Saturday, June 30, 2007

"No-Entry Zone?"

There's this weird thing that often happens on crowded trains... the people standing on the side away from the opening doors (which open on one side of the train or the other, but tend to open predominately on one side for a given direction), stand directly under the line of hanging straps in front of (and parallel to) the door there and get huffy, puffy, and irritated if any pressure is put on them from the mass of people on the open door side smashed together like proverbial sardines in a can. So you have this mass of people smashed painfully together in 85% of the space between the doors (on either side of the train car, generally four doors per side - eight per train car), and then a line of people standing and hanging on to the straps by the far door acting like they're in a 1st Class reserved section where no one may enter or come too near. The pressure from the two or three dozen people smashed together makes contact absolutely unavoidable, but then these far-side idiots cast irritated glances over their shoulders at the poor souls that are forced into involuntary contact with them. These mutant bipeds hang on to the straps with their arm muscles flexing (and sometimes legs braced forward) as they fiercely guard the empty space in front of them (between themselves and three or four people up against the far doors) - while those three or four people lazily lean against that far pair of doors (two doors per opening) and look out on the human misery beyond this barrier in happy contentment, or lazily look out the window in glorious no-one-is-touching-me free space.

Is there something about that happy contentment that the fierce strap holders feel must not be infringed upon (do they know those happy people against the door)? Or do the strap holders dearly love having a strap directly overhead and are willing to fight tooth-and-nail to maintain their wonderful spot below the strap? I wish I could be more sarcastic, but words fail me in the flabbergasted state of mind induced upon confrontation with these mutant commuters. Just this morning, one of the worst of them - a man I've had the misfortune to stand next to before - was standing in his beloved spot beneath a strap, with enough space in front of him for another person to stand (and yes, I have pushed past people to get into the space before, but there was no gap to squeeze past the Berlin wall of strap holders this morning), and whenever I was pushed ever so slightly against him (absolutely against my will) by the 30 or 40 people smashed together like sardines behind me, he would look back in disgust as though the train were completely empty save his rotten soul and suffering me and I was strangely coming up close to him. At one point he looked back and then turned his ugly head forward, shaking it as though he were dealing with an idiot. "Grrrrr.... Hey you! You've got it backwards! If you want to see something worth shaking your head about, have a look in the mirror you foul excuse for a biped you!" thought I.

Actually, there's a Darwinian process going on here. Those of us with tight connections need to be within a certain range of the steps leading away from the platform when we disembark from the train (so we can catch our next train on another platform), and so pressure is highest by the doors near the stairs. The wolves and hyenas with toxic barbs instead of human elements do whatever possible to cause pain and suffering to other bipeds competing for the space (in order to drive away competition). The less bloodthirsty and more humane people generally end up going to less convenient parts of the train after being repeatedly abused (which then requires leaving home earlier in some cases to compensate for the lost three or four minutes it takes to escape the platform in the horde of people getting off), or commit suicide (the Chuo Line is famous for its high suicide rate), or begin growing poison barbs. I don't want to grow poison barbs, but how to deal with trash like that idiot I bump into some mornings is a problem I'm wondering how to solve. The only practical thing I can think of at the moment is to move back a notch - away from that idiot (and next to a new one probably) but still within reasonable range of the stairs. If nothing else, it'll help to catch the predators off-guard a little since they won't know on a day-by-day basis where I'll be. Also, I want to prevent myself from thinking of actually taking action against the train scum - when you see the same evil rotten biped day after day, you begin to want to do something about it - better to be a (nearly/virtual) perpetual stranger to the situation.

So the next time you're feeling frustrated in a traffic jam, look around at the glorious private space you're sitting in, put on some music, and know that you are one of the lucky commuters.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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