I’ve found the perfect job, a job where I could get paid to do nothing.
I’d hang out with a person, sit around, stare off into space and respond to small talk when someone makes it.
I wouldn’t start conversations, we wouldn’t have deep philosophical discussions late into the night, and I wouldn’t take you to the airport, babysit your kid or help you with basic home repairs.
But I’d watch any movie you want to watch, eat with you when you don’t want to be alone, or sit silently while you have a cup of coffee.
We’d just hang out for a few hours, and then I’d go home.
And I would do it all for $100.
It’s the perfect job. Which is why Shoji Morimoto of Tokyo has been doing it since 2018.
In that year, after being unemployed for a time, Morimoto started a Twitter account called “Do Nothing Rent-a-Man” and offered companionship without sex, and with the caveat that he wasn’t going to put an ounce of effort into the relationship.
In fact, there’s not going to be a relationship.
For 10,000 yen ($88) plus cab fare and meals, Morimoto will rent himself out to do nothing for a few hours.
“Which means I don’t make any special effort,” he recently said in a CBS News story. “I don’t initiate conversation, I reply to chitchat, but that’s it.”
According to CBS News, he won’t clean houses, do laundry or be a friend. He’s also turned down requests to visit a haunted house or pose nude.
Which means he won’t help you move.
In essence, he’s like that one bump-on-a-log friend who never does anything but sit at your house and stare at his phone, waiting for you to do something. He won’t say, “Hey, let’s go to a movie.” He won’t suggest a restaurant. He’s just there until you don’t need him to be.
Morimoto once stood on a street to be an audience for a street musician. Another time, he shared a birthday cake with someone who was terribly lonely. And he has gone shopping or to restaurants with people who don’t want to be alone.
“Some feel it’s a shame to go somewhere (interesting) alone — they want someone to share their impressions with,” Morimoto said.
This sounds like the perfect job for me. Go to lunch or dinner and listen to someone talk. I wouldn’t have to do much or say much, other than nod and say “uh-huh” or “Then what?” I wouldn’t have to ask questions or say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea.”
Except my problem is that I love to talk and I love to be helpful. I would interrupt someone and say, “That reminds me of a funny story” or “You know what you should do?” I would have to give a discount for my services: $100 if you want me to do nothing, $50 if I get to give you advice.
This is where Morimoto is the master of Do Nothing. He recently had coffee with a woman in total silence because that’s all she wanted. She wanted a safe space with no talking, so they sat at a cafe table and drank coffee.
“Japanese women tend to worry about what others think and about not burdening others. It’s exhausting. So being freed of this obsessing is valuable,” the woman told CBS News after requesting anonymity.
I could do that. I could be someone’s dining or coffee companion, and they could talk (or not) and never have to worry over what I think about them. I mean, I might silently judge them, but I would keep that to myself.
But Morimoto is more than just a plus-one at restaurants and shopping trips. He once had dinner with a guy who needed to confess an affair to somebody. He shared a home-cooked meal with a guy who said his mother had raised him to lead a life of crime. And he once spent time on a swingset with a guy who wanted to not think about his crappy job and relive his childhood joy for a brief moment.
I’d be pretty good at that job, except I think I can improve on what Mr. Do Nothing Rent-a-Man is doing. I’ll be Mr. Have Fun Rent-a-Friend. I’ll sit and listen, but I’ll also make you feel good about your choices. I’ll build you up and tell you that you look wonderful, your clothes look nice, and that you deserve better than the person you broke up with.
Want to hang out for lunch? I’ll come up with three reasons why you deserve fries with your burger. Need someone to see a foreign film with? I’ll pretend to like it and commend you on your high-brow sense of culture. Need a fan at your improv class’ opening night? I’ll leap to my feet and give you a standing ovation. Don’t want to go alone to your snooty cousin’s wedding? We’ll sit in the back and make fun of the bridesmaids’ dresses.
Morimoto is filling a basic need that many people have: They’re lonely. They want to share a space with someone. To go to a restaurant and not sit alone. To go shopping and have someone to talk to. To just have someone across the table who will listen to them without judgment, even for a few hours.
I’m happy to do all of that as well. Whatever you need, I’ll be happy to do it.
But I’m not helping you move either.