Monday, May 22, 2017

Subtle Differences

We've been back ten days, and it's nagging me I never wrote a conclusion post. Of course, I fractured my tibia in Kyoto, which made everything damn near impossible (no drugs, airport wheelchairs, x-rays and MRIs upon return, etc.), but if you ever want to speed through security and practically have the cabin crew lift your sorry ass into row 62, consider it one of the trade-offs of travel. 

With that out of the way, do not confuse Air China with China Air. The latter is abysmal; the former is polite, helpful, and tasty. Too bad the turbulence out of Shanghai--right after breakfast--was so bad the barf bags came into play. Doesn't help that Chinese passengers--95% of the souls on board--really enjoy ripping thousand year old farts. For all my faults, at least I don't get air sick. 

But Japan. Public transport is amazing. We've all heard the stories about packing people on trains with cattle prods, but for being the world's most complicated metro, it's efficient and easy. There are even dark areas, like the one pictured. 

And they're clean. Not a scrap of paper, not one butt, and no gum. This, despite a complete lack of receptacles. One simply does not litter. That's why your pants have pockets. Also, don't blow your nose in public. So gauche. 

But it's more. Shrines, sidewalks, street food is all meticulously clean. The most striking example is the bike culture. No one, and I mean no one, locks their bike. Hundreds of bikes line entry ways to stores, museums, markets. I'd read Osaka is Japan's high crime city. Something like three crimes annually per million people. Wanna step up, NYC, Chicago, LA, Baltimore, San Jose? Didn't think so. 

You see, a job at 7-Eleven or Lawson's might get you noticed. A job is defined not as "did I punch the checklist," but "how do I do this better?" Attention to detail. Service. Cleanliness. Respect. The minimal gestures are most impactful, and most regarded. The currency of the culture is thoughtfulness; its emblem design. 

There is one other thing. It is, unfortunately, beyond the grasp or dignity of most Americans: do not act in ways that bring shame to your family, your nation. Want proof? Go read some YouTube comments or check out Fox, Breitbart, InfoWars. Revel in the stupid, the racist, the mysogenistic. Smile and despair that native English speakers do not speak English, and that anyone who can reason or recall or respect is to be shunned. 

People know when they're doing the wrong thing. They really do. In America, we just don't give a fuck. 

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