I went to America the other day (to see a man about a horse). Actually, I didn’t want to go, and I couldn’t really afford it, but I had no choice.
Having been away from my old home long enough to properly appreciate the differences between it and my new home, I made some observations, and was able to conclude for sure that I hate Japan less than I hate America. On the other hand, America has us beat on a few points. Perhaps I had better start from the beginning.
To save money, I thought it might be a good idea to take a bus from LA to the horse-dealer’s house in Lubbock, Texas. Contrary to most people’s assumption that it is somewhere near LAX, the Greyhound bus station is actually located far, far away, in Skid Row. It took one airport bus, one train, and 45 minutes on a city bus to get me within walking distance.
Never having experienced an American big city (I went to the GDC in ’04 in San Diego [or was it San Francisco?—one of those Sans, anyway], but I never left the comfort of the hotel/conference area), and having more or less turned Japanese these last 27 months, I was overwhelmed by Los Angeles.
First, I have to deal with the fact that, while I’m effortlessly quite intimidating in Japan, in America it’s pretty much the opposite. I expected every muscular, tattooed person I passed by to beat me up, take my lunch money, and then murder me out of frustration with the fact that I was only carrying a few yen.
Then, I had to come to terms with just how rude everyone was. The morning I left Japan, I have a haunting memory of two particularly rude 16-18 year old school girls lying on the booth seats at McDonald’s and talking loudly, one of whom was impudently pointing her crotch at me, her legs spread so widely open that you could see where the skin started to change color, while the other, sitting in a scarcely less modest pose, was slapping the first’s thighs and telling her to pull down her skirt. Being the reserved Japanese resident that I am, I begrudgingly accepted this behavior. Ahem!
But in America, they’ve really upped the stakes of rudeness. These filthy women with a convoy of baby strollers taking up half of the city bus were eating bag after bag of assorted chips (in spite of the sign that warned against eating with the threat of a $200 fine) and wiping the Cheeto dust on their tank top shirts (beneath which was to be found no other garment), and kept giving me this “white people with suitcases don’t belong here” look, before finally getting off the bus and dumping a purse full of empty soda cans and chip bags onto the sidewalk casually without even slowing down (and that’s zero hyperbole).
In Tennouji, the homeless have their neatly arranged refrigerator boxes lined up on the sidewalk, and rarely seem to bother anyone. In Skid Row, as I tried to make my way to the Greyhound station, they seemed to follow me like Pikmin, mumbling incoherently as I desperately tried to pretend I didn’t hear them. I somehow made it through without getting stabbed or infected by a zombie bite.
Once I had made it inside the ticketed customers-only area, I stayed close to the lone security guard and rocked back and forth, glad that it was all over and wondering when I would be near a bottle of liquid that didn’t cost $1.75.
But on the Greyhound bus, it didn’t get any better. Now, I know that this isn’t exactly a fair cross-section of humanity we’re talking about, but still, I’m comparing it to similar people in Japan (I’ve been on Japanese cross-country buses). Even after specifically being told not to use earphones loudly, several people were doing so AT ALL TIMES, for the full 30 hours of the trip. Even with my own huge headphones on, I could still hear their beats interfering with mine, and sometimes even the lyrics. At one point a guy even turned on a small portable radio and left it on into the middle of the night!
This acronym is ambitious, but dripping with fail. I won’t point out all the obvious problems with it, but just look at it for a moment.
And wish you lived here too.
“Part 1?”, I hear you ask. Click right here for Part 2!