Thursday, June 25, 2009

Small Adventures

In the normal course of the day, you come to expect that things that went well yesterday will continue to do so today and tomorrow.

To get to work, I have to take 4 trains. Normally, this would mean buying 3 separate tickets each time, leaving the gated areas to go over to the ticket machines to get each ticket. Ignoring this, I could get a transfer ticket at the beginning that lets me ride the first two trains on the same ticket, but that's still two stops at the ticket machines each way, every day.

In order to simplify my life, I bought a 3-month pass which lets me go all the way to Akihabara and back without having to stop at the ticket machines all the time. Which is good because I can just carry that one card in a little case and pull it out when I need it and just put it away again when I get through the gate. It also makes it easier to catch connecting trains that are only a few minutes apart, making my total trip time shorter. I've been using this kind of ticket for months, and this one specific pass since the beginning of June.

So, there I am, going through the gate at Noborito, preparing to transfer from the Nambu to the Odakyu line. I put the ticket in the machine, a red light comes on, the gate flaps close on me, and the ticket doesn't come out. And there are a few hundred people behind me trying to also get out of the station.

I back up out of the gate, push my way past the crowd and get to the station master's window. Of course, now, I realize that it would be nice to know the Japanese word for ticket gate. Fortunately, the jammed gate has a flashing red light on it, and I wave and point at it, and the station master decides to follow me back over there. The crowd's starting to thin out, but they can tell that the gate's not working so everyone just flows around us. The station master opens up the machine to reveal a whole bunch of gears, rollers, tracks and one long rubber band that's fallen off the rollers. The station master starts pulling sections open and poking around with a tweezers, indicating that this has happened before. He's thinking that I lost a simple, smaller one-way ticket that's only worth $2, so he keeps looking in the discarded ticket hopper. I'm trying to tell him that it's a drivers license-size pass worth $450, but again I don't have the words for it.

After a couple of minutes, the crowds are gone, he's still poking around, and I've probably missed my next train. I start visualizing the path of the card from the first roller to the last, and eventually I see what looks like a corner of the card sticking out from under a roller that he hasn't checked. Sure enough, it's my card, and after it gets pulled out with the tweezers, is completely mangled and useless.

The station master tells me to go to a different window, where customers buy long-distance train tickets (and is similar to the one where I reported my forgotten backpack a few months earlier), but I'm not exactly sure if I understood him right. I go to the window, wait for the previous customer to leave, and hold up my card, saying "a little mangled". The station person here immediately understands what's happened, and using the information printed on the front of the card, types in a request for a replacement. However he's still fairly new to the job, and it takes three different people and another 10 minutes to finish the operation.

About 15 minutes have passed from when the card first got eaten by the gate to my getting the replacement card. Everyone that I dealt with here was professional and didn't question whether any of this was my fault, as if this all happens all of the time. There never was any real stress or panic on my part, but what meant to simplify my commute has caused me to be set back 15 minutes and miss 2 different connecting trains.

I also now realize that there are holes in my vocabulary that I need to fill...


Bunny said...

This is why you use a pasmo rather than the paper ones. Since it doesn't go in the amazing collection of ticket munching wheels, it doesn't get eaten!

They're actually there to rotate the ticket to the right orientation no matter what way you stick it in. Try it and see, backwards, upside down, you name it, it comes out the right way around ^^! Then just when you get confident, it strikes!

Since I have 3 different stations to go home to, I just have a regular pasmo (actually, a vintage penguin free suica).
If I try to charge it at JR, it says its too old and needs replacing! But it has a prime number, so I refuse. The metro chargers have no such delusions.

TSOTE said...

I guess I should look at the Pasmo. I get the discount for having the 3 month pass and any station along the Odaku between Noborito and Shinjuku is free (Heck, Akihabara is free after the 4th trip there per week). Don't know if having the Pasmo would be cheaper or more expensive.

tokyo5 said...

You can get the same 1-month, 3-month, or 6-month 定期 (Teiki (monthly train pass)) on a Pasmo or Suica.

I use JR lines, so I have a 定期 (month train pass) on a Suica card.

While the 定期 is valid, you can use any of the stations between the start and stop stations on the pass for free.