Sunday, June 27, 2004

Service, and then some. . .

There are so many things I want to tell you about. I wish my eyes were cameras so they could record all that I'm seeing.

It's astounding how many people are employed doing almost meaningless jobs. For example, at the train station during the rush hours, there are young men in crisply starched and ironed uniforms and white gloves standing in a line parallel with the train platform, only a couple of arm lengths apart. Starting from the last train car, almost like a choreographed performance, a man will raise one gloved hand in the air and then drop it straight down. The man next to him will do the same thing. . .so on and so on, all the way down the entire line, until the last man makes the signal and the train pulls away. Is this an all-clear signal? The other day, added to this ritual, I saw what must have been the "big man" standing on a two-step soapbox kind of thing (nicely painted, of course). I think it was his job to stand there to monitor all the young men raising and dropping their arms. Talk about an inflated payroll!

Then there are the old people who are constantly sweeping and picking up cigarette butts or any other offending material. You will almost never see any trash in the train stations or on the platforms. In fact, there aren't even any trash bins! (I heard they were removed because of terrorism.)

Also, when you go into a shop there must be at least a handful of "shop girls" to wait on you--one to carry your item to the counter, one to take your money (as they ask you to have a seat "and relax"), one to go get the change, and at least one to wrap your item and put it in a bag. This goes on everywhere ! It's no wonder everything's so expensive. They've got all that overhead!

There are no CHEC medical-type places in Japan. If you feel the need to see a doctor, you usually go to the hospital where another half dozen or so people will tend to your needs. Someone at work told me that some of the hospitals close on weekends, so they drive patients to other hospitals that remain open over the weekends or holidays. I guess you're not supposed to get sick or injured during "off" hours. I was also told that the police departments are only open during "regular working hours." Apparently, Japanese criminals only commit crimes during work hours. I still need to find out if this is true or not.

As I looked out the window at work today into the window of a hair salon across the way, I noticed that, again, there were a number of people involved in the simple process of cutting and blow drying hair. I even watched two people blow dry one head of hair!

If you want service, come to Japan! But, be ready to pay dearly for it.

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