Phono no Aware

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To the Japanese, the crucial emotion of life is mono no aware: transcience, empathy, a pathos towards the fleeting and the temporary.  (In a word, emo.)  Yet there’s another crucial emotion that deals with the transient, the empathic, the fleeting, and the temporary.  It’s a neologism I call it phono no aware.

Phono no aware is simply the act of making yourself look important because you receive calls on your cell phone every hour, on the hour.  You don’t have to be important, you just have to come across as important.  Like everything in life, perception is reality.  But let’s not make this too sociological or too highfalutin; I’m just trying to make a point.

If you work in Eastwood, Ortigas Center, or Makati, you try to make an impression that you’re a winner, that you’re pretty much successful in everything you do, that the plebians who work at MiniStop are simply serving their superiors.  The truth is, you’re pretty much a wage-slave like everyone else.  With at least three differences:

  • You work across the street from the headquarters of multinational corporations (in my case, San Miguel Corporation).
  • Your office happens to be in the multinational corporation itself, but it’s just a space being leased by the owners of said corporation to make more money (say, PBCom Tower).
  • You do work for a multinational corporation, which is essentially a BPO outfit that happens to work with corporations abroad (duh).

Again, perception is reality.  These realities does not have to exist to you, nor do you have to acknowledge them.  You’re lucky enough to be in goddamn Ortigas, for chrissakes.

Anyway, now that you’ve successfully duped yourself, it’s time to dupe other people.  When you work in a “multinational corporation,” you’re three things: a winner, a person worthy of respect, and completely indispensable.  Never mind that you’re a loser, an asshole, and that you can be fired like everyone else; all you need to do is project an image of success, respectability, and invincibility.  Here’s where phono no aware comes in.

Now how exactly do you make yourself look important?  Doctors have stethoscopes, nurses have white suits, and journalists wear those funny-looking khaki vests and big-ass ID’s that say “Media.”  Yup, props: something that not a lot of people have.  Or do they?  How exactly could you make yourself look like a busy, important person who is above Skype-using peons and the quota serfdom?  Business suit?  Striped shirt?  Salvatore Ferragamo look-alikes?  Watch?

Nah… try this:

  1. Get two cellphones.  One should be cheaper than the other.  The more expensive phone should be a slider or a clamshell model.  It doesn’t have to be genuine.
  2. Put cheaper one in your left hip pocket.
  3. Make more expensive phone ring (get someone to call you, sound off the alarm, just as long as you make it ring loud enough for people to hear).  When you do answer the call, snap your phone out.  Make it seem that you’re above these cheap candybar phones everyone has.
  4. Receive call.  But not without standing up, leaning against a wall or a post, putting your left hand in your left pocket.
  5. While you’re receiving your call (the call can be legit, or you can pretend to speak to “someone” on the “other line), gesticulate.  Be animated, but try to look professional.  Try leaning on your right shoulder to keep your phone from falling while you text someone on your other phone.  Check your watch.
  6. While you’re doing this, talk REALLY loud.  Disturb your officemates.  Annoy the people behind you on the MRT.  Make it appear that you’re so important that they feel insecure or irritated by you.  Talk to your phone while you’re ordering lunch or hailing a taxi.

That, my friends, is phono no aware. Chances are, anyone working in corporate Manila knows people who do this.

Note: Read Erving Goffman, “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” and Horace Miner, “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”

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