April 1 is the beginning of the new fiscal year in Japan. It is also the time that the incoming “class,” or “new faces,” begins at major Japanese companies. The company where I work is no different. On April 1, I noticed a new crop of black-suited manga-character-resembling wakamono (young people). As a result, my usual somewhat manageable train ride was becoming quite crowded. As a matter of fact, it was becoming somewhat frustrating. My frustration started when everyone was queuing up for the little spur train we have to take to get closer to the office. The regulars know the rules – you come up the stairs and then form two single file queues behind the wicket and calmly progress through the wicket, down the stairs, and queue for the next train.
The trouble began when the new faces decided an orderly queue was not appropriate. Instead they lined up in blobs of black suits around the queue and clogged the normal flow through the wicket. How dare they not pay attention to the implied rules of the area. If they are late off the train, then they should go to the back of the line and pay the price for their poor planning. They can’t just CUT.
In the past, the car that I took to the spur train station would be crowded, but not that crowded. I had ample time to get from the train, up the stairs, through the wicket, down the stairs and queued for the next train without worry of getting in the doorway smash zone. We’ve all seen pictures of the people getting smashed into the train. Strangely, this usually happens only around the doors in Nagoya. The aisle between the bench seats, while crowded, is not smashingly cramped. I could almost always be guaranteed to get a seat or a aisle standing position. That is, until the new faces. In the past two weeks I’ve gotten smashed, opted for the next train to avoid the smash, and even walked the 25 minutes to work instead of taking the spur train.
Tuesday I had a meeting that required me to stay on my usual schedule. Knowing the problems of late, I ended up modifying my train ritual. Instead of sitting or standing in the aisle during my first train ride, I positioned myself in the standing area right by the door so that I would be able to quickly leave the car, rush up the stairs, and get in the queue behind the wicket before it got too ling. I HAD to get the next train. It worked, but I resented the fact that I had to “compete” for my spot on the train.
The new faces are getting better – they have begun to understand the unwritten rules associated with the spur train station. Eventually, as they are spread to different locations or have different start times their numbers will dwindle. In the meantime though, I have to be vigilant!