November 30, 2010

Thoroughly Fukuoka'ed (Part 2)

Today, the thrilling conclusion of my weekend tale!

I realize that yesterday I said things only got worse after I wound up in Bumsville, Kyushu, and that "worse" is a subjective thing. Some people might actually say things objectively got a lot better! After all, I discovered that there was not only a hotel near the Bumsville station, but also one last train heading back to Fukuoka. It wasn't my original plan, but at least I could go back to the city, spend time with my pals, and head back in the morning. Or, I could stay in Bumsville and take the train in the morning.

And so, my world was nice for about two seconds.

After a couple of phone calls to verify A: if I should indeed go back, B: if there was still a hotel room for me in Fukuoka, and C: where the hell it was (or so I thought), I hopped on the late train and went back to the city. Before anything else, though, there was another round of problem-solving to get through. After all, I had this sweet ticket that I'd already paid for twice and hadn't even actually used. I had to make sure I could use it again to get home in the morning, nu? So I went to the counter, where the exact same guy who had stamped my ticket less than an hour ago was sitting.

"Hi, so, I sort of made a mistake and got on the wrong train," I explain. "Can I use this ticket tomorow instead?"

He stares at me blankly. I explain again. Does this sound familiar? He asks me, "So... you didn't use the ticket?"

I'm a pretty darn polite person in Japanese. It was a sign of things to come that instead of the usual smiling explanation, all I could think to do was snap, "I'm here, aren't I?" But hey, it worked.

I was kind of starving at that point, but it was after midnight and the stores were all closed. I grabbed a quick conbini snack while shopping for overnight supplies, then hopped in a taxi.
Cabs here work a little differently than what I'm used to. In New York, I can say "25th and 3rd" and expect a driver to know what I mean. Here, it's more like, "I'm looking for Tiny Hotel A, it's near Bigger Hotel B, in this vague area, do you know it?" Which is what I said to this guy, who had no idea what I was talking about. In this situation, my usual plan is to either give directions if I know them, or find a cabbie who knows where I want to go. But my buddy on Saturday night would not have it! He checked his list of area hotels (and checked it twice), and then made a great big show of going to every other cab driver and asking if they knew Hotel B. At this point, I was already obviously in a bad mood, and while I can't accurately type tone of voice, believe me when I tell you that this was all happening in as passive-aggressive a manner as possible. But, every time I tried to get out of the taxi, he would turn to me and say, "Oh, he doesn't know either."

I call my friend for more specific directions. My driver's response is to call his dispatch and ask for directions -- why he did not do this in the first damn place, you will have to ask him. I actually physically tore his head off when this was all over, but it's rolling along the streets in Fukuoka somewhere, I'm sure you can find it. The dispatch gives him exactly the same directions I did, but of course, I'm a dumbass foreigner with dumbass foreign friends who can't be expected to know anything.

(Actually, this is true, because both sets of directions turned out to be wrong, but that will come back to bite me in the ass in a moment.)

So finally, we're going along. Normally I have a nice relationship with drivers, and usually wind up chatting with them, but at this point, all I want is to get to the hotel, eat something, and go to sleep. Plus, I already despise this man, and he clearly thinks I'm an idiot.

Oh, and not only that. Because as we pull out, he says, in his very best so-you-definitely-seem-like-a-gaijin-prostitute voice, "So, like, sorry, but is this place a love hotel or something?"

At this point, I lost it. I've never yelled at anyone in Japanese before, but I'd had a long day, I was exhausted and angry, and I did not want to chitchat about my secret life trawling for sex with some passive-aggressive jerk. I sounded like an angry schoolgirl from some anime, with the few random curses I know thrown in for good measure.

At this, the guy backed off for a while, muttering, "I didn't mean it like that" (which he did). Then, he pulls up to Hotel B. "Okay, here we are." Hotel A is nowhere in sight. Huh? I point this out, and he asks me what on earth I'm talking about.  "What Hotel A?"

I run over our previous, pre-hooker conversation in my head. "I'm looking for Hotel A, it's near Hotel B," I'd said about a thousand times. Clearly, he'd forgotten the first part, but instead, he starts whining, "You never said anything about Hotel A! How was I supposed to know about Hotel A?" But he takes the are-you-freaking-kidding-me look on my face to heart and calls dispatch again.

Now, keep in mind, the entire conversation thus far has been in Japanese. The only English I've spoken at all has been on the phone with my friend. And, he knows I can hear him on the radio, because I pointed out to him that the directions they gave him were the same as mine. Undeterred by basic logic or manners, he gripes into the radio, "I don't know what's going on with her, she kept saying Hotel B over and over again, now she wants somewhere else, can you believe it?"


At this point, I try to call my friends again, but my phone dies. I have the name of Hotel A and its general area and that's it. Cabbie snipes at me, "Boy, it would have been nice if you'd gotten the phone number, huh?"

Here, I pretty much lose it again. We're driving in circles, totally lost, and my fuse has completely checked out. So now we're driving in circles, lost, and yelling at each other. Finally, I tell him to just let me the hell off at Hotel B and I'll find the place myself. I shove the door closed, Buddy drives off, and... I am alone in Fukuoka with no phone and no idea where I am.

But wait, what sound through yonder misery breaks?

At exactly this point, when I am truly about to break down and throw myself into traffic, or at least the nearest bed I can find, my friend shows up like Joan of Arc or some other awesome heroic figurina. In my memory, when this happened, horns were playing, the clouds parted, and the moonlight shone down upon her in radiant beams. I practically started crying.

"Please just tell me where this motherfucking hotel is," I say, like a perfect damsel in distress.

And that's how I finally got to sleep.

I will give my cabbie credit for two things: one, he turned the meter off when we started running around in circles; and two, any New York cabbie would have kicked me out of the car long, long ago. So good for him! The jackass.

Oh, and I will also say this. No matter how bad it was, I got a lovely reminder that it could always be worse. As we drove around Fukuoka, I saw a store with papered windows, clearly closed forever, and ironically titled Best Luck.

The next day, as my friends helped me recover, I found out that nearly everyone else had also been miserable the night before. Look, folks -- I know a lot of people like it, but I can only now help but wonder if Fukuoka is cursed.

PS: Also worse luck: Tokyo and the Ogasawara Islands got hit by a giant earthquake today! Yikes. I've heard everyone is okay, but nonetheless, let's all send good vibes towards Kanto.

1 comment:

  1. I was about to say "hey, I liked Fukuoka!" but then I remembered that the one time I went there, I spent two or three hours driving around in circles, hopelessly lost. Definitely cursed.