I’d just missed the last train home and was stranded seven long subway stops from my apartment. It was 1:30 in the morning and I was exhausted after having run a marathon race through the long, train station tunnels. Those 12:30 sprints to the station feel a little like an “Amazing Race”-type event; stampedes of drunk businessmen and fashionistas in three-inch heels race up and down flights of stairs and down long, low-ceilinged corridors. Uniformed guards direct traffic at every bend in the tunnels, shouting out encouraging words of “Be careful!” and “Hurry!” It’s nerve-wracking and stressful, but in a weird way, exciting too.
I crossed the finish line last night a dissapointing 5 seconds too late. The train doors had just closed as I reached the platform edge and I was left staring at the blank faces of the hordes of people jammed in the train cars, their faces pressed against the glass like shrink-wrapped barbie dolls.
That’s when I spotted The Drunk Girl. The train conductors were in the process of waking up all of the drunks passed accross the subway seats, (there were about three in each car) when The Drunk Girl came dangerously close to stumbling off the platform edge.
“Careful!” I yelled and grabbed her by the arm. She looked around in a daze, mumbled something which I couldn’t understand and then threw up. Interestingly, she didn’t seem to notice, kept right on walking through the puddle of puke, slipped and fell.
Oh boy. What a trainwreck, was what I found myself thinking. Yet at the same time I felt a pang of empathy. I think everyone at one time or another has experienced being “THAT Girl” or “THAT Guy”. I certainly have. So I helped her up and guided her to a seat to one of the platform chairs and bought her a bottle of water.
We sat there for a while in silence. She sipped water, seemingly oblivous to my presense while I tried in vain to ascertain what her name was or where she lived. I picked up her purse where it was lying near the platform ashtray pulled her to her feet. “Come, let’s go!” I said, half-dragging her towards the station exit. My plan was to get her into a cab, but every few feet she’d sort of collapse to the floor and start to pass out again. Eventually I managed to push her into an elevator but then she sat down and stubbornly refused to get up again.
“Stand up!” I said to sternly, in my best teacher voice. “Now!”
She just groaned, frowned down at her lap and mumbled something to me in this annoyed tone of voice.
Ugh. I was tired and about ready to leave. But I didn’t want to just abandon a passed-out teenager in a deserted train station. On the other hand, this was Japan; the third safest country in the World. I once left my cell phone in a train station bathroom and found it still laying there, untouched and unharmed, five hours later. I was almost positive that if I left her there, that she too would still be laying in that exact spot untouched, and unharmed, five hours later.
But just to be on the safe side, I flagged down a passing train conductor. “I don’t know her,” I said pointing at The Drunk Girl, “but she’s sick.” I didn’t know the Japanese word for ‘drunk’ but I trusted that he could figure that one out.
Sometimes Tokyo at night seems a little like Pinnochio’s “Treasure Island”; like a playground full of lost souls in an alcohol-fueled haze, sprawled out frat-boy style on the dirty ground in a puddle of their own puke or urine. It’s sad and it’s difficult for me to understand just how so many people let themselves get fall-down drunk.
Is it because Japan is so safe? In New York City, being that drunk and taking the subway late at night is just asking to get robbed. It can also earn you a ticket for ‘disturbing the peace’ and a night in the drunk tank. Maybe it’s so common-place to see people drunk and disorderly simply because it’s legal? Or mabye because there isn’t such a negative stigma attached to it?
I don’t understand it.
15 minutes later, while I was waiting in the taxi line, I spotted the Drunk Girl crossing the street, headed in the opposite direction of the station. I sure hope she made home okay.