Monday, 24 May 2010

Daily Squish

My commute to work is fairly short but includes two transfers and three lines - one of which is one of the busiest lines in Tokyo. Going to school I always missed the morning peak rush and rarely found the evening peak to be quite so concentrated. But now I'm on the train at the end of the peak morning rush and that means that if anything goes wrong the chain of dominoes collapses. Trains get delayed meaning more people waiting at a station, meaning more time needed to push your way on and off, meaning more delays, meaning... a vicious (and sweaty and elbow in the ribs-filled) circle.

The Saturday before last there had been a jumper further out the line AND mechanical trouble a stop or two down the line. By the time I got to the station things were beginning to clear up but the trains were packed and more people were pushing on at each stop. On the other side of the car was a very young and over-made up bleached haired mother with a young kid in her arms. While fellow passengers seemed to be trying to give them space the train was packed and every time a new group got on there was a push and the little girl would cry out. By the time her mother finally got off the poor girl was crying and yelling that she hated trains because they hurt. I wouldn't be surprised if the child was traumatized by the experience and will take some time before she happily rides a train again - heck I know that's how I feel!

Another day last week various delays meant the train was packed and I had one guy's elbow in the back of my head and armpit on my shoulder, a lady's shoulder wedged into the side of my ribs, another guy standing on my foot, and a little old lady shoved into my chest. When we got to the the major transfer station everybody wanted to get off at the same time - whether there were people in front of them or not. This lead to a Three Stooges type moment with everyone pushing to get out but getting stuck in the bottleneck. And then something gave and like the cork on a bottle of champagne, people popped out of the doors. One lady, facing backwards, didn't move fast enough for the impatient horde behind her and was sent flying.

Earlier this week I got to the station and - on autopilot I walked to the escalator. Something wasn't right, however as there were people coming down the up escalator! A quick glance to the other side to confirmed the regular down escalator was still moving down. My confusion turned to dread as I looked up to the platform and saw the stairs nearly fully blocked with lines of people. I lined up myself but had to let the first packed train go by before I could board. I wasn't even sure I'd make it on to the next train but the person behind me was insistent on getting on so I was pushed on and in. When we all transferred one lady in stiletto heels was doing the strangest bird-pecking sort of neck stretching jumping stunted almost run to get down the stairs to her train. I'm not sure it made her any faster, but it did mean she didn't have to fight any others off - we were all standing around staring at her!

Can you tell how much I dread my morning commute??


  1. That sounds awful, you poor thing having to go through that every day! Do you at least have an mp3 player so you can try and escape to a happier place when you're in the middle of it?

    No chance you could shift your working hours a little to avoid it?

  2. My mum always said she felt like a sardine in a tin during the peak rush!! My image of this as a kid was that everyone was so packed into the trains that it didn't matter if the train wobbled to and through because no-one could move!! I now know better!!

    I suppose the up side is people don't stick as bad here as they do back home!!

  3. Umebossy - Some of my coworkers watch the NHK morning drama rerun at lunch time, so I got hooked and I record it in the morning. Its 15 minutes long, which is just about the time I'm on the packed train, which is perfect. Then I have another 15 minutes or so on an almost empty train to regroup. So its not unbearably bad - as long as nothing goes wrong! Changing my hours wouldn't help much, but U and I are talking of moving in together, the resulting commute would be significantly longer but much easier.

    Achan - I only wish that nobody moved when the train swayed! I'm not sure its any better to actually be hanging on though, as then you become the one supporting everybody else!

  4. Yikes, I didn't realize you were in such danger every morning! Sounds a bit like hockey without the skates and the padding... Let me know if you want me to send you some protective gear!
    love and hugs, Cath