It's like Tiffany never died*
Looks like we got back just in time to experience the last few days of summer. Just in time to experience a little bit of what we’d missed and be oh-so glad that we’d missed it. And then it started raining. And continued raining. And kept raining some more after that.
The commute is a decidedly mixed blessing. With the kids at home (and indeed at work) it’s one of the few occasions I can spend in my own head with minimal fear of interruption. I’m slightly shocked by how highly I’ve come to value that, to be honest. But on the down side, well, weird things happen. And when it rains heavily it’s not so much weird as just straight-up nasty.
Because heavy rain fucks it all up. The trains are late, and infrequent, and slow. I’m not in Tokyo or Osaka, so those nightmare youtube clips you see of people getting shoved on already overfull carriages by station staff wearing white gloves aren’t a regular aspect of my existence. But when it rains, oh boy. The only difference is that JR West clearly won’t splash out for those natty white gloves for their staff, so they have to shove us on with their bare hands, poor bastards.
But shove they do, and just when you’re convinced that there’s no possible way for more people to fit on we reach another station and slivers of space measured in picometres briefly emerge only to be crammed with more damp and harried commuter-meat. Cubits seem like a distant and unachievable luxury now. Forty days and nights are as nothing as the landscape crawls past through fogged up windows as the train inches its way along rails apparently coated in pitch and hot tar. There aren’t enough hand-holds to go around but everyone’s splatted together so tight remaining upright isn’t a problem. Except, of course, when the train hits even the slightest camber in the tracks, at which point we all slosh to the side like too-warm dregs of lager in the pint glass of a drunk and belligerent giant. The poor lass by the door gets the combined weight of the entire carriage smershing her up against the window and is none-too pleased by this. Now, I’ve seen a few movies in which women get pressed against steamed-up panes of glass and they normally seem very enthusiastic about this turn of events, but this is decidedly less exciting for all concerned. 9½Weeks it is not, for all that it feels that long.
This wouldn’t happen back home. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on a fair few tube trains which come close to this level of involuntary body-contact, but it would pan out fairly differently. Brits just wouldn’t stand for it. Except they clearly would, both figuratively and literally. Instead of a carriage of silent annoyance and forbearance going nowhere fast, in the UK you’d get a carriage of vocal whinging and entitlement going nowhere fast.
I’ve ragged on the Japanese obsession with the ganbaru spirit before, and I stand by that. On the large scale it works against necessary change and encourages reinforcement of the status quo. But we’re hardly gearing up for a revolution back home, and so all that vocal individualistic complaining achieves is making a bad situation even worse for everyone around you. People in Japan are at least capable of shutting up and getting on with it when stuff is clearly beyond their power to change in the short-term. The trouble lies when that attitude spills over into the long term.
But I didn’t care about the long term on that train and nor, rightly, did anyone else. People were clearly unhappy, but then everyone was in the same boat/carriage. No-one felt they had more right than anyone else to bitch and moan about stuff. They just shut up and got on with it and that, I think, is a quality a lot of people back home could do with a little more of.
I’d still like to avoid it next time though, so I think I might build that boat after all. How big is a cubit, exactly?
Credit where it's due.
Credit where it's due.