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kuchikomi

Cranky old guys becoming a regular part of national landscape

21 Comments

"On a weekday evening, I was taking supper in a Western-style restaurant when a heated exchange broke out between a married couple and an employee two tables from where I was seating. At first I couldn't tell what it was about, but apparently the male customer, a man in his late middle age, had instructed the waiter to being a particular item later, but the food had been brought to the table as soon as it was ready, and he had requested the waitress to take it back."

So begins Arata Kusunoki's column about post-retirement life in Yukan Fuji (Oct 29). 

The waitress had followed the man's request, but when the food didn't reappear later, he lost his temper. The waitress had misunderstood, and thinking he did not want that particular dish, had discarded it. 

Turning up the volume, the customer complained to a male waiter. Hearing the fracas, the manager came out from the food preparation area and after listening to the complaint, told the customer that once the order was carried back to the kitchen it could not be served to him again. He also informed the customer that as a group had arrived, he would not be able to arrange for a second serving. 

Infuriated, the customer shoved the manager. 

"You can't engage in violence like that. I'll call the police," the manager threatened. 

"If you're going to do it, then go ahead," the customer shouted hysterically. 

The manager took out his mobile phone and proceeded to do just that, informing the police of the address and explaining what was happening. 

Realizing that the police were on the way, the customer muted his tone and upon the arrival of two uniformed officers, the four moved out of hearing range of the other customers to outside the entrance. 

Each gave their side of the story. 

"Back inside the restaurant, it was as if nothing had happened," Kusunoki writes. "I paid the check and when I left the shop, the police were still listening to the customer's complaint. By this time he was speaking in a much calmer manner." 

Usable data concerning acts by middle-aged "monster customers," including violence, do not seem to have been compiled. One exception is an annual list assembled from reports sent to Japan Railway companies and 35 private railway lines throughout Japan. According to their report issued last July, acts of violence of all types against railway employees during the 2018 calendar year totaled 630. Broken down by age group, people in their 20s accounted for 14.9%, 30s, 17.5%, 40s, 17.1%, 50s, 19.7% and age 60 and over, 24.6%. (The age had not been obtained for the remaining 6.2%). 

So while one tends to associate acts of violence with the younger age groups, in fact the percentages are higher for those who are middle-aged and above. 

Kusunoki thinks he is on to something and says he plans to keep an eye out for this problem, particularly at places where young women work part time, at train stations and at sports clubs. These aggressive "claimers," he thinks, are essentially bullies who lash out at those least capable of mounting opposition. 

As for the aforementioned incident at the restaurant, the customer may have felt his complaint was justified, and it's possible that the service was not carried out as per his requests. But that doesn't excuse shouting and shoving. He may have expected that as he was a customer he would be treated deferentially, but the manager would necessarily have defended the waitress. 

"And furthermore, I felt that he wanted to demonstrate that he would not be submissive toward the customer's demands," Kusunoki writes.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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I've noticed a lot of this kind of pent-up aggression in middle aged men in Japan for a while now. They are obviously stressed and insecure at work, and respond by taking out their frustrations on people around them. While I sympathize, they don't have the right to treat other people like dirt. Especially shop staff or restaurant staff, who are generally helpless and unable to fight back.

These are the kinds of guys that: cut in front of you in line (and get grumpy when you tell them to go to the back); do that stupid passive/aggressive coughing to show their displeasure; try to push onto elevators and into train cars before others have a chance to exit, etc.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

I have noticed this too and it's not just in Japan, there seems to be a lot of angry 'old' men in Britain too. I just can't be bothered with getting so wound up about trivial things.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I'm sorry, "becoming"?!

In this case, obviously the customer took this way too far and is in the wrong. That cannot really be debated. On the other hand, I have been in his shoes countless times in Japan as a customer. If the ordering process does not resemble the training manual exactly then in tends to degrade into chaos. The customer is not divine (I don't think he/she should be) but the customer is at the same time, not mortal. He/she is a computer program like me. Customer service with a smile; yo'd be hard pressed to find that better anywhere else. Customer service with even a whiff of flexibility? Look elsewhere.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

J-Dake; I get how you feel. Sometimes it is frustrating to be met by a blank stare and a pro forma "moshiiwake gozaimasen" without any attempt to resolve a situation. Personally, I'd like to actually hear the excuse/reason that something is impossible, at least once in a while.

Good service Japan style is a two way street. Staff are unfailingly polite and courteous, customers don't ask too many questions.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

My father in law very much fits the mold described in the article (though he never gets physical like that).

I've seen him berate the staff at restaurants and shops over the most minor of misunderstandings, once to the point that he made a server who couldn't have been more than 18 or 19 years old burst into tears over something that wasn't even her fault.

Its excruciatingly embarrassing when it happens, he just has this massive sense of entitlement. I don't think he ever worked in the service sector when he was young either so he just doesn't know/care what it is like for people who have to deal with guys like him.

Fortunately it doesn't always happen, 90% of the time he is fine, but you can never tell how any interaction is going to go and what minor thing might set him off.

I have a HUGE amount of respect for the people who work in those jobs, they get paid peanuts yet have some of the most stressful and demanding jobs that exist.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

Attilathehungry. Well put. I don't think the service is necessarily "bad" nor do I buy that Japan features the best CS in the world. I think, like most things, it is subjective. It depends what the customer values more. I personally don't care much how the employee looks like or dresses, whether they smile, whether they like me or pretend to, or really what they say to me to a certain degree. What is important to me is the quality of the service or product the company provides and whether it meets what they promise/advertise and particularly if I have already paid (i.e. fulfilled my part of this tacit agreement). Other people may not feel the same way. In no way does this failure give anyone the right to behave like this cretin did though. I have the greatest amount of empathy for people who face the public for work. It takes talents and skills that I do not possess myself. At the same time, I would not allow myself to be steamrolled due to some sort of convention.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Testosterone starts declining in Middle Age men and one of those side affects is crankiness

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/male-menopause/

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

This pent-up aggression is the reason for the incease in divorce among people in their 60's. That, and spousal abuse. Their wives simply can't tolerate their BS any more, and no amount of time at the driving range, pachinko parlor at snack seems to improve their dispositions. The only thing they understand is shame, because that's what's been used to control them in the workplace. Absent that, they act out, and treat employees at other businesses like serfs. Much the same pathology as bullying.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This is very concerning as I’m turning 60 on Friday. I hope this is not going to happen to me. Should I have testosterone replacement therapy?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If my restaurant service is not up to snuff I handle it by not returning in the future. I worked through college as a waiter and can tell you that if you harass the staff they will get revenge on your food or drink in ways you don't want to imagine.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

well this is a very tame incident. I have been involved in much worse, just because I was sitting while being gaijin.

the grumpy oyaji leagues favorite target is the gaijin. Usually a lecture on inferiority or some crap about the war. I actually enjoy it now, as I embarass him in front of others, his worse dream...it comes alivelol

3 ( +5 / -2 )

a heated exchange broke out between a married couple and an employee...

... apparently the male customer, a man in his late middle age, had instructed the waiter to ( bring ) a particular item later, but the food had been brought to the table as soon as it was ready, and he had requested the waitress to take it back."

The waitress had followed the man's request, but when the food didn't reappear later, he lost his temper. The waitress had misunderstood, and thinking he did not want that particular dish, had discarded it. 

Turning up the volume, the customer complained to a male waiter. Hearing the fracas, the manager came out from the food preparation area and after listening to the complaint, told the customer that once the order was carried back to the kitchen it could not be served to him again. He also informed the customer that as a group had arrived, he would not be able to arrange for a second serving. 

Infuriated, the customer shoved the manager. 

Sounds like the wife had nothing to do with this argument.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So while one tends to associate acts of violence with the younger age groups, in fact the percentages are higher for those who are middle-aged and above. 

Does one? I never have - not in Japan anyway. It is invariably the men of a certain age that one should be wary of.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Should I have testosterone replacement therapy?

I'd hold on a while if I were you. I've been doing the 60s thing for a few years but I don't see a big difference in the aggression thing. I'm still a wimp. (Toilet functions are changing though. That worries me more.)

rainyday's comment above seems similar my father-in-law. But he had aggression issues when he was younger too. Now he's docile about 95% of the time, and then suddenly erupts.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A typical (average) Human knows everything they need to know by age 25, and then begins to learn, most often in unsatisfactory experiences, how much they haven't a clue and that continues for the rest of their lives. After about 5-6 decades, Human Reality begins to sink in and, if they are at all 'above' average, they begin to see the lies, the corruption, their own slavery, and all manner of other realities which the empty young do not yet see at all. The nationalistic, greed-sourced mass murder we call war, when seen for what it really is, can generate much rage all by itself. We get exposed to outrage on a daily basis but only if we can see it does it slowly load more and more repressed hostility into the suppressed soul and, eventually, starts to leak out at less appropriate times and places and the person themselves may have no idea why. For ~46,000 Humans in the U.S. in 2017, this inner outrage ate them alive and they voluntarily and way precociously left our shared stage. These are the certainly above average minds who see our Reality clearly at an earlier age and choose not to suffer it longer. But, for most of us dumb monkeys who are not completely blinded by our lack of perceptual capacity, but do not see as acutely as our early exiters, it just builds until even a slight pin sting and the hot lava flows uncontrollably. And, of course, none of the witnesses 'understand' but revert to simplistic and idiotic and essentially blind behavioral judgements. Think about it. If public anger is increasing, do you think it's just a fad amongst life experienced O.G.s? Or perhaps one might examine such a shared and GROWING phenomenon for its real roots in the behaviors of the dominant cultural forces. And, I think, if you examine those who seem most hostile, what you will find is that, besides being brighter, these are the HONEST people in our societies. Yes! There are the arrogant psychopaths who hurt people because they can, but the issue here is not them but the individual who has suppressed their outrage over a lifetime and can no longer completely contain the pain and outrage any longer and, besides occultly destroying their health, sometimes leaks out at inappropriate times and is beyond their control. And if one is one of the superficial 'judgers' in youth, Life may well surprise when they find themselves trying to explain to Authority why they are so angry and forget that it is exactly Authority which has given them their anger. Shoganai, ne?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@William Bjornson: sounds like a depressing interpretation of life. I guess you must be German??? In any case, I can get over most any anger funk by physical exercise. I think a lot of the above can be explained by biochemical changes of age and related to lack of exercise, sex, sleep and physical deterioration. Try reading Dale Carnegie, he may cheer you. Throw Nietzsche in the rubbish if you want to enjoy life.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Wow, Japan is turning into one old age farm with cranky old men running it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Do these cranky Japanese farts behave the same way when they travel abroad?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

yes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I must admit competing cultural ignorance. I'm 55 years old and the men in my life as I was growing up taught me that patience, kindness, understanding and above all, control of your emotions, especially in times of stress defined a man.

How foolish, weak and sad this behavior is.

The world seems to have lost the beautiful act of yielding to one another.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

 the men in my life as I was growing up taught me that patience, kindness, understanding and above all, control of your emotions, especially in times of stress defined a man.

But if we follow that approach forever, we'll go to our graves in frustration. Does there not need to be a way to release that stress and anger?

A short story, please indulge me. It's about Paul Simon's song, The Boxer.

Last year, I got to see Paul Simon in Glasgow. There were many older people in the audience, especially in the high-up cheaper seats. By older, I mean 70+. Many were not so mobile, and many had a cranky attitude, which seemed to confuse the stewards who were probably more used to dealing with young drunks than obstinate oldies. ("I can find my seat myself.", and then 10 minutes later returning to ask where their seat was.)

There is a point in the version of The Boxer played where it goes quiet musically, but the silent roar of simultaneous anger and celebration from the older fans around me was massive. I think we need moments like that.

(From about the 3:40 mark at the link below - not top quality video I'm afraid.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRihTOyKO_8

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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