Five past the hour, and Hitoshi clamped down on irritation that was premature, but would come soon enough, as Karen Ryder quietly remonstrated her son for being late. His smartphone pinged as he was riding up in the elevator: James confirming that the buyout had gone through, the papers were signed, and Hitoshi was now the majority shareholder in the Westview Grand, trading on the NYSE as WVG, the Westview Group.
"Good Morning, Hitoshi," Karen Ryder smiled. She stepped forward and straightened his tie, even though it didn't need it. "At least you didn't sleep in your clothes this time."
Hitoshi bit back his customary retort as he realized someone else was in the room.
"Mika?" Karen said. "I'd like you to meet my son, Hitoshi."
The woman turned away from the window. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, with the prettiness of a J-Pop starlet, but there was a serious demeanor behind the pleasant smile.
"Ryder-san. Mr. Ryder," she said. "Mika Hanamura. I look forward to working with you."
Hitoshi returned the smile with his own, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"I had some informal discussions with the board, and we agreed that there's room for you to take a more formal role with the Westview Group, and here at the Casino," Karen said. "The title may change as the details are worked out, but Executive Director for Live Entertainment will do. You're familiar with the music scene through your … friends, and there will be opportunities to travel.
"Mika will be your executive assistant. She has an MBA from Stanford University and is fluent in several languages. Now, we have lunch reservations at the President's Club."
Hitoshi rolls his eyes at his mother's words. "You know mother, I actually have a job.. as a vehicle mechanic. It pays decently. Thirty an hour."
Sighing he turns and Bows to Miss Hanamura. "Hanamura-san, pleasure to meet you. I hope my mother hasn't been too troublesome."
Still despite his words, he holds the door open for his mother and Miss Hanamura.
"It's about making a serious investment in your future, Hitoshi," your mother replies, as if you did nothing but wallow in grease and grime all day.
The President's Club is one of the more prestigious dining venues at the Westview. Classic oak paneling and brass fittings surround tables that are designed for luxury, not economy of space. And there's actually a dress code of jacket and tie for men, a dress for women. No jeans, shorts, no casual/pool wear. Reservations only.
The food, of course, is of a corresponding grade, a five-star menu prepared under the supervision of a dedicated executive chef, rather than the same-entree-different-name platings offered in some venues with shared kitchen space.
You are greeted warmly by the staff as your party enters, and you recognize your mother's influence in the 'thirty second rule' - a guest is greeted and seated within thirty seconds, their drink orders asked after immediately.
Mika strikes you as an odd blend of modern businesswoman and the deferential assistant of the classical Japanese corporate model. But instead of a notepad, she is armed with a tablet computer, smartphone, and Bluetooth earpiece.
"I've taken the liberty of reviewing the existing contracts and scheduled performances through the end of the year," she tells you. "Once you inform me as to your preferred workflow, I will make adjustments to see that you are provided with the details necessary for efficient operations."
Umf. It sounds like one of your mother's lectures on attention to detail. No wonder she likes the girl.
Hitoshi sighs and flags down a waiter. "Rum and Coke, and I want it half and half. Please and thank you."
He turns his attention back to the conversation. "Mother, I have already taken care of my future, and no, it's none of your business. Now Miss Hanamura, IF I take the job, and IF you are my assistant, I have one major rule. Business is not to be discussed when sitting down to eat. It ruins my appetite, but mother will say different, well thats tough. She can say all she likes, but I know enough to know that IF I am The Director of Entertainment, I will have the right to choose those that work for me, and how certain situations are handled, Despite what she says." He looks his Mother in the eye, daring her to say something.
"Or I can just get up and walk away right now Mother."
"Yes, Mr. Ryder," Mika says. "Sumimasen."
She promptly tucks the tablet out of sight, silences her phone, and removes her earpiece. Again, you are aware of the curious dichotomy - a deferential manner with a hint of steel beneath.
"You're being difficult, Hitoshi," Karen frowns. "Don't take it out on Miss Hanamura. Mika, dear, don't fret. Your position is safe, even if my son declines the offer. If I'd had that attitude, I'd still be serving drinks on the casino floor."
"It's a pity you don't want to talk business," she continues. "There are some exciting opportunities on the horizon for the Westview Group."
Oh it only you knew, mother... Hitoshi told himself. Buying out J.T. Jennings, for starters.
"Mister Ryder... Please Call me Hitoshi. I'd like to think I'm not old enough yet to be called Mister." He says smiling at Mika.
"Oh and Mother, she will be working for me IF I take the job. I'd rather get what little you have beaten into her out, and get her real training. I need an assistant with Empathy and people skills if I take this job, not an iron fisted totalitarian watching my every move."
The waiter arrives with his drink and he thanks the man tipping him a twenty right on the spot. "Ah, now that... is a rum and coke" He says after taking a long sip of the drink.
"Now Mother, I actually need your advice on something. Considering I have never eaten here, What would you recommend to order?"
"The Cedar Plank Salmon is excellent," Karen says, ignoring your remonstration. "But, really, it depends on your appetite. You can get a cowboy-cut ribeye, or the petite filet with prawns."
The food is excellent, worthy of a future visit. The stilted silence reminds you of why your mother drives you slightly crazy. There isn't a common ground between you; your passions and avocations are dismissed as the temporary obsessions of a teenaged son. You've grown up, and she hasn't noticed. Or doesn't want to.
It's a bit sad, really.
"Hitoshi, in defense of your mother, nothing was 'beaten into' me," Mika finally says. Your mother begins to interject something, but Mika forestalls her with a direct look.
"I will follow your lead. If you prefer an assistant who keeps her mouth shut and walks three steps behind you, I can do that. If you prefer I be open and direct with you, I can do that. Or I can thank you for this opportunity and be on the next flight back home."
Hitoshi sighs. "Miss Hanamura, I am not wholly opposed to this job to be honest, however I will not make this decision over the course of a meal. Something this big must be slept on. If you need a room here at the hotel, I am sure my mother can pay for one. If not, I will. My decision will be made tomorrow. For now, I simply wish to eat, and get to know my potential work partner better. Also, I work with a bunch of Women who have no trouble speaking their opinion so I have no problem in you doing so. However, the difference between them and my mother is they don't try and control my life."
He takes another long sip of his drink as the waiter comes back. "Anyways, all decisions will be made tomorrow. Now ladies order first."
"If we aren't being formal, then, Mika, please," she says. She turns to the waiter. "I'll have the chicken club salad, the half-size, please."
Your mother orders the cedar plank salmon. She still has the 'tolerant mother' expression going, and the mild irritation of having to always play chess with her over your decisions briefly sours what is otherwise a perfectly-mixed rum and coke.
"Very well then Mika. I can live with that." Despite his mother being there and ruining what might have been an otherwise fine lunch, he still enjoyed the Rum and Coke for it's Numbing qualities. Eventually even it would make her more tolerable. "So Mika, you mentioned home. Where would that be exactly?"
"San Francisco, while I worry about finding a job and making some ... difficult choices," Mika tells you. "I'm originally from Kyoto, lived there through high school. College was my chance to make a fresh start."
Hitoshi sets down his fork. "Kyoto, interesting. I lived in Kyoto until I was Eighteen. Then We moved here due to Mother's job." He takes a bite of fish and chews thoughtfully, swallowing before speaking again as Proper dining etiquette was not the same as one would use when eating in a greasy spoon diner.
"I am from Kyoto, but my family was ... very traditional," Mika says. "My father did not approve of the American influences in our culture, and had strict rules about where we could go, and what we could do."
"I see." Hitoshi steeples his fingers in front of him. "I experienced first hand the non approval of My american heritage many times in back hallways of the local schools, and back alleyways of the city streets." He lets his hands fall and then shrugs. "But the past is the past, and for the most part is something I could care less about."
"Please. It was not pleasant for my family, either. My younger brother mentioned baseball once, and father ... disciplined him. Harshly," Mika said. "My apologies, Ms. Ryder, if this subject is ... disturbing. I do not enjoy speaking of it, but I think Hitoshi should know."
Hitoshi thinks for a moment on how to reply before nodding once. "I never knew my father. Mother raised me with the help of some friends and what family we had over there. Once my grandfather died, it was just me and her." He says this with an even tone, and does not seem to bother him one bit.
Mika simply bows her head slightly, respecting the space within Hitoshi's memories. "My father is a good man. He is just ... he lives in a world of strict rules by choice. For me, it is more than wanting to make different choices. I am not being a rebellious daughter. I am deciding what rules I want to live by."
"I do not know your father, therefore, I have nothing to base an argument for or against him. However, punishing ones child for their choices in life is something I am against. Of course I also happen to be against trying to force a child down a path in live that they don't wish to go."
He glances over at his mother as he says these words and takes another few bites of his meal.
"It is doubtful your paths would have crossed," Mika agrees. "He keeps to his ... business concerns. That a parent is forthcoming with their expectations does not mean they love them any less. But bound roots do not make for a strong tree."
"Well now a days, you'd be surprised who I cross paths with, but back then, I tended to keep to myself." With that said he finishes off his drink, and then his fish. The meal tasted amazing, but like any fancy restaurant, the portions were small.
"Well I must say, for once, I appreciate your advice Mother, the Fish was amazing."
"Joshua is an excellent chef," Karen says. "He has an attention to detail that I admire."
You smile and wonder if that 'attention to detail' drives the line cooks as crazy as your mother's particular expression of that quality. Probably not. While there's a certain precision to the craft, as Rick can attest to, he runs his kitchen off awareness, not micro-management.
With Mika, it is hard to tell if the veiled references to her father and his business mean he is a corporate samurai, a nationalist, or possibly ... Yakuza.
"I'm sure he is, but it's not all attention to detail, sometimes it's gut feeling and intuition as well as awareness." Hitoshi replies. He ponders The woman across from him. He wanted to ask Mika about her father, but he wasn't one to pry. He looks at his watch to check the time. Most people just had cell phones for the time, but He always like watches. Granted it wasn't a Rolex, but it was sturdy, and had the time and date on it, and that was all he needed.
'Well in a few more hours, the band will be playing. Tell me Mother, Who Chose the Necrmantics to play? While I'm glad that Lya and the Furies get to open for them, a Punk Goth Metal band is not the most obvious choice for a Casino show."
"It came about from our discussions about having a Director of Live Entertainment," Karen said. "The board wants to attract a younger demographic, and a one-night-only appearance by Nekromantix was something they were willing to allow. Putting a local group as the opener is simply good business."
"And I do hope you will give serious consideration to taking the position, Hitoshi."
Hitoshi Facepalms. "Really mother? A younger crowd? You mean exactly like I told you lets see..." He whips out his phone and cues up the calendar. "May seventeenth of last year, and I remember you calling it childish, and a horrible idea. Yes, I put it in my calendar because I knew it would come up again, and after tonight, I'm gonna owe you an I told you so, and you will owe me an apology." He slides his phone back into his pocket.
"As for the job mother, I AM giving it serious consideration. that's why I'm not saying yes immediately. I was listening when you told some some things mother. Not that you were around much in my early teenage years, but when you were I actually listened to a few things."
"I wasn't 'around' because I was working," Karen says defensively. "But, as you occasionally remind me, I don't have to justify my existence to you. Still, if you accept the job, it would make me proud."
Mika's discomfort at a difference of opinion between mother-and-son becomes a bit more evident. "If you will excuse me, Hitoshi, Ms. Ryder. I wish to use the ladies' room."
Hitoshi watches Mika walk away, and only speaks when she's out of view. "So, where'd you find her, cause she's gonna have to grow a spine if she's to deal with both of us. You have your opinion, and I have mine, and we just don't agree on a lot of things."
"A spine. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, Hitoshi. She's an excellent executive assistant, amazingly quick on the uptake," Karen tells you. "As for us disagreeing, and this is not to bribe you into accepting the position, the board is considering making it separate from Resort Operations. We would both be reporting directly to the Board and the CEO, not you to me."
Hitoshi rubs his left pinky with his thumbs. It strangely tended to hurt and throb lately.
"Like I said Mother, I shall have to think on it. I don't want to jump into this lightly, and if I do, I want to cut ties with the autoshop without burning my bridges and friendships with them, Not to mention the band. I've been with them a long time, and that job was more about the friendship than the money."
He snorts at the mention of reporting to the board and CEO, and not to her. If only she knew that he WAS a member of the board. She'd find out tomorrow though.
"Sorry, something tickled my nose there."
"Well, then. The board meeting is slated for 1PM, lunch will be catered around 11:30," Karen says. "May I have your decision before the meeting, at least? You don't need to join us for lunch unless you want to."
Hitoshi shakes his head. "Unfortunately I'll be working till 2 PM. The Police Chief brought in his Harley for service, and Mike put me on it since I'm the best. I'll have to let you know after the meeting then. When's it over?"
He didn't actually have to work, but she didn't know that, and he wasn't about to tell her that he was suddenly going to show up at the meeting and upstage her.
"It shouldn't be terribly long. No later than 3PM, I imagine," your mother answers. "If you are able to make it, text me. My phone will be on silent, but I'll see your message."
"Why would I attend a meeting of the Shareholders? I don't own any stock." Hitoshi raises an eyebrow and does his best to look confused. Inside however, he's worried that She already knows.
"I suggested you as a candidate, but I'm not the one offering you the job, Hitoshi," your mother says. "The Board of Directors seemed amenable to the idea."
Hitoshi nods. "Ah, I see. Well then I shall do my best to be there then. I'll have to go into work early." He shrugs. "I'll figure it out Mother."
"Well I suppose it's only natural considering they don't know I already am one of them." He thinks to himself.
Mika returns to her seat at the table.
Your mother dabs her mouth with a napkin. "Well, then. Mika, dear, your position as executive assistant for the Director of Live Entertainment is secure, even if my son declines the position. Hitoshi, I will see you tomorrow."
Karen departs in her customary precise manner.
Mika stands and gives you a respectful bow, then presents her business card to you, observing meishi.
"Hitoshi-san, I understand you have not given your decision on the job opportunity," she says. "If you should require my services, you may reach me by phone or e-mail. It has been a pleasure to meet you."
Hitoshi stand and bows, politely accepting her card.
"My apologies but I do not have a business card. I have never had a need to carry them. However after tomorrow I will probably have to get some. Your services will most likely be needed, do not fret."
He pockets the card and straightens. "If you like punk rock music, the band will be playing this evening, I shall leave a ticket at the door for you. Please, feel free yo make use of it."
"Domo arigato gozaimashita, Hitoshi-san," she says. "I am not familiar with that style of music, but it will be good to familiarize myself with it, neh? I will see you tonight."
Hitoshi smiles. "Well IF I take the job, you may find yourself associating with the band quiet a bit. Have a good day." He bows again and watches as she leaves before approaching the elevator. Suddenly he stops.
'Shit, I forgot to tell mother about the restock. Guess I'll have to do it myself."
He grins. His mother would kill him if she knew that he knew where the Hotel's booze supply was.