Friday, February 20, 2009

Descent into an obsessive-compulsive world

Ahhh. A seat on the train that I could get without fighting for. I know that according to some fellow from Melbourne who writes articles boosting bigotry that I should do as the natives do (which ones?), but I cannot fight for a train seat. I sorta feel it is undignified for a healthy adult male---or female---to push his/her way through a waiting line and rush into a train just to grab a seat. And I am one without much dignity left; when I am finally able to leave the job that I have had off and on for way too long, I will have to shovel manure for a year to get some back.

But, at least last night I had a seat. I pulled out my copy of Fooled by Randomness in the futile hope of exercising my few remaining brain cells, when I heard a sound that sent an electric shock through my body. An open-mouth, let-it-all-blow-out sneeze. A quick check. Luckily, it was not in my direction, but the young lady standing in the aisle across from me had let one rip directly on the folks seated in front of her. Then I noticed that she was wearing a mask. Well, that was OK then, especially since I would not be getting a spittle shower from her.

Back to Fooled. Within a few seconds, we arrived at the next station. The sparsely-filled train was much quieter than the more usual sardine can train as we waited for a few more folks to get on.

Then I heard it. It was sort of a slow awakening, like noticing a leaky faucet in the middle of the night. Sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-SNORT!!!-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff. I began to search for the source with the same morbid curiosity that people have when they pass by the scene of an accident hoping to see a mangled body.

I located him---a middle-aged guy sitting on the far end of the seat across from mine. I was strangely unable to take my eyes off of him. No, he was not attractive in the way that the freckle-faced woman I had shared a moment of eye contact with a month or so earlier was, but he was fascinating. How would he deal with his severe case of post nasal drip, I wondered. After all, if I am gonna do like the natives (which ones?) I have to learn by example.

He sniffed with every single breath. The lady sitting next to him appeared not to notice. Nobody else seemed to notice either, except for me. Good. It meant that he fit in and was a good subject to observe. He continued to sniff. How long before he uses his fingers, hand, or sleeve? He was obviously not the tissue or handkerchief type.

It wasn't long. First there was a slow wipe with the fingers of the right hand. That wasn't enough, as the sniffing continued. A moment later, the left hand went up. The sniffing did not stop nor slow.

This got me to thinking. I'd seen young guys with similar nose trouble, who while talking to young women, take a big head-clearing 93 decibel snort. The young ladies appeared to take it in stride. I've even seen the singer (and talented actor) Kim Taku do sort of a cool, manly snort on a TV drama. Perhaps the babes like it.

Hmmm. Had I missed my chance with the beautiful freckle-faced lady of a month ago when we made and held eye contact on a crowded train? The sort of eye contact that one does not normally make in Tokyo? I must admit, I hadn't known what to do at the time. Had I been in the States, perhaps just a smile would have been fine, and the world would have gone on as usual. But no, Japan is special. What if I had, while staring deep into her pretty eyes, taken a deep, studly, phlegm-clearing snort? Would the evening have turned out differently? Would I have finally been able to enjoy a mid-life fling with a cute younger gal?

No, I had to come back to reality. Perhaps I cannot always do like the natives (which ones?) do after all. For my wife, being unreasonably selfish about these sorts of things, would have refused to share me with the pretty freckle-faced lady.

I got off the train at my stop trying to figure out when I had started paying so much attention to such things. When I reached my "mansion," I felt an irresistible urge to repeatedly wash my hands with scalding hot water.

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