Sunday, May 20, 2012

Off the Rails in April

By Ted Taylor

"The conductor was having a hard day. During nearly every announcement, he's made a mistake, quickly followed up with "Shitsurei shimashita." Forgive me, I've committed a rudeness.

It was funny at first, until I remembered last weekend. On Sunday, I was on another train, just behind the conductor's window. From within, I could hear a second voice, belonging to the train driver's senior, who bitched out the driver throughout the entire run. I imagined that on this train too, there was probably some big scowling bully standing over this rookie driver, cursing at him once the mike was off. No wonder that some of the Japanese rail system's biggest accidents have occurred in April, when the new hiring is done.

The train passed over a narrow river. Tethered to the bridge were three swan boats, all missing their heads. This is how this conductor will turn out, able to perform well the function he was designed for, yet losing that which gave him character."

First appeared in Notes from the 'Nog, June 2009.  

Published with permission.