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Do As Tokyo Does Three Train Tales
(Entered Nov. 08, 2008)
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Shoe Limbo

train talesUsually when I ride the trains I'm the one getting pissed off or trodden on, but not today.
Next time you ride the train or subway, look down at that space between the platform and the train. Sometimes it's small but other times it's pretty big, and you find yourself wondering if your leg or maybe a small child could accidently slip down there. Not to worry, this story doesn't involve someone having their leg sawed off while the train is happily departing for the next station, but it does involve that gaping crack between train and platform.
When you talk about trains in Tokyo, there's no way to avoid also talking about crowds and lineups. Everybody wants to be the first one through the doors which naturally involves lots of pushing and everyone getting much closer to you than you'd like. I usually try to stay above this childish behaviour but I suppose on this day I was in more of a hurry than usual, and I accidently stepped on the back of the shoe of the girl in front of me. It promptly fell off her foot and, you guessed it, right into that space between platform and train. In hindsight it's a wonder this kind of thing doesn't happen more often, but that's hindsight. At the time I was mortified that I'd been the cause of something so distressful. I mean, think of it. You suddenly find that you only have one shoe, and the other one is now under the train's wheels and about to get ground up into paste. On top of it all, you're now obliged to stick around and try to find some way to salvage your shoe which means you're going to miss your train, almost as bad as losing a shoe in the first place.
Predictably, the girl uttered a horrified 'uso....' (oh my god, no way!) as she watched her shoe disappear into the darkness. Her boyfriend (who was bigger than me), instead of punching me in the face after my startled 'gomen nasai' (sorry!), sadly looked down to where the shoe was now hidden, and turned to her with a consoling expression, not saying anything, while pulling her out of the line up to wait and see if the shoe would survive. It was a depressing sight to say the least. What to do? Should I wait around with them like an unwanted person at a funeral? The line was moving inexorably into the train, leaving the shoeless girl and her boyfriend on the sidelines and I felt myself moving with it. I'll never know if she managed to get her shoe back now, or if she had to hop all the way home, but either way, I'm truly sorry.


Why Teleport When You Can Ride the Train?
Riding the train is almost always an extremely dull affair, but occasionally you run into situations that are straight out of the X-Files.
It was a regular morning with a regular rush hour crowd on a regular train. Usually I never look at people on the train in the morning as a) I'm tired b) being much too close for comfort, when you do look you see things you'd rather not, like individual hair folicles growing in abnormal places, strange skin blemishes, etc. I usually look at the ground or ceiling and do my best to pretend that there is nobody around me. The only time I do glance at people is when they're getting off the train, I suppose it's to mentally thank them for freeing up some space, which is why I noticed this young Japanese businessman getting off a couple of stations after I boarded. The weird thing is, he got back on the train at the next stop....


My Magical Magnetic Shoulder
Sometimes you get sleepy on trains. Sure, trains are boring things both to look at and to ride, but surely no other people know how to take a nap on a train like the Japanese. I admit I've dozed off a time or two when commuting, but I always do it correctly and unobtrusively, which means I don't lean on the person sitting next to me. It's a familiar scene. For some reason, perhaps either working, drinking or studying all night, the person beside you is dead tired and their head starts to creep towards your shoulder. Closer and closer they get until, in a dazed stupor, they jerk back to the starting position. From here the cycle continues all over again, each time their head coming a bit closer, until finally, it actually touches your shoulder and you give them a firm shove to let them know they've crossed the line.
I usually have no patience for this sort of thing, but one time the leaner was a good looking girl who was starting to nod off in my direction. train talesThe ride was a long one, and with no book with me and nothing better to do I amused myself by mentally judging how many more inches each lean needed before her head touched my shoulder. Now girls in Japan have to be fairly alert on trains, and most of the time they're careful not to actually let their heads touch some strange shoulder, no matter how tired they are, lest they give some dirty minded guy (not me of course) the wrong idea. So I was surprised then when her head actually made contact, and remained there for a couple of seconds before she jerked it back. By then the train was becoming fairly crowded and there were more and more witnesses to this spectacle. Before she fell completely asleep though, her stop came up and she hurried off the train, but was immediately replaced by another good looking girl (two in a row, an almost unheard of occurrence) who, without further ado promptly put her head on my shoulder and seemed to fall asleep. Perhaps she'd seen my acceptance of the other girl leaning on me and felt I was safe, or perhaps my shoulder had suddenly become a magical magnet for the heads of cute girls? Be that as it may, I had a decision to make. My stop was coming up soon, and this girl seemed to have settled in for the night. What to do? Well I didn't seriously consider just continuing down the line so I could be some sort of human pillow, but the thought did briefly cross my mind. Ok so how to end it? Should I just stand up and let her fall over? Push her head out of the way? Wake her up and chat her up for a bit? In the end I tried to gently stand up while murmuring 'sorry, excuse me, etc'. She really had been sleeping though, and when I finally stood up and glanced back, she had a half dazed, half put out expression on her face, like I'd just woken her up at 4:00 am from a good dream. Well it's nice to be wanted, even if it's only my shoulder...



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