Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thank God They Don't Have Guns in Japan.

So, last night, I was out in Yokohama stalking random Japanese people  using my fearsome physique and menacing mien to threaten them with bodily harm or worse...actually I was headed to my friend's house to watch season 1 of "The Wire" on Hulu, but here in Japan, one of the safest countries in the world, the difference between the former circumstance and the latter is often negligible, dependent almost entirely on forces beyond your control; primarily the whim of the Japanese people in your vicinity. Being cognizant of this propensity can aid you in avoiding an impromptu stalking episode.

Case and point, last night about 9:30, I was transferring trains at Hiyoshi station in Yokohama, from the Toyoko line to the Green Line. As I approached the escalator, I noticed a woman approaching from the opposite direction, busy thumbing her cellphone, sending a text to someone apparently. She looked up as she reached the escalator, saw me doing the same. She stumbled in shock, lost her balance and almost fell down the escalator.

So, anyway, I wound up riding down behind her. She looked back once, then again. I whipped out my cellphone to try to ease her concerns. Perhaps if she thought my attention was elsewhere she'd relax. That sometimes works with the less shy Japanese. But after two more glances I knew this was going to be one of those Japanese imagined stalking episodes, my first for the day.

After you've been in Japan for a while, you get to know the telltale signs of someone who would sooner treat you like a potential threat than a fellow human being for whatever reason. So, since we were both on the left side of the escalator, I took to the right and started to pass her, you know, to relieve her discomfort at having me in her blind spot. I'd feel guilty if she hurt her neck with all of that craning she was doing. But, we apparently had the same bright idea at the same time. And by the time I would have passed her by, we wound up awkwardly walking side by side.

So, I stopped so she could keep going and again, our great minds were thinking alike, for she stopped, as well. Great. But now I was in the passing lane, the right side of the escalator, and was causing a minor traffic jam, so resumed my descent. When I reached the landing I glanced back up at her. She had that lost in space look on her face the people here often get, staring at you, while at the same time staring into the abyss.

There's a gate to exit the Toyoko and then another gate to enter the Green Line, but as I exited, the LED on the turnstile informed me that I didn't have enough funds on my commuter card to enter the next set of turnstiles. Conveniently located between the gates, in anticipation of such an eventuality, there are a couple of Pasmo commuter card charging machines. So I headed for them. A salaryman that had exited just ahead of me, and apparently had the same plan, noticed that I had turned to follow him. He noticed because he, too, was being extraordinarily careful this evening like the woman on the escalator

I wondered if maybe there had been a rash of robberies in the vicinity recently, but, then again, this kind of thing happens every day, everywhere, so I brushed that apologist thought aside and stopped my forward movement, a solid twenty feet from the machines. Which allowed him to go ahead and do his business without my being beside him or, worse, behind him. He kept a wary eye out the side of his head on me as he pulled out his wallet to feed the machine a ¥10000 note; conspicuously so, like he wanted me to know that he was leery of me. Once he had completed his transaction and headed for the Green Line turnstile, that's when I made my way toward the machines. I peeked over at him as he passed through the gate. He was still watching me. I looked above his head at the departure time for the next train. Shit! I had 1 minute!

I put ¥1000 yen on my card and took off towards the gate. The train departure tune was playing as I bounded down the stairs, and boarded just before the doors began to slide shut, huffing and puffing from the exertion. There were several seats available, and no one standing. But all the free seats were between people. A number of eyes were looking in my direction, the anomaly that I am, and some people squirmed in their seats in anticipation of my taking the one beside theirs. I decided to forego the drama and stand by the door. I was only going a couple of stops anyway.

I whipped out my iPad, opened the Kindle app, and resumed reading a very funny book I was half way through. When the train pulled into my stop, the majority of the people queued to get off, all at another door. even the people who had been sitting closer to the door where I was standing. From the door I stood before I exited alone. From the other two doors, everyone else exited. (Sometimes I feel really strange describing the crazy shit Japanese people routinely do. I wonder if people who don't live here read something like this and say, "you gotta be kidding!" All I can say is I wish I were.)

But, anyway, we all bottle-necked at the escalator, of course. I rode up behind a couple cooing and preening one another lovingly. The female of the two, amid their amorous whispering, with love in her glazed eyes, happened to notice me over her beau's shoulder. Tender moment gone. She stiffened, whispered something in his ear vicinity that I didn't have to be a genius to know wouldn't fall under the heading of sweet nothings. I could see him straighten up as well. Then he tried to surreptitiously sneak a peek at me, an effort that would have failed even if I hadn't been aware of everything that was transpiring. I turned away just as he laid his eyes upon me. I hate to see such looks. Somehow I feel...dirty.

Suddenly they started climbing the escalator. I stayed where I was, feeling both relieved and disgusted at the same time. By the time I reached the top of the escalator the couple had reached the gate, both of them looking back in my direction. I just kept coming, at a slightly slower rate than my normal walking speed, hoping they'd have time to go about their business without playing a round of the stalking game with me. When I saw them head for the escalator, I headed for the elevator.

There were two people, a man and a woman, standing side by side before the elevator doors, waiting for it. I pulled up behind the man...though they tend to be less likely to adopt the role of stalkee and criminal prey than the women, the difference, again, is negligible. Others arrived, hesitantly, at the elevators, maybe about 7 or 8 people...only one brave soul queued behind me, the others behind the woman. I never looked back. But I didn't have to. I could see this, all the line switching and indecision involved, very well in the reflection from the elevator shaft's glass enclosing. It's really some silly shit to watch. It would be funny if it weren't so sad and pathetic.

Once the elevator arrived, though, the people who had lined up behind the woman probably realized the absurdity of what they'd done and kind of just filed in...the elevator had doors on either side of the car, but the ones closest to me faced the opposite way from the door that would open, as announced by the elevator's PA system. The woman who had been in front of the other line saw something strange in the reflection from the elevator door and suddenly spun her head around urgently. She almost had me fooled, her alarm was so intense. I almost looked around, too. Others certainly did. And those who hadn't known that there was something appalling among them, riding the elevator like that was the most natural thing, now knew, as well, that I was there. 30 tortuous seconds of this later we arrived at the ground floor and the doors slid open.

The elevator empties onto a poorly lit plaza area, and from it, there were only two or three directions you could go. I stepped to the side and let several people exit before me, so they could make their way with haste to their homes without my seeming to follow. Then I made my way towards my friend's apartment, thankfully with no one ahead of me. Just as I arrived at the building a woman emerged from the adjoining convenience store and turned into the entrance way to the building to which I was headed. I stopped. If I were to continue into that lobby, she was sure to overreact and do something provocative. Thank god they don't have guns in Japan.

I'd have probably been shot so many times by now, with these paranoid fucks, that even Antonio Montana would say, "DAMN!! So, as I stood there giving her time to safely enter the building without being aware of my presence , another woman exits the store, her eyes embedded in her cell phone. And she too was about to turn and go into the building I was waiting to enter. But as she turned, she must've noticed someone in her peripherals or sensed my presence somehow, took a glimpse at me and froze like I'd ordered her to. I smiled, feeling awkward, just standing there without any clear purpose, seeing the world through her eyes, and not liking what I saw one bit. So, I headed to the building and left her frozen, cryo-brained, in front of the building. The woman who had entered the building moments earlier was still fucking there, though. Great. GEEEZUS I don't have time for this shit... She had a handful of mail she'd pulled from her box apparently and was flipping through it while she waited for the elevator. She was already safely inside the glass entrance door, though. She hadn't looked up yet so I pressed my friend's apartment number on the intercom system and was buzzed in just as she boarded the elevator.

She looked up and saw me just as the doors poised to close. She had ample time to press the button if she wanted to, you know, do the courteous thing. She knew someone had let me in. The buzz was audible and distinctive. Nevertheless, her finger jabbed a button alright...more than once, and the doors slid closed. I could see her eyes watching me through the elevator's little panel window. They were not cold, not relieved, not even afraid.

 Just black...and dark, and blank.

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