So, I still hate living in Japan, and it reminded me of this fact on my way to the airport this morning. However, I also still truly love parts of this place and culture. My trip to the airport reminded me of this fact, too.
As I struggled with three rolling bags and a guitar (I know, I know – stupid. But it was unavoidable.), the terrible signage and lack of findable elevators was driving me insane, along with the constant rumble strips for hard-of-seeing individuals (I don’t blame anyone for that – it merely added to my struggle, is all, with the suitcase wheels constantly getting stuck in them.).
So, rather than just being able to take an elevator to the right level, and walk flat to my airport train, and then take a second elevator down, I took what felt like an insane route, due to poor signage. Struggling to exit the final tiny escalator (width-wise tiny), and get my stuff out of the way for the people behind me, I was totally I surprised to find myself outside with rain. Yes, the whole station connects in a covered and underground area. But this was the only path I could take, based on signs (which I know is false information, because I’ve been to the same area before, just from a different direction). I finally gave up attempting to pull both big bags at once (one had the smaller rolling bag on top of it, and was somewhat impossible to manage off smooth, flat terrain), and just left one sitting near the escalator. I trudged through the rain with the two bags, and wasn’t even sure how far I would go before turning back for the other bag. I was unconcerned about leaving my bag, though, because 1) this is Japan, 2) it’s freakin’ heavy and hard to move, and 3) some station staff were standing right near it, and they saw me leave it there in my struggle.
I could tell the station staff guys were a bit concerned about my bag, so, when I found a spot covered from the rain, just around the corner, I propped my two bags against the wall, and started heading back for the other bag. Of course, there were no signs for the train line I wanted, but that was no surprise – this is Japan.
As I came around the corner, however, one of the old men station workers was heading my way with my bag. I thanked him in Japanese, and started to go to take the bag from him, but he asked in adorable English (meaning I understood, but it was not really correct at all) if I were taking the Narita Express. I said that I was, and he just nodded, kept walking, and pointed up the escalator to the left. I quickly grabbed my other bags and followed.
The big bags barely fit on the even smaller escalator we were using, but we managed. At the top, I expected he might return my bag to me, but he again kept walking ahead of me, showing me the way to a train whose signs I still couldn’t find.
Remember that this is Japan (as if you could forget), so, of course, we came to a staircase now. No alternate route. None. But we took an escalator to where we were, so it makes perfect sense for only stairs to follow. But then, the upside of Japan came again, and a young-ish guy helped us carry the bags up the stairs, once he saw the station worker attempting to pick up one of my bags, as I carried another up with the guitar. I heard the station worker comment to the guy that I was alone and carrying all three suitcases, and I smiled – people really can be super sweet here. I in no way deny that.
So we continued on, and found our ticket barrier for the train. I still had to buy a ticket, so he asked the window worker, and she sent me to the machines. Unfortunately, the 7:13 train that was about to leave didn’t have any tickets available on the machine. The next was at 8:00-ish, which started to put me into a panic. I quickly asked about the 7:13 train, and my old man asked the window people for me. Yet another station worker came from the window, and started tapping at the machine screen for me a few moments later. Eventually, despite various issues, I got a ticket for the 7:13. At least, it would let me on the 7:13.
Again, I heard the conversation happening about my being hitori desu! and mitsu desu ne. The worker who helped me get my ticket then took over for the old man from the other section of the station, and took one of my big bags for me. I thanked the old man profusely, and marveled one last time at his light blue eyes. He wished me luck and courage.
I got stuck in the ticket barrier. Yes, literally, because the one bag was too wide, and so the lady let me go back and bring my bag through the side area. However, that meant that my ticket was eaten by the machine, since I didn’t make it all the way through the barrier. And I only had so many minutes before the train.
The lady rushed over and opened up the ticket barrier, pulled out my ticket from a bin, and handed it to me, wishing me luck and courage, as well. I thanked her greatly, and started rushing after the worker who’d taken my other bag.
We had just barely five minutes, and I could tell we had far to go, simply by the fact that he was checking his watch and hurrying along so quickly. The long corridor that greeted us as we rounded a corner made me a bit more nervous. We rushed down the walkway, though, and he eventually declared that it would be okay. He led me to an elevator (phew!), and we went down to the track. The whole time, he had been talking with me, chatting about my stay and whatnot, and then telling me about where I could sit on the train. Some good final practice for my Japanese, I suppose. It was really nice to have someone to chat with me casually, though, especially with the physical stress and mental workout that had been going on so far today (and that still awaited).
He helped me on the train, showed me the secret seats in the wall, and wished me safety and good health. After a few minutes on the train, the ticket checker guy who’d seen us get on came out of his little room and smiled at me as he walked past. A few moments later, he came back and summoned me silently with the Japanese wave. I followed, and he offered me a real seat in the cabin. I thanked him, and collapsed into the seat.
Now, a bit of snacking and a bathroom break later, I am almost to the airport. I don’t know how much my bags weigh. One is for sure okay, the other concerns me a bit. I’ve never measured 70lbs before, so I don’t know how that feels. I’m a rather good judge for 50lbs, though, and my second checked bag is right close to 50. My carry-on is way heavy. But it might still be okay. We shall see…
I still have to cancel my phone contract at the store, too. And get through security with my Fuji-San hiking stick. And make it on the plane, of course. So, let’s hope for the best here, eh?
P.S. Oh. And, as a side note, I happen to be sick right now, too. It all started with the whole smoking at dinner the other night. My throat started burning then, and hasn’t stopped since.