短気は損気 Tanki wa sonki A short temper is a disadvantage. Japanese Proverb
Since yesterday I talked about the night before I started dating She Who Must Be Obeyed, today I thought I’d talk about the first time we met. It was less than impressive, or at least I was. She was going to Hong Kong. I was having a temper tantrum in a train station.
To understand why, you first have to understand that because I am prone to periodic fits of brain lock, I’m also prone to periodic bursts of anger during those fits of brain lock. You also have to understand that, despite all its apparent modernity, Japan retains certain odd early 20th century quirks. This is especially true with its trains and its train ticketing system. To go from point A to point B often requires three or more individual tickets.
For example, to get to my in-laws’ house via Japan Rail requires a base ticket from Kawagoe to Nou-Machi; a super express (bullet train) ticket from Omiya to Echigo-Yuzawa; and an express ticket from Echigo-Yuzawa to Naoetsu. Each has a different value and are all added together to determine the cost of the trip. At various stages during the trip the individual tickets are swallowed up by various ticket gates but you often have to put all three tickets in the gate at the same time and then pick up the two that are rejected. The system is so confusing, even to Japanese, it requires diagrams on the tickets gates and several JR staff members hollering about which tickets to insert in the gates.
However, back in February 1997 I didn’t fully realize all this when I bought a ticket from Nou-Machi to Osaka en route to visit my sister and husband in Guam. I was happy because I’d paid much less for the train ticket than I was expecting, even though I hadn’t been able to buy the leg from Osaka Station to Kansai Airport. When I got to Itoigawa Station to wait for my red eye train to Osaka, I inquired about purchasing that last leg of the trip. The ticket man muttered something and then started playing around on a computer. In about 30 seconds my cheap ticket had more than doubled in price and because my Japanese wasn’t yet good enough to understand what was going on, I responded by going in full brain lock anger.
As it turned out, She Who Must Be Obeyed was there with some of my adult students, who also happened to be her friends. They were on their way to Hong Kong, which required they catch a red eye heading in the opposite direction. My students introduced me to She Who Must Be Obeyed and although I thought she was cute, it wasn’t love at first sight, but at that point I was only interested in tickets and money.
My student explained all the ticket madness and I’m sure I said something positive about Japan (ahem) and handed over some cash and everything was finally resolved. it wasn’t the best first meeting, but it worked out in the end. Eventually. About a year later.