Jun 29, 2009
Posted in: Miscellaneous
The guy in the row next to mine just asked the lady behind him if he wouldn't mind if maybe he reclined his chair in her space just a little bit, maybe, if she didn't mind, so sorry about that. That's Japan for you.
I'm seated on a double-decker 8-hour night bus from Tokyo to Kyoto called "Ladies Dream." I don't know if it's trying to imply that this bus is the ideal bus for ladies, or if the lack of apostrophe indicates that only females have pleasant dreams on this vehicle, but I try to imagine that everything happens for a reason. And so I'm trying to convince myself I am out 57 bucks on a bus 40 minutes after the one I had bought a ticket for in advance left, one without proper punctuation, because someone up there thought it would be funny if I rode a bus called "Ladies Dream."
I missed my original bus to Kyoto, and despite the motto I'm currently trying to convince myself of, not for any good reason. I spent a little too much time at home preparing before finally getting on the subway, which took a little too long waiting at the station JUST before I had to get off. (Of course it did.) I got off at Shinjuku-sanchome, realized I had gotten off at the wrong exit and panicked, and did what I would in the States if I didn't know where I was and only had 12 minutes to get to a bus I didn't know the location of - grabbed a cab.
The cab cost 710 yen (~$7), but more infuriating than that, only took me up the block. To get an idea of how short this is, the cab meter begins at - you guessed it - 710 yen. Kind of like the time I was sick and had to go to 5.12 lecture because it was the last one with material that would be covered on the exam, but I had such a high fever I couldn't make it back from campus to my dorm. So I took a cab. From Baker to Next House. It was approximately the same distance from Shinjuku-sanchome to the bus terminal, except in Boston it only cost me $3.60.
I got off, ran through the station, and asked no less than four different people where the bus going from Tokyo to Kyoto was. For some reason, no one had ANY idea, even though I later discovered we were standing directly over it. Only the policeman knew, and my brain was so fuzzy with panic and sweat I only understood the first half of his directions. I sprinted downstairs, ran to the left, felt sure he had said "turn to the right," and turned to the right.
I ended up right where the subway had dropped me off.
Dripping with sweat and fuming over that kindly old taxi driver robbing me of 710 yen - there's one more night this week I'll be eating convenience store onigiri for dinner - I ran back down the street, where I'd run past a bus ticket counter. I thought about stopping to ask but decided there wasn't time, since the line was too long, and ran past it - into the bus terminal.
"The bus.." I panted, unable to think in Japanese in my flustered state, "from Tokyo to Kyoto.. The ten thirty bus.. is this where it leaves??"
"It left already."
I looked at my phone and thrust it in the bus worker's face. "IT'S 10:31."
"Ahh, yes, I'm so sorry.."
"When is the next one?"
"11:10. You can buy the tickets at the desk."
"Can I exchange this one?"
"I'm sorry, you can't."
My crying has never gotten me out of getting shots, bad grades, or speeding tickets, and it certainly wasn't getting me anywhere now. (The only thing it's ever gotten me out of was getting my eyebrows plucked against my will, but as she put the tweezers away the lady called me a stupid baby. Oh, I know. Life is just so hard.) I felt the hot tears start to well up as I began gasping for air, one hand barely holding the rest of my body up on the gate, the other still waving my phone frantically in his face like somehow the harsh cold 10:31 would jump off the screen and cut him. (They did not.) The bus worker invented a problem elsewhere and walked awkwardly away, and just like I'd read about in the "stages of regret" article in O magazine earlier that day when I was supposed to be working, I quit being sad and got mad. I bought a new ticket (yes, on the "Ladies Dream" bus) and stalked off angrily, mentally setting ALL of his perfectly-coifed Japanese hair on fire.
(To put a cherry on top of my already excessively salty wound, my 11:10 bus is currently leaving EIGHT WHOLE MINUTES after 11:18. That is a LIFETIME in late person time. I could have made my 10:30 bus, got a job as an investment banker, met a nice Japanese dude, got married and had three kids in that time. EIGHT. MINUTES.)
But as Oprah says, turn your regret into productivity, and then give all your friends cars or something like that. So I wrote a blog entry.
The truth is, even though I was only one minute late I really probably would've missed it even if I had another hour. This is how I travel- I get hopelessly lost, forget that time exists, and wander happily through tiny streets and amongst tiny people on tiny buses. You know how I know, besides the fact that I'm out 5710 yen? I got lost on my way to my SEAT. The bus attendant had to come and show me where my seat was. But in the end, it all works out. The ticket for the 11:10 was cheaper than the original (which MIT is paying for anyway), and I got a much better seat with much more leg room; plus, I'll get to sleep in a little later than people on the original bus. And I'll probably miss most of the onsen (edited to add: Japanese hot springs), too, which means I won't have to see all my friends naked (edited to add: I was not that late to Kyoto, and I still had to see all my friends naked).
I also learned a valuable lesson - for god's sake, woman, leave three hours ahead of time when you buy expensive tickets around Japan. Running around a foreign country on MIT money is an incredible, life-changing opportunity, and unless you want to squander it all in one week you can't depend on grannies flying in and saving you every time.
You see? Everything happens for a reason.
Now it's time for this lady to dream.