Yesterday was the busiest day of the month at the moving ticket company. It always is. Japanese citizens come in at all hours of the day, many of them short on time and lacking in patience, demanding the tickets that allow them to move to their region of choice and vote for Congress. Veterans of the company prepare for this day. I knew I would not get home from work until well past midnight, so I prepared sushi the night before and brought it with me. When I pulled the temarizushi from the employee refrigerator late in the afternoon and gulped it down, it was just the tasty rejuvenation I needed to survive the late night push that was about to begin.
Not all of my co-workers were as lucky. With two hours to go in the shift, one of our newest employees collapsed from exhaustion while she was printing tickets. The printer is in the back of the shop and it was more than a few minutes before any of us noticed she had not come back. The line of customers grew long and unruly, and in fact one customer became so obnoxious that we had to throw him out of the store. At which point he punched my co-worker in the face and knocked his lights out! A third employee was told to escort our fallen comrades to the hospital for x-rays, and we were officially shorthanded and in a heap of trouble.
It is said that when we are tested, we learn who we are. But in this case it was my fellow citizens that I learned about. What a varied and goofy people we Japanese are. Some customers came in so entranced by the long spreadsheet printouts they held that they could not be bothered to look up and see who was helping them. And so preoccupied with the person on the other end of their cellphone were they, that they were unable to say thank you or goodbye either.
Then there were other citizens who came in, who seemed incapable of doing anything for themselves. They entered the store with one hand outstretched and full of the yen needed to pay for the tickets. We took the money from their hand and held up a board that listed all the regions of Japan. We pointed at one region after another until they nodded their head in approval, and sent them there. One such customer, when I wondered aloud how many times I would do this ineffectual dance before the night was over, said to me, "It took me one click to open the door to your store, then it will take me another click to walk out, and I'll be all out of clicks!" I suppose it's a shame we aren't located in an open air market, so this poor soul could have trained his strength today as well.
With a few minutes to go before midnight, I slipped out the back of shop and placed my own vote. I had seen democracy in action, and I was ready for bed.