Monday, August 24, 2009

Ohaiyo Tokyo Pt 4 - The Taxi

If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you’ll know that I have an insidious curse when it comes to flights. Booking wrong departure dates, missing my flight, having to run out to the tarmac to catch my flight, the list goes on.

That storied past was linked largely with LB. So, one year on, a little more matured and organized, and travelling with Poca whom I would have assumed to be exponentially more meticulous, I thought the days of screw ups have been dutifully discarded. But I was gravely mistaken.

When we decided to party the night before despite an 11am flight to catch the next morning, it seemed like a harmless initiative and treating ourselves to vodka was the best way I knew for saying farewell to Tokyo.

The plan was to have an early night – relative by our standards – and catch a quick wink before making our way to the terminal. The motion was set, our alarm clocks tuned and the route agreed on. We just didn’t anticipate for two things; snoozing – which really is a crime – and train timings.

7.30am : The first of many alarms ring. I question the need for waking up so early when our flight is over 3 hours away. Poca offers no objection. I press the snooze button. We are both delighted at the decision. This is the best decision since democracy was introduced.

7.45am : The second alarm goes off. I nudge her again to wake up. She turns away and mumbles, “5 minutes”.

7.50am : I propose we get out of bed to the count of 20. She bargains and we agree to 40.

7.51am : I begin counting labouriously, slower at each progressing number.
7.52am : I reach 20. She tells me to slow down the count.
7.53am : I reach 35, doze off to sleep and do not remember anything else that follows.

8.15am : I wake up abruptly. We had overslept. Panic spreads the bed covers. There is no debate, no need to coax her out of her slumber and no time to waste. She springs to life.

8.45am : We make an enquiry at the reception with regards to airport transfers. The next transfer is at 9.30am. Poca declares,

We don’t have time, we will take the train instead.”

I am in a foreign land, with people who speak like they are singing half the time, and signs that provide limited assistance to foreigners. I do not question her decision. I follow her like herpes to genitals. We grab a cab to Tokyo station.

8.58am : We reach the station. We tell the guy at the entrance that we need to get tickets for the Narita Express. He hands us an entrance ticket and points us to the ticketing counter.

9.01am : We request for 2 tickets to Narita airport via the express train. The guy tells us that the next train is at 9.03am and that we might not be able to catch it. We are both blessed with fast twitching muscles with relatively decent sprint timings. We are confident on making it, so we wave him off.

9.02am : We reach the platform with time to spare. The only problem is, everything is written in Japanese and we have no idea which train we are supposed to catch.

9.03am : We seek help from the other Japanese commuters. The ticket must have been written in Korean, because NO ONE knew which platform our ticket was meant for.

9.06am : Convinced we have missed the train, we make our way back up to change for the next departing train.

The next train, which isn’t an express one, is at 9.20 with an arrival time at the airport at 10.50am. The next express train is at 10am and arrives at the airport at 10.30am. We are screwed both ways. We had to get a refund.

Poca: “No, we can’t take the trains. We need to be at the airport at 10am.”
Guy: “Oh 10. Yes yes.”

He prints us the ticket for the 10am train.

Poca: “No. We. Need. To. Be. At. The. Airport. At. 10.”

He shoved the ticket to us again. This was going nowhere, so I decided that I had to step in at some point and arrest this misdirected conversation.

Me: “Refund.”

He understood that perfectly and I solved everything with my first muttered intervention. I might actually have a sound future as a Japanese interpreter.

Now, with that solved, all we needed was to leave the station and take a cab to the airport. The only problem was that now, the guy at the entrance to the station refused to let us leave without an exit ticket. This was despite us trying to tell him that he allowed us in to begin with and all we wanted now was to leave.

We obviously didn’t have one because we didn’t even purchase a ticket to get in to begin with and he was the person who allowed us entry. And now he wants an exit ticket?

To make matters worse, the only way we could get an exit ticket, was to first buy an entry ticket. And do you know where you can purchase an entry ticket? Hands up if you said, “Outside” because you are one muthafucking smart taveller. So how were we going to purchase one, when we aren't even allowed to leave?

When we finally managed to leave – we were so close to making a dash for it -, we were left with taking a cab to the airport as our only available option. It was 9.18am and we got into what I assumed to be a cab.

9.22am : We doze off, drained from all the early morning drama. We are finally smooth sailing and will make our flight in time. If there was a bar and time available, we would have celebrated with a bottle of champagne.

9.45am : I wake up to see the meter at 18,000yen. I do a quick calculation; if 1,000yen is $15 then 18,000 yen would equate to, a kidney if we are in Cambodia. I wake Poca, who calmly tells me that they accept credit cards, before nodding back to sleep.

I on the other hand, can no longer sleep and my eyes are fixated on the meter that is jumping so fast, I wondered if the cabbie was going to be able to buy Tioman with our fare by the time we get to the airport.

9.47am: We pass a sign that says, “Airport 13km”. This is the happiest sign I’ve seen in Tokyo all weekend long.

Remember this TV program called ‘$100 taxi ride’? I now know why they never made Tokyo a filming destination, because if they ever did it, there was only enough material to air it for 10mins and $100 was probably only enough to get them out of a parking lot.

This was fucking ridiculous. I thought we took a cab, but apparently from what it seemed, we actually took a plane, just without the in-flight entertainment, meals and aging flight stewardesses.

By the time we arrived at the airport, the final fare had amounted to S$430! In perspective, not only would people have sold their kidneys, but in Bangkok, that would have taken you all the way to Mongolia in a cab, with a complimentary blowjob at the gas station.

Welcome to my world.

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