My daily commute involves taking a 40 minute train ride. I’ve no problem with this. I can usually get a seat and the train is comfortably air-conditioned, a necessity in this humid weather. The other passengers consist of Japanese office workers and high school students. It gets busy, but not “Tokyo busy”, so it’s not an arduous task each morning. Yet yesterday and today have be notable for one strange, slightly infuriating passenger.
Let’s begin with yesterday. It was a particularly humid day. I got on the train, found a seat by the window and listened to my music. Meanwhile the seat beside me remained empty for a couple of stops. Eventually a woman, wearing a floral skirt and a cream, linen jacket sat beside me. I avoided eye contact like any sane person would. But from the corner of my eye, her pale skin and uneasy body language were quite noticeable.
She didn’t rest her back in the chair, I assume to avoid creasing her jacket. And she clenched her bag tightly as though it might run away. It was a little weird, but I can respect her wanting some personal space. Anyway, the air-conditioning, rocking motion of the train, and my lack of sleep the night before was making it difficult to stay awake. So I dozed off for a couple of minutes.
I sluggishly opened my eyes to find that one of my backpack straps had wriggled its way onto her skirt. It was clear that alarm bells had started ringing in her head. Quarantine procedures were initiated. She took out her handkerchief and proceeded to use it as a glove as she pushed the strap off her skirt. Then she vigorously scrubbed down the area of contact. Whatever microscopic residue left over from my strap was eradicated. I’m surprised she didn’t pull out a portable incinerator and rid herself of her now “tainted” handkerchief.
She got off the train before me. I never saw her face and we both never said a word. What the f••k just happened?! I was confused, and slightly pissed off. What was her f••king problem? Was she a germaphobe? Was she a racist? Or was she simply a weirdo?
Anyway, this morning after getting a seat, she appeared and sat across from me. What sat in front of me was a 50-something year old woman with a pale face, tired bags under her eyes, her characteristic vice-like grip on her bag and a visible distaste for being surrounded by people. She kept checking her surroundings with a look that read “Oh god, look at all these disgusting things.” We avoided eye contact, but it became clear that her revulsion wasn’t entirely directed at me. But to everyone on the train.
My thoughts were backed up at the next stop, when a slightly podgy, Japanese man stood in the aisle. His belly swayed as the train did. As he inched forwards towards the woman to find more space, she turned and her eyes thoroughly examined him from head to toe. An expression of sheer disgust washed over her. I’m pretty sure she may have even threw up in her mouth. Thankfully, the man didn’t see her reaction. But if that was me and I saw that, I’d f••king lose it. What a weirdo!