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A Developing Language Problem

March 4, 2015


Launching myself into the workforce after high school wasn’t easy. I’ve written several accounts of job disasters. Here’s another.


After graduating from high school, the future Mrs. Chatterbox landed a summer job at A-1 Color Lab in nearby San Jose. A color lab is a place where professional photographers bring film from weddings and other special events to be processed, and pictures printed. Large photographs come off drying drums and are often marred by tiny white specks caused by bubbles in the emulsion. Mrs. C’s job was to sit at a drafting table. With sable brushes she mixed watercolor paint and dabbed color onto the photographs, rendering the white specks invisible. The fact that she had a knack for doing this didn’t lessen my jealousy for what I considered the perfect job—for me.


Mrs. C. somehow convinced the owner, Mr. Hishogi, to hire me as a lab assistant. I didn’t get to sit at a cool drafting table and mix colors; my job was to empty garbage and do whatever Mr. Hishogi ordered me to do. This was often a problem because I had great difficulty understanding Mr. Hishogi’s mangled English.


“Don’t you have a problem understanding him?” I asked Mrs. C.


“He doesn’t speak to me very often, and other than asking him to hire you we haven’t engaged in much conversation. A technician brings me dried photo prints and I get rid of the white spots.”


One day, Mr. Hishogi signaled me to follow him into a darkroom. When the door closed behind us, he flipped a switch turning on a dim red light. He began explaining how I was to open cases and remove rolls of wedding film, and insert them into a machine that began the process of developing the film and producing photographs. It was a complicated procedure and I would have taken notes if given the chance. Before I could ask any questions, Mr. Hishogi bolted from the room. The red light automatically went out.


I had no idea what to do. In the darkness, I couldn’t find the red light switch. A few minutes passed. I removed a roll of film from its case, but didn’t have a clue what to do with it. I decided to return the film to its case and turn on the overhead light, if I could find the switch, but the lid to the case wouldn’t close and I was terrified if I turned on the light I’d destroy someone’s precious wedding pictures.


I stood in the darkness for over an hour. Finally, there was a pounding on the door, accompanied by Mr. Hishogi’s voice. The red light magically returned as he entered and stared at the case of film in my hands. I’d accomplished nothing he’d asked me to do.


I won’t attempt to replicate his speech, but I think he said: “You such a lazy boy. No good worker.”


I wasn’t about to go down without a fight. I had little experience with bosses, but I was angry with him for leaving me in the dark and said, “Mr. Hishogi, I can’t understand anything you say.”


He grit his teeth before spitting out words precise enough for me to understand. “What you mean you can’t understand what I say. I have a degree…from UCLA. I speak good English!”


I was horrified. “No, no; it isn’t that! It’s the huge wad of bubblegum you’re always chewing. It makes you hard to understand.”


He shook his head. As usual I couldn’t make out most of what he said, but I did understand two words I’d later hear a lot. “You fired!” 


I lasted less than a week at this job. Have you ever been fired?



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I wonder if he also managed the business' tech support line? I've never been fired, but I have quit a job after a week. Washing whitewalls for eight hours just wasn't for me.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on March 4, 2015
nope, never been fired. I've quit plenty of jobs though, usually to get a better one. I've been a cashier, a floor sales person, a driver for a medical lab, lunch hostess at a restaurant, painting reproduction canvasses for a local artist, nude model for art classes, river guide, among other things.
By: Ellen Abbott on March 4, 2015
Sounds like a pretty unreasonable sort of guy. No, in fact, a horrible sort of guy. I hope your next job was better.
By: Jenny on March 4, 2015
Never been fired, but I have never been brave!!
By: Tabor on March 4, 2015
Never fired, promoted from being a lousy dishwasher to busboy.
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 4, 2015
haha. that made me laugh!
By: TexWisGirl on March 4, 2015
After 40 years with a large brokerage firm I was asked to retire...I think that is the same thing. The CEO was also asked to leave, but he left with 200 million dollars as a reward for bankrupting what was once the most successful firm on the street.
By: Cranky on March 4, 2015
I never was fired...but there were two occasions that I willingly quit the first was when I had worked for PNB/USWest for over 20 years and volunteered to be the next downsized employee in the late '90s...I was ready to leave as the job wasn't much fun anymore. Then later when I was working for a very well known flower shop in Portland the business was bought by a young man who had no idea how to run a business that was a well oiled machine. Consequently he began to make changes to our jobs....and some stayed til he fired them and I chose to tell him he could take his "effing" job and put it where the sun never shines. I quit in a huff and thank goodness I did. He eventually drove the business into bankruptcy. It was a shame.
By: Kathe W. on March 4, 2015
When a church we attended ran into hard times, they had to let the cleaning crew go and i was hired to do the work at a reduced rate. Once they got back on their feet, i was let go so they could hire someone else at a higher rate. There's no loyalty to hard workers among employers, even if they are churches.
By: mimi on March 4, 2015
I was fired once, by a boss who found some unflattering things I'd written about him (to a boyfriend, at work, but the boss peeked). Best thing that ever happened to me as I go a MUCH better job.
By: Lexa Cain on March 4, 2015
Once fired for having too soft a heart. Was in charge of originating disconnect orders at a gas company. When the moms who had been disconnected for non pay would come in with blue babies from the cold, I would have them reconnected with a promise to pay of one dollar a week.Sorry Patti, you have to go.
By: Akansas Patti on March 4, 2015
Yes, I've been fired twice, both times unfairly. But I always said "if you haven't been fired at least once in broadcasting you're probably not worth a damn."
By: Catalyst on March 4, 2015
I'm the queen of being dumped. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 4, 2015
Never been fired, but I got laid off twice. Makes you feel almost as good as getting fired, though. - I would have been scared in that darkroom, too!
By: Pixel Peeper on March 4, 2015
No, I've never had the pleasure of being fired. I got laid off once.
By: red on March 4, 2015
Just once, after getting into a mustard fight at the lunch counter where I worked one summer ... or for most of the summer anyway.
By: Tom Sightings on March 4, 2015
Yes, I've been fired as a coach because my team didn't win enough games. Funny how the same thing happened to the coach before me, and the coach after me.
By: Val on March 4, 2015
Sounds pretty traumatic. My first job was working with my sister as house-cleaners for this eccentric woman. She fired me for not properly matching her husband's socks. I'm not sure if it was a legitimate firing. I was twelve. They were loony, and his socks were mostly white or black. I can't imagine I did that badly.
By: Robyn Engel on March 4, 2015
Oh, sure! As a kid, I managed to land a waiter job in a high class restaurant. I turned in the order for appetizers, main meal and dessert. The table complained they were starving and the kitchen was delayed. Only the desserts were ready,so I served them. I thought it was creative problem-solving. Management felt otherwise, and as Donald Trump loves to say, "You're fired!"
By: Michael Manning on March 4, 2015
I have my own little business and an understanding "boss"!
By: John on March 5, 2015
That dark room experience sounds toe-curling. But I guess it's all part of life's learning curve. And I've never been fired - surprisingly.
By: Bryan Jones on March 5, 2015
I've been laid off a few times and that still felt pretty awful. Can't say I've been fired though. Great story.
By: Bouncin Barb on March 5, 2015
Yes, I was fired from my first job after college, but only because the economy turned south and I was the most junior guy. But I got a better job shortly thereafter, so all was well. It turned out to be a blessing.
By: Scott Park on March 6, 2015
Nope, never been fired, but I have quit a few jobs for what I thought at the time were problem bosses.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on March 9, 2015

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