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?