*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Commuting: stupidity and malice are universal.

The last time Steve Martin was funny.

Even though I am a misanthrope, Japanese and Canadians both are stupid or malicious, and the same should be said about both drivers and 'strap-hangers'.  I have not found religion, education or nationality to furnish a better set of people in one group than another: a quarter are angels, a quarter are bastards, and half are sheep with no character of their own.  What differs is the expression of this: to the benefit of Japan, nobody expects you to listen to their uninformed opinions; to the benefit of Anglophones, nobody expects to get away with voicing the bigoted ideas they vote and act upon.

So whether you are commuting among the Japanese or Canadians, in traffic or by train, people suck and wear you down.  Human suckage in transit may have much to do with long commutes increasing the chance of divorce, or it may be that long commutes take you to the suburbs, and that drives you to divorce.  Cause, effect and coincidental factors are all mixed up, but for me it is simple: rush hour driving sucks, rush hour trains blow, and people are stupid and malicious.  I bike.

But in N.America, most drive.  'I have to drive'; 'the roads are too crowded with other drivers'; 'I can't give up my car because transit is bad'; 'we need to put more money into the crowded roads, so there's no money for transit'; 'I am good at driving, but everyone else is terrible/crazy/selfish'; ad absurdum.  The same will tell you the city is too expensive, though it's cheaper than living in the 'burbs and paying for a fleet of cars.  They'll tell you they enjoy the space and lawns and parks, though they have an hour less each day to enjoy them, or two if you count the extra maintenance.  They'll tell you they like to able to go for a walk, though its statistically proven urbanites walk far more, and proven by the fact Canadians urban residents weigh fifteen pounds fewer.  Here's the truth of N.American car commuting: it seems easier to sit on your @$$, but it catches up with your health, and soon; and people move to the suburbs to get away from other ethnicities.

Transit advocates would love you to think that the experience of the Tokyo train commuter is better.  It isn't, and I know it to be dire on Toronto's, pathetically few, subway lines and commuter rail services.  You may be safer than in a car, but you are packed cheek-by-jowl with strangers, some of whom are objectionable in unique or tedious ways.  It is also exhausting, and enervating.  The virus load has to be high**, and the potential for mass panic terrifying.  Your average Tokyo 'strap-hanger' makes his choice as poorly as a N.American driver, even if it costs him less money and the Earth a smaller carbon footprint.  Though car parking is prohibitive, if I was less interested in my exercise I'd buy a motorbike to commute in Tokyo sooner than rely on the trains.  It is not unsafe to ride, unlike N.America.

There are a lot of ways of getting around the misery of trains or traffic for commuting, but they all require a rare option: thought.  My favourite is the bicycle.  Another option is living much closer to work.  On the contrary, living much further away and paying for an upgraded and reserved seat on a train may work*: rather than living closer and finding no seats remaining.  Telecommuting is becoming more accepted even in Japan, which has a more inane culture of being present for long hours, no matter how little you achieve.  Flexible commuting hours to avoid the rush, and there may be other options I have not considered.  Five options: no excuses.  If you choose to sit in a car or stand in a train, you either like it or lack imagination.  I hear so many excuses that 'people have no choice', because of disability or finances, but the funny thing is that I never hear the excuses from the people from whom this might be true.

*Facilitated in Japan, contrary to all common sense in human resources and containing urban sprawl, by 15000 to 50000 yen/month transit subsidies.  These people are stuck downtown in an earthquake, typhoon, Aum attack...  Yes, a few do take the shinkansen to work.
**Face masks in Tokyo are not for radiation, despite TV's uninformed reporting (their 'journalists' here do not speak Japanese even as poorly as me), but to avoid other people's diseases in public, or to control their pollen allergies.


  1. true, so true, my daily tube commute sucks a ton of energy out of me.

    * contrary to the contrary, and only anecdotal, but on a personal level I know quite a few Japanese Tokyoites that wore masks out of fear for radiation (not implying my views on that).

  2. Well, it's true there are people as stupid as that, but you have to remember the American 'news' channels implied the masks were for radiation; never mind that 90% of the people would have worn the masks for other purposes any other year.