Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Priority Seats Incident

I was on an evening commuter train last night, and while the train was stopped at a station and loading/unloading passengers, I saw an older man (late-sixties?) about to sit down in the last vacant spot on one of the Priority Seats, when a young woman (early twenties?) zoomed in front of him and sat down.  He stared at her and looked like he really - very badly - wanted to sit down.  She froze out his existence and pulled out something to eat.  I glanced at her heavily made-up face nonchalantly munching away on something, and immediately felt an arctic chill.
"Well, just another mini-drama on the trains..." I thought, and then another young woman parked herself in front of Ms. Antarctica, and suddenly I heard - spoken in the strange style of some of the current crop of twenty-something-year-olds (speech that sounds as if there are a few marbles in their mouth, and spoken as though they have taken a solemn oath to avoid intonation as much as possible) - "Would you like to sit down?" directed at the standing young woman.  As she accepted, I glanced at her and thought "She doesn't appear to be pregnant...", but after she had sat down, I noticed there was a small pink badge on her handbag that appeared to indicate that she is indeed pregnant.  "Ah... that's interesting!" thought I.  "I hadn't realized they had instigated that system.  Seems like a good idea...."

Meanwhile, the older man was having a hard time of things.  At this point, I detected the smell of alcohol, and he had given up on standing, and was sitting on the floor of the train, so there were multiple issues it seemed.  But no sooner had he sat on the floor and leaned back against the end-of-carriage door, when the handle swung down and hit him in the head as a young man opened the door and entered from the neighboring carriage.

The old man struggled to his feet for the young man changing carriages, and then sat back down on the floor.  After the next station, another spot within the priority seating area opened, and he sat there - looking like it was an effort just to stay on the seat.

And... um... end of story.  I got off the train soon after that, wondering a little about what the old man's story was, and also struck with the great contrast between Ms. Antarctica's freezing him out and her marble-mouth no-intonation offer to the pink-badge pregnant woman to sit down.  Mind you, I have no complaint/criticism with the kindness directed towards the pregnant woman - it was just the *contrast* in radio waves coming from the same biped that was striking.  "Respect for the aged"?  More like "Contempt for the aged".

Actually... it being a pain to explain, I wasn't going to even try, but something is begging for comment here.  a) In the 1950's there was a big baby boom in Japan, and those kids are the current crop of old people.  b) The twenties crowd?  They are the spoiled kids of the bubble years (and lower in number than the 1950's baby boom crowd).  c) There are endless stories in the media about how armies of retiring old people are overloading the pension system, since there are not enough young people paying into the system.

So what do you get with that combination?  a+b+c=(?).  I don't know what the answer is, but from personal encounters, I get the impression that growing numbers of spoiled young people think that the older generation is the enemy of their future prosperity.  Throughout it all, we can thank sensationalist and idiotic television reporting for tirelessly contributing to the devolution of humankind.

Oops.... Positive Thinking!  Positive Thinking!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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