


"Yes, W___-sensei?"

"Why is it against regulations for you to give me documentation which shows that I worked at this university in order to complete the application for a job at this university?"

"Because you've already started working here, W___-sensei."

"I... what? Because I've already started working here?"

"Yes, W___-sensei."

"I don't understand, S___-san."

"The regulations state, W___-sensei, that the documentation you require cannot be given to anyone currently employed by the university."

"I see."

"Indeed, W___-sensei."

"Well, S___-san, what are we going to do about this?"

"I don't know, W___-sensei."

"No ideas?"

"None at all, W___-sensei."

"I see... S___-san?"

"Yes, W___-sensei?"

"Come... closer."


"Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you... or kiss you."


"No. I have an idea. I don't want to be overheard."

"Well... OK."

"Now, S___-san, do you agree that we have a shared problem here, in that the regulations state both that I need the documentation in order to work here and that you can't give it to me because I already work here?"

"I'd say that's a fair assessment of the situation, W___-sensei."

"Well then, S___-san, I propose that we do nothing."

"Nothing, W___-sensei?"

"You heard me. Nothing. If you don't tell anyone that you didn't receive the documentation from me, I won't tell anyone that I didn't receive it from you. You see where I'm going with this?"

"Well... this is highly irregular. I'm not sure--"

"For Pete's sake, S___-san, think about it. Do we really want to bring this... this contradiction to the university's attention? Christ, things are tough enough for me around here as it is, being a gaijin and all... and you, you seem to have a good thing going here... you want the university to notice you?"

"Well, W___-sensei, when you put it like that..."

"That's the spirit! Now, are we agreed? Is my application complete?"

"Yes, W___-sensei, everything seems to be in order here!

"Great! See you around, S___-san!"

"Oh, W___-sensei, one more thing..."


"Wecome to M___ University!"


  1. Oh, man, I just laughed my head off... I thought those kind of things only happened in my country, where paper work drowns all the dreams. The fluency of the dialog is great. I could hear them arguing!

  2. Hi Kyklops,
    thanks for sharing this..hahaha, why do i have a feeling that this conversation actually took place? It's great!

  3. Usual Stuff,
    Glad you had a laugh. I think paper work (and the people in charge of it) have a universal stereotype that crosses cultural boundaries.

    I admit that it was a real experience that inspired this story (the non-dialogue part is completely true), but I made up the conversation.

  4. In fact I believe paper work is one thing invented by humans to torture each other. Satan must be green with envy! LOL =D

  5. Usual Stuff, they say that "the devil is in the details"...

  6. Turner, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for dropping by!