Monday, July 5, 2010

This is Why We Can't Have Anything Nice!

So perhaps my last few posts have been less than praise-full of Japan. One might say they have bordered on the somewhat critical. Perhaps you ask, "why would he willingly subject himself to living in such an insane place?"

to which I respond:

A) Is the place you live so inanity-free? Things I can now go through my day without hearing include (but are not limited to) discussions about how socialist the concept of public healthcare is; extremely loud cellphone conversations held on the bus; anything to do with the last season of "Lost"; any mention of the Tea Party movement at all; a complete absence of Glen Beck in all forms.

B) The insanity, be it as it may, is generally more on the side of amusing, and less on the side of spirit crushing.

C) The food is really really tasty without the risk of your heart tweeting about an 'epic fail'.

In addition to the complete lack of overt banality, comes a society filled with features that only make life as an ordinary citizen a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Exhibit A) Public restrooms that are clean, and available for use without purchase of anything, or prostrate begging for a key attached to the hub cab of a 1970s boat-car. Guess what the streets don't smell like (hint: rhymes with and is spelled the same as "piss")

Exhibit B) Store clerks who will never regard your patronage as some unconscionable intrusion on their mobile-device-facebook-update personal time, conveniently being taken at the precise moment you so rudely wanted a coffee.

Exhibit C) Public transit that puts a public library to shame in terms of cleanliness, comfort, and quietness.

And for more on C, see below...

This is an interior shot of the bus I take everyday from the train station to school - the seats are, as they appear to be, plush and soft and have never been within a mile of a injection-molded plastic machine. Now, we too could have such soft and supple posterior support if we could just resist the need to carve our names into every surface that ever presented itself to our stars-and-stripes loving asses. The bus has many other features that make MUNI (SF pub. bus) look like a rickshaw service crossed with a pyramid scheme and a severe understanding of entropy.

One would be punctuality. Despite winding mountain roads and unpredictable gravel trucks, my bus manages to arrive at the 30 minute-hence bus stop within a two minute window every day and never leaves late.

Second would be adequate air conditioning - much appreciated in the flop-sweat inducing summers of Japan

Third would be change-making technology that most public US buses resist like the USSR resisted the White Album (it's good, it won't destroy you, and everyone wants it)
You can throw in 1,000 yen and get not only change, but a mixture of coins that will allow you to pay any fare exactly (fares are based on distance traveled, which you show by presenting a ticket you grab when boarding - the ticket is printed with a different number at each stop to keep you honest), you can also break a 500 yen coin in a similar fashion - and this wonder-machine is planted at the front of every bus ready to make your day that much easier - never a need to beg some half-witted shop-keep to make change while they smugly explain to you that they are not a bank, just in case you though the Sunrise Deli was a major financial institution.

Ahhh...good to be back....