Jim Hammill: Standing up to the Man (We all have to be rebels sometimes!)

Some of my favorite travel experiences are about people and their everyday activities.  Roadtreking is a life, not limited to four wheels.  It’s a philosophy, not limited to an RV.  It’s a state of mind, and as my good friend Campskunk tells me, I need to drink the Koolaid……..

japancampcar

A typical Japanese Campervan – Camper car

Some time ago, I was in Japan, (home of Roadtrek dealer H&K for many, many years).  I was there to go to the Tokyo RV Show.    I was able to see RV’s of sizes ranging from the Mini Cooper (a two sleeper, no restroom), to the humungous, massive, enormous….170 Versatile.   No word of a lie folks, our smallest unit was the biggest RV in the Tokyo RV show.  And all around me were retired/retiring active couples  and singles from 55 through 75.   And they were the ones buying RV’s!!  What a funny coincidence!!

Next day, I needed to travel from Tokyo to Nagoya, (which is about 300 miles), to visit Mr. Hideo Kandori, their former owner. He was a really great guy to do business with.

jimgarden

The garden behind my hotel

The experience of arriving at the Tokyo hotel (The New Otani Inn) was one to be remembered.  I distinctly remember arriving, going up to the 23rd floor where my room was.   I was hot, so I stripped down, had a shower, and walked out with nothing but a towel on, and I then proceeded to open the power blinds in my room,  and there they were……..about 100 Japanese office workers looking at me from about three feet away.  Needless to say, I closed the blinds, and left them closed.  Good thing I still had my towel on!   I struggle to think why anybody would install a huge bay window with a power blind, that looks right at another building a yard away.  But there it was.   I bet there are Japanese folks still traumatized.

So I went down to the hotel lobby to speak to the concierge about a train to Nagoya.  I needed a planned escape route.

There is a high speed train in Japan called a Shinkansen, (runs about 200 miles per hour).  I had to buy a ticket, which I did at the small travel office.  It would take me in an hour and a half to Nagoya – that was 300 miles away.  Really. 300 miles by train in 90 minutes.   WOW.

jimtrain

The Shinkansen – 200 MPH

So the next morning, my train was at a specific time, and I took the subway to Tokyo Station, where hundreds of thousands of people board trains daily, and yet, there is not one piece of garbage, nor one cigarette butt on the floor.  I bought a sandwich, and I did not know where to put the garbage, so a lady explained to me, that I had to take it with me, and dispose of it myself.  So I did.   The place was spotless, and it was not because there were cleaners everywhere. Everyone cleaned up for themselves.  No garbage cans. How cool is that?

I can’t remember the train car I needed to get on, but let’s say it was in Car 12, and in row 16, seat D, much like an airplane.  Well, I boarded, I was seated in the seat, and along came a young man who felt I was in his seat, and showed me his seat ticket. I was in the wrong seat, apparently.  So I stood up, and moved out.

Well, in our North American world, I would have simply asked the attendant, and I would have been told where to go.  But in that car, I was immediately approached by two security guards, who were very direct, and wanted me to follow them.  I was apparently on entirely the wrong end of a long train, and I should have been in a “first class car” at the other end of the train, which just so happened to have EXACTLY the same car number and seats.  But it was green, you see.  First class is green, and like an moron, I had sat in blue………  (I have to admit, I had no idea that I had a first class ticket- the travel agent apparently gouged me).  So I was frog marched to my car by the security team, who now had a task.

So, after a long march through the dozens of cars in the train, with one of them in front of me and one behind me (I might have done something out of control, like sit in the wrong seat), we finally arrived at my car and my row, and my seat.  Well, sitting nicely in my seat was a nice lady, about eighty years old.   She was folding paper, actually.   She smiled at us.   She was tiny little thing, in a red Asian dress, folding coloured, designed paper into shapes.  Her little hands were so skilled, I was fascinated.

I said to the two escorts, don’t worry about it, I will sit in one of the empty seats, which I proceeded to do, sitting next to a man carrying one of the old style steel lunch pails.  The car was half empty.  I nodded at him, and he nodded at me, and then the chaos began.    See, apparently, I did not have a ticket to sit in that empty seat, and the escort security guard started to yell at me in Japanese.   He wanted me to stand up, and wait, until a ticket machine was brought to the car, and my magnetic ticket was refunded, and a new ticket issued for the new seat.

Well, I must admit, I had my hockey player attitude on that day, and after so much nonsense over a seat, I told him that he could “get stuffed”, and stayed seated where I was.  (That’s my best British saying.)

The car attendant, a very nice lady, explained carefully to me in English that I needed to stand up, until the new ticket was issued.    I explained, carefully, in English, that I was not doing that.

This caused a furor, as apparently, no one ever says NO to these people.   Well, not many Canadian hockey players ride the Shinkansen, I guess.  The troops were going to take me on, and I could see it coming.  I mean, heck, I was sitting in a seat that I did not have the right number for. OMG, the  travesty I was creating!!!!!!

They were adamant, and aggressive, and we were about to tango, when the conductor arrived with a rolling cart machine and took the ticket from me, and changed it magnetically to a new seat number.  Then he asked me for a small amount of money (in Japanese yen) to pay for a seat difference in price.   I looked at him incredulously.  “You must be kidding”, I said. “I am not paying any money.  If I have to do that, then I want my own seat back.”

Just imagine now, the three men, and the lady attendant are all arguing with each other, and they finally decide collectively that I am not going to co-operate.   So, the conductor reaches in his own pocket, and pulls out some coins, puts it into the till, and then heads out of the car, with a filthy look at me.  The attendant starts a drink service, and the two escorts take up a position behind me, guarding me, so I would not do something terrible,  like move seats or maybe…….I might go to the restroom…..the horror.

I look over at the gentlemen with the lunch pail, and he looks at me, and gives me a big “two thumbs up”.  He reaches down, opens his lunch pail, and hands me a Sapporo beer.  He did not speak English, but he was trying to say “You and me against the man, brother.”

In every place I go, there are really cool people like Lunchpail Man.  I clearly remember his kindness, his delight with my obvious rebellion, and his sharing of his beverages with me, which was much appreciated.    He was a stand up guy.   Japan and Canada are maybe not too different.  In both countries, some civil servants are idiots, and some people can’t stand how stupid they act.

And perhaps our bucket lists have to include the people of the world, who have so much character.  It’s the little things they do make my world great.   I love the people.  I love you Lunchpail Man!!

Keep on trekkin……………




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  • laura hughesppstema

    Great story!

  • yan seiner

    That’s so awesome! And true. I lived in Japan for years, and it’s so true.

  • Jim Diepenbruck

    Great story. Thanks for giving me a smile to start my day.

  • Lisa

    That was so funny!

  • shari groendyk

    It’s a different culture than ours, that’s for sure. They seem to place a lot of emphasis on being obedient, to the government, to society’s rules, whether or not it makes sense, practically speaking. That must be so stifling on a personal level. Lunchpail Man has probably always wanted to do what you did, but for him the consequences would be dire. Pretty cool that, with that beer, he was slapping you on the back and sayin’ “you da man”!

  • Cheryl Gregorie

    Lunchpail Man would love to have a RT and have the fun we have! A great story and made me appreciate what I have….. hmmm, maybe we (RT owners) were ALL hockey players in a past life! 😉

  • Trudy Meyers

    Sent this story on to my sister-in-law who is Japanese, think she will get a kick out of it. When we hosted a foreign exchange student from German I said it will be neat to learn how we are different what I found was how we are all the same.

  • William Browne

    Will done Jim Hammill

  • Sherry Hooker

    Great story. But, now you know why it is so clean. If they were that adamant about your butt being in the right seat, think how adamant they are about YOUR trash being in YOUR trash can. LOL.

  • Sandy

    Being a Japanese American woman who likes RVing, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. However, I understand Japanese society that keeps order by following rules and expectations. I understand your frustration but personally, I would have been embarrassed if my husband behaved that way. Thank you for sharing that great story!

  • Good for you Jim!

  • Dale Krenz

    Way to go

  • JanetA

    2 thumbs up

  • Bryan

    I certainly wouldn’t have paid extra for a seat in the same car… you were trying to do the right thing and keep a nice old lady from having to move. I think you were in the right for standing your ground. Lunchpail guy obviously agreed with you!