Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Here again, another Wednesday creeps to me. I want to read, but I know that would only put me to sleep at this hour. How is it Wednesday again? I wanted to do this, write to you, three days ago. At least, I tackle this in the few new hours of today when I should be sleeping rather than plunking away while the heater percolates and the battery-clock ticks off. This is a cold place when you need more than the warmth of e-mail and text messages.

Japanese people continue to pretend to ignore me while I ride the subway. The subway. A growing obsession with me as I ride it routinely these days. Let me tell you about a ride on a subway train.

Before it arrives, people line up on the platform in the places indicating that a door will open. I stand where I like, leaning on a chrome pillar or tiled wall or, often lately, just walking in front of each line of people while concertedly reading. When the train arrives and finally stops, the people who were standing in line move to either side of each door and form a kind of tunnel for the people who have to exit. Once the people who are getting off funnel out, the entrance tunnels collapse inwardly, and people rush for what empty seats are available or just enter and stare dumbly where they stand, as if no one else would be getting on the train.

And no one offers a seat to an elderly person. They're too busy reading photocopies and books or messaging other messagers or looking depressing because they worked twelve hours again and have to do it again the next day. I've seen a young woman, without taking her eye away from her phone, outrace an elderly man to a seat who was hitching-up his trousers to plant himself in it. In some places I've lived in, other passengers would make a strong recommendation in such a circumstance, but no one would dare raise a fuss here. That would disparage the harmony.

I've compared my observations with, notably, one Canadian, who has witnessed similar events.

Nonetheless, I usually wait for everyone to enter, as I don't generally like bumbling through crowds unless absolutely necessary. Then I simply stand in the middle of the aisle, trying to look obvious. I stand in front of people and read my book in a flamboyantly dispassionate manner, a kind of disinterested show for the disinterested passengers who are pretending to sleep between this stop and the next. I see them peeking at me when they know very well they're not supposed!

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