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    Gunpowder and lead

    I gather it’s a straight-guy fantasy here in Japan to find out what it’s like to ride on one of the women-only commuter train cars, which were instituted a few years ago by rail companies looking to offer women protection from, among other things, rush-hour groping.

    Well, as of today, I can tell you, though the experience was wasted on me, naturally.

    I got on the train around 6:30 on the way to getting a haircut. I suppose that, when I used to live along the Toyoko Line, I knew that trains heading out of Shibuya had the women-only car in effect during evening rush hour, but I didn’t think much about it. My commute was during off-hours, when anyone can ride any car. The floral-patterned pink decals designating which car is women-only are still there, but the rule isn’t in effect during the afternoon. I wasn’t used to having to pay attention, and I guess I just always figured that any man who inadvertently stepped onto the wrong car would be promptly informed by one of its occupants that he belonged elsewhere. Or maybe that the nearest station attendant would chase you off. (Yes, Japanese women are brought up not to make a fuss, and yes, I’m a foreigner; still, it’s not uncommon to have someone crisply inform you when you’re committing a serious transgression in a public space–say, smoking where it’s not allowed, or what have you.)

    Instead, I rode through five express stops before I figured it out. I’d had a vague sense that there were several women around me wearing quite a bit of perfume, maybe. I didn’t notice anyone looking askance at me. No furtive whispering. (You get that as a foreigner here, even if you’re not doing anything to violate decorum.) I was mostly lost in my iPod anyway. Perhaps the passengers around me heard Miranda Lambert leaking through my headphones and figured I was a fan of sassy women and unlikely to cause problems?

    Anyway, it’s funny how the mind works. The moment I realized my mistake and began plotting to maneuver to the door at the next stop, the woman scent, which I hadn’t really noticed until then, became overpowering. I had a stronger-than-usual urge to bury my face in Hugh Jackman’s gym shorts. There didn’t seem to be any harm done, but I toyed with the idea of apologizing to the woman in front of me. (Her rear was pushed against my fists, which were innocently clenched around my little Hermès bag. I doubt the pressure felt anything like a touch of the more untoward kind; still, I assume her whole intention in getting on that car had been to avoid worrying about what the guy next to her was doing with his hands.)

    Anyway, sorry, ladies. Trust me, it was no better for me than it was for you, and I’ll be paying more attention in the future.

    6 Responses to “Gunpowder and lead”

    1. Zak says:

      Can’t you offer some proof of gayness that will let you ride in those cars? Perhaps a poison green throw-pillow or something?

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Spoken like a true straight guy. Honey, how many times must we review the basics? : )

      1. Gay men are not interchangeable with women. (That’s despite our common ability to articulate emotions, match colors, and make our men happy.) I imagine I’d be no less appalled than the average woman if some gross guy, offgassing beer and cigarettes, got all sloppily gropy with me on the train; but I’m physically capable of fighting back. The women’s car was no less crowded and airless than the others, so there are no side benefits to using it that I can see, BTW.

      2. Carrying one of one’s precious, carefully chosen throw pillows around on the train, to be mauled and crushed by a lot of strangers? What fag worth his International Homosexual Conspiracy ID card would do that for nothing more than access to a car on a commuter train? The Green Car, maybe. Like, if there were complimentary champagne.

      3. Even if it were practicable for the rail companies and desirable for gay guys to get a pass to ride the women’s cars, you know how things work here, Zak. Within a month or so, there would be an on-line circle of straight guys exchanging the dope on which pillows pass muster, how to get hold of good ones if those your wife has on the couch don’t do it, and how to use terms such as mauve and appliqué confidently enough to avoid arousing suspicion.

    3. Zak says:

      All I meant was that showing your International Homosexual Conspiracy ID card (I have an actual “International Jewish Conspiracy” T-shirt, you know!) would prove to the women that you are not a threat.

      Being heterosexual, I AM a threat, even if my social conditioning makes me keep my hands to myself, if only just barely.

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      Oh, yeah, I figured. You know I was just teasing you, right?

    5. Eric Scheie says:

      Sean, aren’t you afraid of being raped?

    6. Sean Kinsell says:

      Never crossed my mind. Actually, assuming I didn’t actually have to participate, the image would be entertaining. It was a day off for me, so I had a few days of stubble and was wearing an old, worn-out undershirt and jeans. The contrast there–a gaggle of Japanese women in their Escada suits and freshly reapplied Shiseido setting upon a hairy, slovenly foreigner and having their way with him–is tasty.

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