November 29, 2010

Problem Solving; Or, How I Got Fukuoka'ed, Part 1

My triumphant return! not so triumphant.

You see, I've realized that my greatest mode of communication is complaining about things. This is not because I'm a negative person; actually, I consider myself a great optimist, albeit a slightly cynical one. It's just that where I grew up, and with my friends, bitching is the way we bond. I met my best friend because of a mutual activity, and I like to think we would have become friends no matter what, but the truth is, we initially bonded because a bunch of ridiculous stuff happened and we griped to each other about it.

Which is all to say that I've been told I can be a little negative, and that I should probably not be negative about, say, my job, on my public blog. Fair enough! I say. Except that unfortunately, that means basically no content, because the rest of my life is fairly dull.

Except now, I've found something to complain about that has nothing to do with work, and everything to do with stupidity. Some of it is other people's. A lot of it is mine.

I apologize in advance for there being no pictures. I haven't yet become the sort of person who thinks, Wow, this is a shitty, ridiculous situation I'm in. I must photo-document it! Although it's only a matter of time, I'm sure.

This is the story of this weekend.


The plan was pretty simple: go to Fukuoka on Saturday, watch the Grand Sumo Tournament, party until forever, go home on Sunday. But even before it started, things began to go wrong. I started feeling sick last week and wasn't sleeping well. I spent basically all weekend partying last weekend and was pretty much partied out. I didn't get the ticket I wanted for the sumo. Et cetera.

Then the Moaning Pigeons kicked off the mass ruination.

I promise I will explain the Moaning Pigeons in an upcoming entry, but for now all you need to know is that they live on my balcony and they absolutely suck. For some reason, I couldn't fall asleep till 4 AM on Friday night. '"It's okay," I thought. "I'll sleep till 10:30, leave at 11:30, nap on the train, and be at sumo by 2." But the Moaning Pigeons would not have this! No, they decided that a 7:30 wakeup call was far more appropriate. I tried to chase them off and go back to sleep, but when the Moaning Pigeons are determined, they'll do anything to get their own way. After an hour of effort, I gave up and went about getting dressed and so on. Then, all ready to go way too early, I sat down on my bed, yawned, put on an episode of The Office...

...and woke up at 1 PM.


Sumo lasts from 8:30 AM to 6 PM, so I realized that at least I would still have time to catch the last bunch of matches. Even better, the good wrestlers are all last, so even if I got there late, I'd get to see the really good ones. Cool! I got in at 4:30 and watched some high-quality sumo for an hour and a half, a sumo expert friend-of-a-friend giving me helpful running commentary the whole time.

Why, that doesn't sound bad at all! you say. But oh! there is so much more.

By the end of the tournament, I was still feeling fairly rotten, and my roommates were all talking about drinking all night and going wild. I really just wanted to lie in bed and read the internet, so I decided I'd just go to dinner and a nightcap and then catch the last train home at 11. This all worked out fine, except that A: it started to pour all over me and my nice fabric flats and my lack of umbrella, leaving me soaked; and B: I spent a little too much time on the nightcap and wound up scrambling for a taxi to the train station. "Step on it, please, I'm about to miss my train," I begged the cabbie. Apparently the one nice cabbie in Fukuoka, the guy drove like a rock star and I got there with 15 minutes to spare. Yes! I stroll in, get my ticket, and go to glance at the souvenirs for a minute before the train comes.

Somewhere between the ticket booth and the souvenir stand, I lose my ticket.

I check my pockets. I check my bag. No ticket. I check the floor. No ticket. Nothing.


Here, we get to why I'm calling this entry "problem solving:" because as it turns out, the Fukuoka transit personnel have absolutely no ability to do it. I run back to the ticket booth and tell the guy what happened. He stares at me blankly. I tell him again and ask what I should do. He stares at me blankly, then asks if my ticket fell out of my pocket. Yes, yes, and I point out that the only train out of the city is about to leave without me and my 5000 yen ticket so can he please tell me what I should do? He makes a quiet phone call to someone. I have maybe two minutes. I make various gestures which I guess to him looked like American monkey antics. He gets off the phone.

"Um, do you think you could just buy another one?" he asks.

I do not have time to argue the point, and I just got paid last week, so I throw a surplus of money at him, grab a new ticket, and run.

I know my train is leaving at 10:52. This is what I know. I also know I have less than a minute before it arrives. I glance up at the departure board, see "DEPARTING AT 10:52" on the first track I see, and take off like a rocket. I make it just in time! The crowd cheers! I make myself comfortable in a lovely quiet car and the train takes leaves, heading off in...

...the exact opposite direction of my town.

I told you this was a story about my stupidity.

I'm not sure, at first. I recognize the name of the destination they announce, but I can't remember where that is. "That's south of here, right? They must just be taking the long way around." And then, as we start to pass towns I don't recognize: "Well, there are a few train routes through Kyushu, I'm just on a different one from what I took to get here... right?"


Finally, just as I'm about to go find him, dread welling in my throat, the conductor comes to me. He takes one look at my ticket and says: "Uh... where are you going?"

"Beppu," I say in a small, I-know-I'm-a-freaking-moron voice.

He also stares at me blankly. Then, he very politely and Japaneseishly kicks me off the train.

"Is there even a train going back to Fukuoka this late?" I ask as we pull up to a stop in the middle of nowhere.

"I'm not sure," he admits. "Probably not."

"So... what you're saying is that I'm stuck in a random, unfamiliar town, in the middle of the night, with no idea where I am and no way of getting back."

He shrugs. Apparently, this is not as big a problem for Japanese conductors as it is for me.

And so there I am, at midnight, alone on the platform, bag in hand. The town's name is unfamiliar and it appears to be at least as inaka as my neighborhood, because there are no lights on anywhere. My phone has one bar of battery left.

And you know what's funny? It got worse from there.


  1. Holy Crap! How terrible! Glad you made it back somehow tho...

    On the pidgeons, it is going to take several chase off attempts before they go away completely. My friends used to have a problem with it. Anytime they heard a pidgeon outside they would chase it off/go all kendo on its ass. Hit a fair few of them too. Now they dont have that problem anymore.

  2. Oh, my war with the Moaning Pigeons has gone on for quite some time, now, and they're too stubborn to be deterred by mere chasing. My next move is coming soon.

  3. omg I think I would just break down and cry at that point... can't wait to find out how you got out of this sticky situation!!