Saturday, June 30, 2007

Girls Will Be Boys... or They'll Work on the Shinkansen!

Here are two instances of synchronicity that I, in my most solipsistic moments, like to think prove the world was basically created for me, rather than the other way around.

No sooner than I wrote about it in my comics blog the Japan Times ran an article at least somewhat related to my point about how this country has a long tradition of gender-bending comics series and cartoons. Usually it's men becoming women, but like in the West, there are some stories of female-to-male transformation even ol' Shakespeare would appreciate. It extends into the realm of television dramas; for example, last August LaLa TV re-ran the early 90's bodyswitch comedy Houkago (After School) in which electricity causes two high schoolers to occupy each others' bodies and learn how the other half lives.

But currently, there's Hanazakari no Kimitachi e: Ikemen Paradise, a TV drama where a girl disguises herself as boy so she can get closer to her crush by enrolling in an all-boys high where the guys excel in being cute.

The other television coincidence is the 2-hour telefilm Shinkansen Girl. This is the story of one of the shinkansen cart girls, those uniformed young women who push the snack cart through the shinkansen car offering snacks and drinks for sale.

What I love about Japan Times' write-up of Shinkansen Girl is how it admonishes the reader to "be extra nice to the young women who push the snack and drink carts down the aisle." I don't need this advice; I'm always nice to them.

And why not? They enter carefully and demurely, clad in their flight attendant-style outfits and give the whole car a smile and a greeting, then skillfully pilot the heavy cart while mountains and sea whir by outside the windows.

It's all part of the relaxing and strangely peaceful shinkansen experience and I've become quite a devotee of these hard-working women. All day long they zip through their nation offering tasty treats and reasonable prices to travellers. Even as I type this (and possibly as you read it), they're being borne along at great speed while we sit and live out this moment in relative stillness.

Although we're all hurtling through space at an astounding 65,000 MPH as the earth orbits the sun.

With that in mind, I make it a point to always buy some Pocky (chocolate-covered pretzel sticks) or some chocolate-covered almonds and, even though you're technically not supposed to, I always say "Arigato" as I accept my candy and change.

When someone works a service job like that, I feel it's almost my civic duty to try to be the most positive customer I can be. I know how crappy it made me feel when I was toiling for minimum wage in an ice cream joint at the mall and certain people would go out of their way to be as assholeish as they possibly could, maybe to make themselves feel better about their own wage slavery.

I don't know if such people exist in Japan. I'm almost certain they do, but even though this is a very polite society in general, people tend not to be overly kinds to servers in restaurants or cashiers in supermarkets.

In America the check out lines and restaurant tables are the frontlines of a war being mutually waged needlessly between the equally tired and put-upon. Hate flows both ways at times.

The war has to stop somewhere, and I see no reason why it shouldn't end everytime I go to Tokyo at 186 MPH.

Oh- and about the solipsism and synchronicity. Obviously, these perceived events are the result of omission. Much like the idiots who think Pink Floyd's album Dark Side of the Moon eerily "synchs" up to the classic film Wizard of Oz (it doesn't), I tend to notice the instances where things validate my viewpoint and ignore the BILLIONS of times things have virtually nothing at all to do with me.

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