Saturday Jul 19, 2008

Inches

In Japan the trains run on time. With rare exceptions -- like tsunamis, typhoons, and earthquakes. Not only that but the trains fly into stations and come to a remarkably smooth stop right on the dot. Every time. Well, mostly every time. In 24 months of riding these things every day, I've only had train operators miss their marks a few times. But here's what gets me. Check this out. You are on a packed train with hundreds of people (quietly sleeping, watching TV on their cell phones, or reading). You dart into the station and stop. But the doors don't open. On the speaker you hear something like, "sorry, just a moment please," and then you wait. No one says a word. No one moves. Then the train moves backwards. An inch. The doors don't open, though. Then you get another announcement. Then the train moves forward. A hair. Then the doors open out you go like nothing happened. So, here's my problem. I can see if the guy missed the platform by 20 feet or something and we all step out to our deaths on the track. But these platforms are several hundred feet long. What's an inch or two either way? I know, I know it's safety thing. Jon recently explained this to me, which also explains all the human-mechanized movements you see in and around Japanese trains. But still. It's an inch. An inch. Lucky these guys rarely miss their mark. This would drive me nuts if it happened every day.

Monday Aug 27, 2007

A Good Laugh

USA Today tries to understand the iPhone and Japan: "As anyone who regularly commutes on Japanese trains will tell you, everyone from youths to suited businessmen freely read manga of varying degrees of sauciness...." -- Ken Y-N.

I totally agree. And the quote Ken refers to is funny, but it's typical of European and American press coverage of Japan.

During rush-hour commute times in downtown Tokyo, you are literally packed in to the trains like cattle where not even one more human being could possibly fit (though they always try). So, there's no way to hide what you are reading. Heck, it was so tight tonight on the way home, I didn't even have enough room to read my Japanese homework. I couldn't get my hand far enough away from my face to focus on the text. Why? There was some guy's head there, and I was carefully studying his ear hairs. I counted nine. And there was another head on my left. And another on my right, and that guy really needs to floss. And there was an elbow dug into my back, and a red high heel buried deep into my foot (though she said she was very sorry for that one). So, forget privacy on these trains during commute time. There isn't any.
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