The Hand Over

We knew this day would come but now that it is here, we are all feeling, well, a bit blue. Perhaps no one more than the Little Blue Man himself. For the past year plus, the Little Blue Man has diligently attended to the needs of the construction site next door, rain or shine. Looking very official in his Obayashi-issued hard hat, snappy blue suit, reflective vest and light saber suspended like a samurai sword, he was in charge of leading the daily calisthenics at 8 a.m., directing traffic when trucks clogged the road, distributing bento lunch boxes, and, at the end of the day, after everyone else had gone home, padlocking the property. But no matter what was going on on site, he always had a smile for us and a pat for Pippi. Once he even proffered her a tennis ball! What a guy!

But today the building was handed over to its owner, completing the property’s transformation from a decrepit Japan Tobacco employee compound to luxury apartment complex. Over the past year or so, we watched the new construction emerge from the ground, the big jobs gradually giving way to fine-tuning as subcontractors worked overtime to plant trees, put up a stone wall, install signage, and apply other finishing touches. No doubt the process culminated in a formal ceremony of some sort since this is Japan.

In anticipation of this day, the Little Blue Man approached me earlier in the week as I was exiting our garage. He motioned for me to unroll the window, removed said hat, bowed and informed me solemnly that Friday would be his last day. While we are glad to have the inconvenience of living next to a construction site over, we are sorry to see him go and decided his impending departure merited a little hand over of our own.

Let’s back up for a moment … a couple of months ago, on the occasion of her birthday (and sort of on a dare), Eve asked the Little Blue Man if she could take his picture. At first he was a bit surprised, but then he stepped up to plate and, as he always does, got the job done. That’s our Little Blue man for you! Ever since that day, he has greeted Eve as “Jyu-san-sai” or “the 13-year-old.” So yesterday David and the girls printed that photo (it depicts the Little Blue Man in the company of Abby, Eve, Pippi and a friend) and Francia baked Blondies. This morning, on the way to school, we presented the Little Blue Man with the photo and the treats. Imagine his surprise!

Like most proper Japanese people, he did not open the parcel in our presence but thanked us profusely and bowed deeply (the deeper the bow, the more significant the occasion). After a longer-than-usual exchange of pleasantries, Pippi and Francia went off to play ball and I escorted the girls to school. Upon my return, I caught a glimpse of the Little Blue Man in an uncharacteristic moment of repose. He had our blue (of course!) envelope in hand and was gazing at the photo. When he saw me, the Little Blue Man grinned broadly and proudly informed me that he had shown his co-workers the picture. Apparently, he told Francia that he plans to keep the photo forever!

Good-Bye, Little Blue Man! We’ll miss you!

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