Friday, December 17, 2010

Small Adventures #17

Coming up on the end of the year means the start of Bonnenkai parties ("end of year" drinking parties when you forget the old year and prepare for the new one). With this is the increase in drunk salarymen and office ladies staggering through the train stations and passed out on the train benches. Generally, the normal practice is to just give a wide berth to these people and keep on your way. But, if they're taking up several person's space on a bench, then it's ok to glare at them for preventing you from sitting down.

The other night, when the train pulled into Shinjuku station and the doors opened, there was a drunk guy in a cheap business suit sprawled across half of one of the benches. Since Shinjuku was the main terminal for this line, if the guy didn't get out at this point, he'd end up returning to where he'd gotten on, or may even ride out all the way to the other end of the line. Also, this was one of the last trains for the night, so he'd be kicked out of the train at the other end point and have to sleep it off on the street there. For this reason, one of the other passengers, who'd already found a seat on the opposite bench, got up and tried prodding the drunk, repeating "Shinjuku" a few times. The drunk kept sleeping soundly, so the good Samaritan returned to his seat and smiled knowingly at his wife.

Eventually, another salaryman got on the train and pushed the drunk over a bit to sit next to him. From this point on, the guy, who was tall, thin, looking about 40 and also fairly rumpled, started up a conversation with the drunk. At first, he repeated the "Shinjuku" part, and the drunk came to enough to just stare at him groggily. The thin guy then commented that if he didn't get off here, he'd end up returning to where he got on the train, making the entire ride kind of meaningless. The drunk then muttered that he'd got on at Seijogakuen-mae, about 15 minutes out and that it'd be ok if he got off there again. The doors of the train closed, and the thin guy just shrugged. Then, for the entire ride back, the thin guy kept the conversation up as other people got on and off at the other stops. After a while, the car got packed, with a good 100 people standing around, hanging from the straps.

When the train got to Seijogakuen-mae, half of the car emptied out, and the drunk guy kept sitting in place on the bench. The thin one started repeating "this is Seijo, you want to get off here, right?" But the drunk didn't want to move. Fortunately, the train had to wait several minutes before getting the signal to move out, so the thin guy had time to work. He switched to "You want to let these other people sit down, right? Get out here and let someone else sit down", while pushing the drunk up off of the bench. This was enough to do the trick. The drunk turned around, smiled, held out his hand to shake with his "benefactor", thanked him for his time, and staggered out the door. Immediately, two other salarymen sat down in the newly-opened space, and all three of them promptly fell asleep.

Just another night in Tokyo.

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