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Excuse Me for Having to Be Rescued: Negotiating Order in Japan

We here at She Negotiates are big on speaking our minds, learning to ask for what we want and need, promoting ourselves without apology and singing our own praises.

There are times, however, when the community comes first. We four bloggers live in an earthquake zone – Roxana in San Diego, Katie and myself in Los Angeles, and Lisa in Carpenteria — all in California on the edge of the San Andreas Fault.

I’ve been thrown out of bed in the early morning hours and tossed about as if a giant had picked up my building and rattled it as a child does to a present to see what’s inside. I “survived” the 1994 Northridge earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 and an epicenter only a few miles from my home. I’ve huddled in the dark with neighbors as aftershocks rocked the ground beneath our feet. And I’ve stood in line at a grocery store, paying the shopkeeper whatever I had in my wallet for whatever I absolutely needed – “please don’t ask for more.”

Today, the newspaper of record for Los Angeles, its own readership jumpy and restless, tells us that the Japanese are maintaining order by exhibiting behavior (“impeccable manners”) that most Westerners would consider overly deferential and needlessly self-sacrificing.

Reporting from Tokyo —She was elderly and alone, injured and in pain. When the massive earthquake struck, a heavy bookshelf toppled onto Hiroko Yamashita, pinning her down and shattering her ankle.

When paramedics finally reached her, agonizing hours later, Yamashita did what she said any “normal” person would do, her son-in-law recounted later: She apologized to them for the inconvenience, and asked if there weren’t others they should be attending to first.

The culture of the west coast of the United States is energetic and rambunctious. It’s overly concerned with appearances and material acquisitions. Our attention is far too often centered solely on ourselves and the lure of fame and riches that the word “Hollywood” implies.

I do not know anyone who would apologize to their rescuers for the inconvenience caused by the need to be saved. And I cannot imagine the destruction to my own City by the occurrence of a quake with a magnitude greater than eight. I do know, however, that in the face of crisis, whether we live in Hollywood, Tokyo, Cairo, New Orleans, New York City, or Bangalore, we pull together, set aside our differences, care first for the weakest and and carry on.

Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be thinking of ways we can lend a hand to our neighbors who live, as we do, on the rim of the perilous ring of fire. Please feel free to use the comment space here to share requests and suggestions for assistance.

Be safe. Be thoughtful. Be generous. Be of service.


Victoria Pynchon

Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all… MORE >

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