Friday, June 8, 2018

Small Adventure 63

There's kind of a dichotomy about polite, helpful Japanese behavior. On the one hand, the Japanese have a reputation for going out of their way to assist others. On the other, there's this claim that polite behavior on the trains consists of no talking with others because it may "disturb someone else" in one form or another (combined with the cramming of people into sardine cars, no matter how it may inconvenience everyone else already in the train. That is, it's an "every man for themselves environment."

I was riding the tram one morning, and we'd stopped at a transfer platform. The tram I was on was going to continue south to the end of the line at Taniyama. The other tram line goes west and then north on its way to the main Chuo train station. The driver was waiting for the light to change when a small, very old man with vision and knee problems tried to haul himself up the steps into the tram. He asked "Is this the tram to Chuo station?" No one else reacted, no one looked up, no one showed any intention of helping the guy or answering his question. The entrance into the tram was towards the back, so the driver was unable to hear the question.

Rather than wait as the guy struggled to get into what was obviously the wrong tram, I loudly answered "Chigaimasu" (this is the wrong tram). He immediately backed out of the car and left. Now, I've 10 of the 20 people in the car staring at me like I'm the most evil thing on the planet for having the gall to invade their comfort zones by talking too loud. I just smiled and stared back until they crawled into their shells again.

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