Posted by: patenttranslator | January 2, 2012

That Déjà Vu Feeling After New Year’s Is Here Again

This déjà vu feeling could be described as a foreboding about bad things to come in the new year that nobody and nothing can prevent, but one that is at the same time mixed with inexplicable expectations of wonderful adventures that are in store for me this year, just as soon as the fax spits out a new job (20 years ago), or a zipped folder with files requiring urgent translation somehow appears in my e-mail (now in the 21st century).

When our children were small, I used to rent an office for about 10 years because I couldn’t get anything done at home, first in San Francisco, then in Petaluma and in Santa Rosa. I loved the office I was renting in the McNear Building in Petaluma. It looked very much like Sam Spade’s (Humphrey Bogart’s) office in the movie Maltese Falcon, with fake fancy golden lettering on the glass pane in the door. The building was from 1886, which is ancient for California, everything was old and wooden, a major fire hazard, and there were many skylights everywhere, including in my office. I would lie on my sofa and watch the clouds in the sky when I had no work or did not feel very productive. My office was sandwiched between an office of a therapist (what else) and an office of a huge but very friendly American Indian guy. He was trying to get back some of the land that the US government has stolen from Indians.

Petaluma is such a cool small town. When our children were still very small, my wife and I (mostly my wife, because all of my friends lived in San Francisco) decided to leave San Francisco after 10 years in the city.  The moment we arrived to Petaluma after checking out several other places in the Bay Area, I was wholeheartedly with the program. If you saw the film “American Graffiti”, the main drag where bored teenagers kept driving their cars up and down the street on Saturday night was Petaluma Boulevard, which is where I used to go on my lunch hour to grab a sandwich and look for hidden treasures in antique stores and a big Goodwill store (mostly the Goodwill store). “Peggy Sue Got Married” was also filmed in Petaluma. Hitchcock’s “Shadow Of A Doubt” was filmed in Santa Rosa, which is about 15 minutes north of Petaluma, and the film “Birds” was filmed in Bodega Bay, which is about 20 minutes east of Petaluma.

I was surrounded in that office building by therapists’ offices, but many private eyes must have been plying their trade there back in the day before the Northern California’s commercial real estate was invaded by hordes of shrinks, mostly female shrinks. Although I did know one private detective who had an office just below mine on the first floor, her name was Liz and her business was called Sinclair Investigations. She has a bookstore in Florida now the last I heard. I imagine she is selling lots of mysteries.

The one thought I have at the beginning of a new year is, of course, “What if the workflow stops all of a sudden and there is no more work for me for some reason this year?” So far, it has not happened, but you never know. It could happen one day.

It is not just freelancers who have to worry about things like that. Restaurant owners for example have the same problem. Sometime when business is slow, restaurant owners in Japan ask their relatives to sit in the restaurant and pretend that they are customers because Japanese people will not enter an empty restaurant. They will first look at the statue of a fat Tanuki (racoon) who is inviting potential customers inside the restaurant. If they like the Tanuki, the will look at the menu and see if there are any guests inside. If the restaurant is empty, they go to the next one.

This is one of those unwritten rules in Japan that everybody must obey. The family members pretending to be restaurant customers are called “sakura” in Japanese and you can’t really tell them from real customers.

Nobody can say at this point what the new year 2012 will be like for restaurant owners or patent translators. I am hoping that it will be at least as good for my business as 2011 was to me, which was a year when my income grew by 28% although the second part of the year was kind of slow, and the readership of my blog almost quadrupled, from 7 thousand to 27 thousand blog hits a year after less than 2 years on the blogosphere. A repeat performance of such a phenomenal growth also in 2012 would be certainly welcome.

Of course, it is also possible that a huge asteroid will slam into the earth this year, which is just about the only thing that can keep me from doing in 2012 what I was doing in 2011. But I have a feeling that 2012 will be a good year for most of us. It is such a nice round number.

There is a Chinese saying “May you live in interesting times”, which is really a curse that we can cast upon people who have done wrong to us. The word “interesting” often has negative connotations in Japanese too. If a Japanese person tells you that a meal is “interesting”, it usually means that it has an awful taste, and if a Japanese businessman says about a business proposal “This is also interesting”, it usually means that it is a really dumb idea.

May we live in boring times in the year 2012, but in the good sense of the word, with lots and lots of déjà vu feelings year after year for many years to come.



  1. I just want to say, I love all the little culture stories you throw in your posts. You really seem perpetually fascinated by the people/places/languages you work with. Keep them coming, please!


  2. “You really seem perpetually fascinated by the people/places/languages you work with.”

    Yes, I am. It’s just one of the symptoms of my (mild) dementia.

    But on the plus side, now you know what the Japanese sentence “Restoran no naka ni wa sakura ga iru” (There is a “Sakura” in the restaurant) really means.


  3. Thoroughly enjoyable post, as always. And congrats on your awesome blog statistics! By the way, I know for a fact that the world is not coming to an end this year, because Marty McFly traveled to 2015. So, we’ll all be fine for at least 3 more years 😉


  4. Thank you.

    It’s good to know that in all probability I may have about as many years to live as my dog Lucy.

    I wonder whether I will be able to quadruple the hit count on my blog again this year.


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