Thursday, June 19, 2008
The longest ride home 


My days keep getting stranger.

I caught my usual 920 express train home bound for Shinjuku from Hon-Atsugi today, a journey that takes about 55 minutes. I was engrossed in my music and book and it took me a while to realize the train had stopped itself at Seijogakuen-mae for a long time.

A train announcement was made in Japanese, but I didn't make much of it. People started alighting the train, but I looked around and saw that there were still others sitting in the carriages, so I decided to stay put. It was half an hour before a train attendant came in and hollered something in Japanese and everyone had to get off.

I was starving by then and walked from one end of the platform to the other hoping to find a vending machine to buy something to drink or eat, but to no avail. A couple of passengers were asking the attendants about what was happening, and I realized that the display board with the train times showed no trains running.

I took the escalator up to the first floor and found a very long line of passengers queuing up at the station control. I wandered around the floor wondering what to do, given my very limited Japanese.

Seijo has no connecting train lines, so I thought I should take the train back to Noborito (away from my destination) where I could transfer to the Nambu line and then figure my way back to Shinjuku. I boarded the train and quickly checked the route on my mobile, and was horrified to realize it would take me ALL over Tokyo and I would only get home a quarter to 1.

I decided that it would be better to attempt to talk to a staff instead.

"Can you speak English?" I asked in Japanese.
"A little," he replied in English. I heaved a sigh of relief.
"To Takadanobaba... What is fastest?" I managed in an awkward mix of Japanese and English.
He thought for a while and then asked me if I was familiar with the bus routes.
"No."
"You have to take the bus to another station and change to the Keio line back to Shinjuku."
"The Odakyu has stopped?"
"The accident is very severe... It is a long time."
"How long would it take for the bus and train?"
"Maybe 45 minutes... maybe 1 hour."

He went on to explain in English that I could join the queue to get a free pass to get me back to Shinjuku, but I must have looked so helpless he decided that he would show me exactly what to do. (Bless him!) His colleague came running him with a loudspeaker saying something, and he asked his colleague to help me instead. That guy took my train pass and disappeared for 10 minutes.

I called Mellie to lament my fate. It was almost 11 by then and I thought I would never make it home. She got on the website and found out that someone had committed suicide on the Odakyu, hence the delay. (I don't mean to be unsympathetic, but killing yourself by throwing yourself on the train tracks and leaving a few hundred commuters who are rushing home stranded isn't the most considerate thing to do. But I am glad I didn't see the accident at least.)

The guy with my pass came running back and informed me that there was no more buses, but took out a form and explained in Japanese that I had to take a taxi to Shinjuku and then claimed the fare from the Odakyu office instead.

Simple enough, except I got out of the turnstiles and realized that there was about a hundred people already waiting in line for their taxis. I called E to commiserate and felt a little better.

To cut a long story short, I ended up queueing for another 45 minutes before my turn came. The taxi driver told me it was cheaper and faster to go the nearest station and switch to the Keio instead, but there was no way I was going to get on another train, and assured him it was okay since Odakyu was paying for my taxi ride.

What ensued was another 30 minutes in the taxi, frequently stopping due to the construction of the new subway line. It was a chicken-and-duck-talk incident- I tried to explain what happened and then informed him that I wasn't Japanese, he was impressed by my Japanese and then tried to speak English.

It went something like that-

"Shingaporu no kuru koto ga arimasu ka?"
"Me, passporto, NO! Nashi!"
"Nihon dake?"
"Yes! Nihon dake!"
"Why?"
"Me, jumbo jet, kirai! Me, high high place, kirai!"
"Oh... Ryoko ga hoshi desu ka?"
"Hmmm. Hoshi... janai."
"Nihon ga daisuki desu ka?"
"Yyyes... Me, Japan, like!"
"I love Japan."
"I robe Japan?"
"Love. L-O-V-E."
"Yes, I love Japan.

I ended up giving him a free English lesson on the ride home, and he was confident enough to chant, "Go Go Go! Signal, Go!" everytime we stopped at a traffic light.

Thanks to him, I actually enjoyed the long ride, soaking in the sights and sounds of late-night Tokyo from my taxi window, realizing that it was been a while since I've taken a taxi. I am in Tokyo! I am in a taxi! I was reminded of being in Bloomberg and my daily morning taxi rides to work.

It was almost 1 when I got off and the fare came up to an astounding 7820 yen (about SGD100) but I was just glad to be home.

Tomorrow, tomorrow will be another adventure to live.

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Female. Singaporean
Traveller. Bookworm.
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Amateur Photographer.
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