Monday, 28 February 2011

Peer Pressure

My morning commute was packed this morning. Nothing new there really. It is packed every morning. But rainy days add in umbrellas to te mix and fog up everyone's glasses, and there had been an accident somewhere along the line somewhere.

My regular busy commute got not quite so regular pretty quickly this morning however! Suddenly the guy beside the guy beside me snarled at the guy beside me and shoved him (knocking him right into me). Snarly grabbed the guy by the shoulder and kept snarling at him, making accusations of some sort of behaviour (a shove? an elbow in the stomach? stepped on toes? surely not a fondle?!). The snarlee (as opposed to the snarler) had his cell phone in hand, and looked like ge had maybe just removed it from his pocket. When snarler's verbal attack got no reaction from his victim, he tightened his hold on the guy's shoulder and uttered the ominous "we're getting off at the next station."

Still no response from the petrified snarlee or the dozens of other commuters pressed up in very close proximity. When he tried to push his way off the train at the next station, however, a slight and unassuming young guy on the other side of snarler graves the bully's shoulder. The commuter ocean parted just enough and snarlee made his escape, but Mr Snarler, try as he might, could not get free from the grasp of Mr Good Samaritan.

Suddenly another ominous sound wad heard, however, as Mr Snarler's cheap rain jacket ripped audibly. He seemed almost delighted with this turn of events, content to allow snarlee to escape now that he had a new target for his wrath. Mr Good Samaritan, however, while he freely admitted his wrongdoing in ripping the jacket and agreed to make financial amends, refused to get off at the next station and "settle things."

At this point an elderly gentleman tapped Snarler on the shoulder and gently chided him for causing a fuss and inconveniencing all the other commuters. He waved at the air above our heads and reprimanded Snarler for creating a bad atmosphere, then, resting his hand on the bigger man's (non-ripped jacket) shoulder like a grandfather to a young and unruly grandson, he pleaded with Snarler to drop it. When Snarler continued to snarl and hurl threats at the good Samaritan, Grandpa repeated his refrain, adding "what are you going to do, keep picking fights with all of us one by one until you get your fight? Come on, think of everybody, just let it go, the jacket is your own fault!"

Slowly, like a bike wheel with a slow leak, the belligerence left the Snarler. I didn't wait to see how it ended, however, as I dashed off to make my transfer in danger already of being late for work.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


When I first came to Japan one of my early impressions was amazement over precision driving techniques, or rather parking techniques. The ability of drivers to back onto spots only marginally larger than their car impressed me to no end. One trip to Costco on Saturday, however, proved that ability is highly situational. The very same drivers who had lined parked their cars with such precision in the parking lot above, when put in charge of a four wheeled vehicle not much smaller, were suddenly unable to follow even the most basic of road rules. It must have been the presence of all that cheese that interfered with their cognitive and fine motor skills - or maybe that was just me. (I may or may not have hugged a huge block of sharp cheddar cheese and stroked it for a while before relinquishing it to the cart.

Annnnnyways, Saturday was an outing to Costco. U and I picked up Umebossy and S and headed to the wilds of Saitama. We had lunch at Alishan, a yummy vegetarian restaurant with a patio overlooking the river. U wasn't quite sure about it at first, but he ended up loving the restaurant and promising to take me back in the spring/summer when we can also hike the nearby mountains.

Then it was on to the main attraction. Just as soon as we got through the traffic jam that was the turnoff to the outlet mall next to Costco...

And then much cheese (and juice and tortillas and dried/canned fruit and and and) was bought. U and I kept losing Umebossy and S, but with the occasional help of our cellphones we found each other again and checked out. We hit up the food court and I couldn't figure out why I was so hungry - until we realized we had been in Costco for over TWO HOURS! yeeks!

The drive home was rather quiet as we were all tired out (I conked out minutes after we dropped off Umebossy and S at their door and didn't wake until we were pulling up to my building. A rather exhausting day but good friends and good food equals good fun, and I'm very happy with my packed larder!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

(not so) Wordless Wednesday - The Birds

When I was back in Canada my dad and I went for a walk one evening along the waterfront. There was a HUGE flock of birds out on the water. They took off suddenly and the sky was full of white. The flew around for a bit and then settled on a patch of grass by the path. We walked by them as we headed back to the car, and I took a few pictures.

My father continued on ahead, and then from the other side of the flock decided to give me something to take a picture of - he startled one of the birds and within a few seconds the birds were all alight - and flying straight at my head. I screamed and crouched down as hundreds of birds flew by (and bird crap rained down around me).

I managed to take just one photo...

Thursday, 17 February 2011


- lazy weekends with U
- hearing from an old friend out of the blue
- snow in Tokyo
- a new, and MUCH improved work schedule
- "leftover" green tea mousse Valentine chocolates
- passing level one of the JLPT - and doing so with a perfect score on the listening section!
- U getting the job he interviewed for last week!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Karmic balance

I wasn't actually feeling truly evil this morning. Petty? Hell yes! But not evil. My morning commute does not bring out the best in me, but I know I'm not the only one, and and I'm rather glad to know that I'm not alone in the desire to level other commuters for something they probably don't even realize they're doing (or at the very least could care less that they are).

Comments on my last post made me laugh and dispelled any residual guilt I might have been feeling. But that doesn't mean I didn't jump at the chance to right my karma on my way home.

I came down the stairs from the platform, almost home and mentally running through my shopping list. But I still caught what most of the other tired commuters missed - the old man standing by the elevator juggling bags of shopping, his big umbrella, and a walking stick. Or at least he was trying to juggle it all. The bags were just a little too much, however, and his walking stick clattered to the ground. He steadied himself with his right arm against the railing, turning his back on his dropped stick as he tried to manage everything in his left hand. The sea of commuters washed past in a rush to get to the gate. I fought against the tide, however, and broke through. When I got to the clear area by the elevator I leaned down and picked up the walking stick. The man slowly turned around and I gave him a smile and said "dozo" as I held out his stick.

I was feeling pretty self-satisfied and all warm and fuzzy for helping out the poor old guy. I was even congratulating myself for the karmic balancing act of helping out somebody who really needed the help after having done nothing this morning.

Then suddenly the cheesy music screeched to a halt as the old man just looked at me. He didn't seem quite sure what to make of me, but he reached out and coldly and very gingerly reclaimed his stick. He managed a weak thank you but it was clear from the glare he gave me as I turned away and the way he was gingerly holding his stick with only the very tips of his fingers that he was convinced I was out to get him in some way. Maybe he thought I had infected his stick with all sorts of horrible disease, covering it with the spores of some sort of gaijin pox in the few seconds that I had held it?

Who knows.

I let the crowd of commuters carry me out the gates, did my grocery shopping, and went home, keeping my eyes firmly on the ground in front of me so as not to notice anything that might be dropped. I've had quite enough of that for one day.

Am I evil?

The woman behind me on the train this morning who's briefcase was digging into my calves, shoved me aside when we and half of the train got off to transfer. Every morning the scene from the three stooges is played out as half the train tries to get off at the same time and nobody goes anywhere until suddenly we pop out and all dash for our connections.

Anyways, briefcase lady shoves me from behind, which has the opposite to her desired effect as I end up getting shoved into somebody who isn't moving and get 'stuck.' She makes annoyed noises and shoves harder. I pop out of the train and am hurtled half way to the stairway u take to my next train. Briefcase lady clatters by at a sprint on her ridiculously high-heeled boots (completely useless in any type of winter weather). She dodges in front of me at the top of the staircase and her expensive black scarf is fluttering free on one side. The cuts in front of me and her scarf floats under the raised for of a still half-asleep salaryman on auto-commute. Feeling something underfoot he jerks awake and briefcase lady clatters on down the stairs oblivious to her scarf lyig at the top and being trampled by swarms of commuters.

Her shoulder is right infront of me. I could lean out and alert her to her lost scarf. I should do so. I normally do so. But not today. The almost bruises on my calves stop me and I take the stairs two at a time, my non-heeled shoes requiring less care. I reach the platform before her and out of the corner of my eye I see her cut off a handful of people as she cuts across the bottom of the stairs and dashes down the platform (no train in sight) still oblivious to her bare neck.

I half smirk to myself and wonder, am I evil?

Thursday, 10 February 2011


- mid-week days off (even if they are spent running errands!)
- meals with good friends
- my local kushiyaki-ya (skewers of meat and veg grilled or fried - yummm!)
- warm sunshine
- starting a lace project for a friend (and savouring the surprise - she doesn't know yet)

Friday, 4 February 2011


Despite the fact that the Ann's in my family were quite without e's, I loved Anne of Green Gables as I was growing up. I read the books with my mum, and then over and over again on my own. I loved the TV movie series - that is until they went all odd and had Anne gallivanting around war-torn Europe in search of Gilbert.

Most of the time I found Anne just a little too much - I tend to be a little bit more logical than her and her romantic imagination. But other times...

One scene from the second movie is running through my head right now:

Marilla Cuthbert: You set your heart too much on frivolous things and then crash down into despair when you don't get them.

Anne Shirley: I know. I can't help flying up on the wings of anticipation. It's as glorious as soaring through a sunset... almost pays for the thud.

Marilla Cuthbert: Well, maybe it does. But I'd rather walk calmly along and do without flying AND thud.

I'm definitely with Anne on this one, I'm a flier. I'm pretty good at aiming high and have been luckily enough that there haven't been too many thuds. But I got one yesterday, a pretty darn big one. I was almost to that sunset, I got to the second of three rounds but in the end there were essentially four people competing for one single spot and I didn't make it.


I have a to-do list that is a mile long, so the short-term promises to keep me busy. As for the longer term, however, or the professional side... my contract at the museum is being renewed, and that is enough to at least cushion the thud. Now if I only had a plate of Marilla's famous plum puffs...