Adventures in Tokyo rush hour
The last two mornings have been like a visit to commuter hell. Actually, yesterday was not that bad, but today’s train ride was every bit as fun as being dragged by wild horses and chased by an angry Irish mob (no offence to any Irish people) at the same time. When I came down to the platform all I could see was an endless sea of people. It was almost impossible to even reach the platform, because the lines reached up the stairs from the ticket gates. Apparently there had been some delays during the morning, and finally the trains started running again. People were cramming themselves into the stillstanding train like it was the train to everlasting happiness, but thankfully, finally people realized that there was another train coming in about three minutes so they stood back and waited. Let me tell you, there has to be a very very special reason for a Japanese person NOT to board a train in the morning rush hour. The minute or two gained from squeezing onto an earlier train rather than waiting for the next one is enough to make everyone try it. It’s ridiculous, because the train will be delayed because people are trying to squeeze onto the train. If people knew when to stop boarding, then the train would leave quicker. As it is now, people who start off cramming themselves onto a train to gain three minutes, end up gaining one minute at the most!
Anyway, back to this morning’s adventure. I had to let two trains pass without even considering boarding, because the whole platform and the oncoming train were full. When the third train came, I was hesitant to board even that one; but it was decided for me! I was pushed in by the sheer force of people trying to board the train from behind me! It was out of my control and I ended up stuck in an awkward sardine position in the middle of the train car. Let me tell you, if you are a latent claustrophobic, do not ever try to ride the trains or subways in Tokyo rush hour!
Well, after I had been pushed on to the train by my fellow passengers, the train took off at a veeeery slow pace. You see people were lining up so close to the edge of the platfrom that the train could not move nearly at top speed until all cars had passed the whole platform. Wonderful – it’s a vicious circle this extreme stress to get on the next train – the more people stress to get on, the more delays it causes, and the more people line up and the train gets more crowded, and delayed etc. Thankfully, I only have to ride this crowded train for two stops, then I can change trains to one that is (mostly) less crowded. But I have to get past one station first, and today I knew that was going to be quite a task as well. First the train slowed down to crawling speed again, and then stopped at the station. Then I almost fell out of the car as people further inside the train wanted to get out. The problem was that there was hardly any space on the platform for people in the train that were temporarily stepping out to let people pass, to stand on, because it was all taken up by people pressing to get on the train! The stop at this stop ended without serious incidents though, and the train took off again. Finally, after an agonizing 10 minutes in the train I reached my transit station and could leave the train line from hell behind me!
All in all, my trip to work this morning took about 30 minutes longer than usual, which in itself wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that I was as comfortable as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.