Human Behaviour Mysteries

As you may know, I live in Japan.  Japan is a country where people are often very orderly, queuing in neat lines for the bus, restaurants, or the train.  It’s a place where everyone apologises if they accidentally bump into someone, no matter who was at fault.  It’s a place where shop staff always say thank you.  Sounds so polite, doesn’t it?  It’s very orderly, isn’t it?

Well, I’ll tell you something, there are certain places where this politeness and orderliness break down.  I’m not saying this is a Japan only thing, as I’m sure it happens all around the world.  Here are some examples.

In trains, people sit or stand without making eye contact and minding their own business.  But when getting on or off the train, people become maniacs.  They rush for a seat and they push people out of the way.  For example, whenever I get off the train, there’s always someone standing in the middle trying to push his or her way on.  I have to push the person out of the way to get off the train.  Another example is when a pregnant woman was about to sit down on the seat and a middle-aged businessman rushed on the train, slipped behind her, and sat down.  She had nowhere to sit.  I was standing, so I couldn’t offer her a seat.  If this were Canada, other passengers would’ve forced the man off the train for being an inconsiderate asshole.  What is it about trains that makes people go insane?

Driving in Japan is mostly safe.  People obey the rules, usually.  The exceptions are at intersections.  It never fails that someone runs a red light or completely ignores the pedestrians trying to cross at a crosswalk.  Four times one year, I was crossing a crosswalk at an intersection on a walk signal, and someone had to be so oblivious to the pedestrian walking directly in front of them that they nearly hit me. That’s four times!  The worst was when a woman stopped 10 centimetres from me.  She refused to look at me or even apologise.  I stood there for about five seconds staring at her.  Not one acknowledgment of making a mistake.  As for running red lights, one guy nearly hit me and a teenager already in the crosswalk while driving on the wrong side of the road.  He was trying to go between us.  I could have kicked his car.  I should have.

Finally, we have shopping.  But not just anywhere.  Costco.  In most stores, people are fine, but in supermarkets, I sometimes have to ask people to move out of the way when I want to get past.  But in Costco, which is where I was today, everyone seems to move in random directions, walk incredibly slow, and block the entire way by parking their carts in the middle, perpendicular or diagonally to the flow of people.  And not just one person does this.  Three or four people gather in one spot and just stand there looking like they have no idea where they are.  I’m looking at them, but they don’t seem to notice me standing there waiting for one of them to move.  It’s not just double-parking, it’s quadruple-parking.  I always feel compelled to move to the side so others can go past me.  But why is it that shoppers in Costco have absolutely no common sense?

Writers have to understand human behaviour, right?  But what about in these cases?  I don’t think like these people, so I often feel completely baffled by what goes on in their minds.

Do you have any more examples?

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20 thoughts on “Human Behaviour Mysteries”

  1. I used to use public transportation in a major city. I remember this one day a woman with an oxygen tank and a walker got on the bus. No one would give up their seat. The driver refused to move until someone did, and after like 2-3 minutes, someone gave it up begrudgingly. Seriously?! But in America I’m not surprised XD Interesting thing about subways and Japan.

    I have lots of examples of bad human behavior in America, but again, one would expect that given how Americans are XD One just has to look at videos of Black Friday to see how crazy people get. I’ve never shopped on Black Friday because I don’t like the insanity. I’m like you, I’m very polite, so bad behavior bothers me. If I’m in a store and someone is trying to get through I move my cart and apologize. My husband is very polite too even in the situations you described. He is only one person though, but my thoughts of Japan and their culture are mostly based on him XD

    One thing that also bothers me is cutting in line, or even cars speeding through a lane and trying to merge at the last possible point to get into an exit. Instead of waiting in line like most cars, they just speed through the empty lane (the one not going towards a specified exit) and then cut it, which slows things down for everyone else that didn’t cut. It bugs me, but I can’t do anything about it, so I just shake it off. . .

    The other day I had to have a truck towed because they were blocking me from exiting my garage. We do have plenty of street parking, but you have to walk about 2 minutes to get into the apartment complex. The horror XD I live in an apartment, and we don’t have many parking spots outside of the garages. That has happened to me before, but never when I really needed to be somewhere. I felt some joy when the truck was towed because it will hopefully stop them from doing it again. I don’t know why they think it’s okay. They were also parked in a fire lane. I talked to the apartment managers, and they were the ones suggesting calling the tow truck. I would have much preferred not to be in that situation because I was late for an important doctors appointment that was 2 hours away 😦 I almost missed it. . . I planned to leave early, but the whole towing incident took 45 minutes.

    1. You know, I would feel good calling a tow truck. A little revenge does feel good.

      I’ve been watching a lot of videos about bad drivers, though mostly in Vancouver. It’s quite interesting seeing how bad many of them are. Most seem oblivious to other drivers, almost hitting them.

  2. Here it just gets crazy at Christmas time. I wrote a guest post on OM’s site last year about it, but I don’t think it’s there anymore. People just go insane where, in any other month, they’re polite.

  3. I think you touched a nerve with your topic, Jay. I second Butterfly and Linda for what bugs them. Same here.

    Another place I get baffled at people’s lack of awareness and old fashioned courtesy is when driving. I live in a small, very spread out rural town, and I have to learned to deal with road visiting. Stopping to chat with an oncoming vehicle, usually isn’t a very big problem. The drivers keep an eye for approaching cars/trucks and either pull out of the way or get moving again when they see one coming. But at gas stations courtesy goes out the window. Those during and after the fill-up LONG conversations, either inside with the clerk, or with another customer waiting in line.

    Add “visiting” in the aisles at the local grocery, hardware, and building center, not just being confused and gawking at the big box stores. People are oblivious to other shoppers who need to pass or retrieve something they’re blocking. I admit I do my share of catching up with people I haven’t seen for awhile, but come on folks, be aware other people are being affected and get out of the way. Grrrr.

    1. I’m from a small town originally, so I know what you mean. And my parents owned a grocery store, but that was before I was born.

      If I meet someone and want to catch up, I move to the side.

      1. That’s true. But because NYC is so diverse so there are people who talk to each other, but there are people who just don’t. Furthermore, because NYC is such a busy place, everyone always has his/her own thing to do and a place to run to.

        1. Tokyo’s probably busier than NYC, so you can imagine that people just don’t want to talk to others. They really have no space in public, so they all walk around in their own personal bubble space that occupies a very small volume around their bodies.

  4. Some people just don’t think of others as human beings — merely obstacles or annoyances. I think being behind the wheel of a vehicle or engaged in discussion with someone you know automatically makes anyone outside that ‘bubble’ seem unimportant or almost mechanical. At my place of work, staff members chitchat a lot while out on the floor but we know we have to be available to customers even if we’re in the middle of a conversation. Some people just don’t get that — maybe they’ve never been in a service job, or maybe they just don’t care.

    1. It seems that when people drive, they have the mentality that they’re in a big car and are superior to pedestrians, and think that they are more important. When those same people are pedestrians, they get angry at the exact same kind of person who nearly hits them.

    1. I’ve found Costco in Canada to be far more navigable. The biggest difference is that Costco is a kind of novelty in Japan. Most people only go shopping for a day’s worth of food. They can’t actually buy a huge amount at Costco because they don’t have much space to store their food. So, they come back far more frequently. My sister goes to Costco once a month, and the food lasts that long.

      1. That’s so strange. Why shop at Costco on a daily basis? Why not go to an ordinary grocery store? Well, some people like it, I suppose. I actually have a Costco membership because my husband likes their roast chickens. He’s a roast chicken freak. I feel like every time I step into the place I’ll have a panic attack. Something about oversized shopping cart, the handle nearly hitting me in the face (I’m short) really gets on my nerves. Not to mention the insanity of the people in it. I thought this woman was gonna run me over the other day with her cart!

        1. Oh, they go to Costco because it isn’t ordinary. They don’t go every day, they just can’t buy a lot of food. They often buy many other things, though. Costco tends to be a destination for some people, kind of like an amusement park.

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