Why Are There So Many Women Here??


I have no use for traffic signals controlling me when no one else is around. Wastes time and in the case of cars, wastes gas and makes pollution. I haven’t taken to slow-and-go’s on red lights, but I am often tempted, especially late at night. But as for crossing signals, fuggetaboutit. In Japan, however, the crossing lights can be quite long at some busy intersections – as well as some deserted ones. I stood the first couple days like a greyhound at the gate, waiting for the chirp of the Walk sign even when the street was completely empty. Everyone else did too. This is an obedient society. [Side note: makes me think of the former Empire and its methodical attempt to conquer everything in this half of the world. A formidable little island and that obedience made them a redoubtable foe. Kurt Vonnegut once asked German Nobel Laureate Heinrich Böll what was the biggest flaw of German culture. His answer: we are obedient. Rules are great indeed, but obedience has its darker side.] I have started to cross against the light. A rebel! It seems so weird to leave someone standing there at the curb on an empty street completely controlled like Simon Says while I am off to wherever I am going.

At the train station a man assures me I am on the right platform awaiting the right train. You can wait right here. He points to a square on the platform edge that is marked with a number corresponding to the train. Or there too, he adds, pointing to one a few feet away. Such order and it seems so ridiculous, BUT just wait until the subway car, filled to the brim, squeals into place exactly lined up with the various arrows and numbers, and watch how they form two lines on either side, allowing easy disembarkation of a huge crowd, and orderly loading of the waiting horde. Stairs are marked with arrows for traffic flow. And I discovered yet another secret of organization when I hopped on a local train with all my luggage. I was admiring the amount of pretty women around me when an officer tapped my shoulder before the doors closed. I turned. “This car women only.” Huh? I looked around. A car full of women… and a crazy American with a boatload of luggage. Sheepishly I dragged it all off to the next car and had a laugh with an old man to whom I explained my embarrassing moment. “In America no?” “No.” He laughed. We chatted some until the rattling car made his broken English too hard to comprehend. But until I stepped off we’d exchange glances and break into smiles. Who knows what other social transgressions I have made since I arrived here?

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