Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Passengers Only

One of the reasons we never took any trains to go on skiing day-trips was because I never knew quite what to do with our skis. If we went for more than one day, I could have the skis picked up from my house and shipped to our hotel at the ski resort. But for a day-trip, I couldn’t really have the skis sent to the bottom of the slopes, now could I? So we always drove on day-trips, until we took the shinkansen train to GALA last weekend.

As for the skis? I had a plan. Last year, my astigmatic eyes caused me to mistake a 7-passenger van taxi for a regular sedan. It was spacious and a light bulb immediately came on in my head: there’s space enough for skis in here! I made a mental note to call for one of these if we are ever in need of transporting skis via taxi.

Smug with my foresight, I looked up Nihon Koutsu, the company that has a fleet of those vans, on Yahoo Japan. Lucky me, they even have an English speaking line. As I packed our ski bags, I asked Jason to book a taxi to drive us to Tokyo station. First, we were shocked to learn that they charge 1000yen extra for advanced booking: 600yen for booking and 400yen for pick up. (That’s the price to pay for being lazy.) I gave Jason the OK to book it. Then he felt the need to explain to the operator why we needed a van for only two passengers, and things went south from there.

At first I heard Jason struggling to make the operator girl understand that we are going skiing and need a car big enough for our skis. Judging from Jason’s reactions, she must have said no-can’t-do. Fearing that she might have misunderstood him and thought we were taking the taxi all the way to the ski resort, I told Jason to tell her we were only going to Tokyo Station. That didn’t work either, and Jason said they didn’t have any cars big enough for skis. What do you mean they don’t have any? Do I have to get on the phone myself even when it’s an English line?

Me – “You have vans, big cars, right? I saw them on your website and have taken it myself.”
Girl – “Yes, we do, but skis will not fit in them.”
Me – “What do you mean they won’t fit? There are only two of us, the rest of the space will be empty.”
Girl – “ Yes, but the seats are for passengers.”
Me (getting more and more exacerbated) – “But like I told you, there are ONLY two passengers. There will be PLENTY of space left in the van. Don’t people with lots of luggage use those vans to go to the airport?”
Girl – “No, we do not allow luggage in the van.”
Me (silently, what the #%&$?) – “ You do not ALLOW luggage in the van?”
Girl – “Our vans are for passengers only, and if you want to put luggage in the van, we’d have to convert passenger space into luggage space, and we cannot do that.”
Me (again silently, who the #%&$ asked you to convert the #%&$ van?!) – “ But I am not asking you to convert your van, we just want to put our skis into the van, surely it will fit.”
Girl – “Only passengers are allowed in the vans…”

At this point my patience ran out and I didn’t bother to find out what other nonsense was spewing out of her mouth. Man! You think that after four and a half years in Japan you’ve seen all the malicious side effects of an entire nation of people with inflexible/can’t think for self/droid-like mentality, then you get hit with “Sorry, our vans are for passengers only.” What do you say to that?!

Jason suggested that I call back to the Japanese line and try again, but no, I would not give my business to a company that a) has a stupid rigid policy like that, b) trains their operators to give answers from a script, c) charges an extra 1000yen just for booking! In fact, I will never ever get into a Nihon Koutsu taxi, EVER!
We ended up hauling our skis to the station ourselves, but the 7-minute walk to Gaienmae station was surprisingly painless, and the train to Tokyo station was practically empty. So what if we got to our shinkansen a little out of breath? Just think of it as a warm-up. Plus, the satisfaction to have one-upped Nihon Koutsu was priceless, even though they don’t know it. HA!


Rachel said...

Oh my god, Lynn, I could feel your wrath about to explode all over the screen. I'm amazed that annoying operator survived--heh. That company does sound absolutely stupid.

There was a woman just like that at KCP who made me want to scream hysterically on a regular basis. Oh, I get annoyed just recalling her now!

Chao said...

Ah Q spirits! I salute you!

Hsin said...

Hee hee. Sorry to laugh at your misfortune, but it is funny in hindsight. Indeed, you should know better after being so long here - flexibility is definitely a rarity here. Anyway, it is probably better to have had the yelling match with the operator than to have booked the taxi and have the yelling match with the driver...

Lynn said...

Hsin, I know, a veteran Tokyoite like me shouldn't have been stumped like that. But there was no yelling, only seething silently inside. Another sign that I've been in Japan for too long.

Rachel, you know, before coming back to Japan, I promised myself I wouldn't get pissed off by things like this (it's even kinda in my new year's resolution) but it's just so darn irritating!

Chao, welcome to the world of blogging!