|RANT 'N' RAVE
Between the incessant bells in one ear and
the recorded voices laughing at me in the other, if I don't go insane it's because I
Sometime before the New Year, the train stations on the JR lines all seemed to switch
their automated recordings. I don't know if the message itself is different - my
translation ability is still at the "nice weather we're having" phase - but I
can't help noticing that the young lady who recorded the announcements seems to be
suppressing a grin with every word. I'm serious; she sounds like she had just watched a
really funny episode of The Simpsons before stepping up to the microphone, and
this comes through sounding like she knows something that I don't. Well ma'am, for the
record, you probably know a lot of things that I don't, and I'm already feeling insecure
about it, so I wish you wouldn't rub it in. According to the song, "Irish eyes are
smiling." Evidently in Japan they manage it with tone of voice.
And yet the mocking recordings are merely a pleasant interlude to the electronic torture
that is the warning system for the blind. Every ten seconds - and believe me, I've timed
it - this diabolical device sends out its distinctive "ding" which hangs in the
air like a promise of the coming "dong." Musicians will tell you that the
interval between these two notes is a minor third, exactly the sound of the taunting
"nyah-nyah" song of children that has irritated adults for centuries. Could they
possibly have chosen a more annoying sound for the subway warning system? I realize that
blind people need this so they don't fall down the stairs, but for crying out loud! Pay me
what you paid for the ding-dong system, and I'll stand there warning people about the
The very worst is Yabashira station in Chiba, a transfer I am obliged to make several
times a week. Here we have one of these infernal ding-dong devices on each side of the
tracks, plus another at the top of the stairs, all timed within two seconds of each other.
In the two minutes it takes to catch my train I am subjected to 36 dings and as many
dongs, all played in a satanic roundelay, until I feel like Quasimodo ("The bells!
The bells!"). Just don't be surprised when, after hearing the recording of the young
lady chuckling that my train is coming, I tear the loudspeaker off the wall and wrestle it
to the ground, yelling, "All right, what's so funny???"
Many thanks to reader Richard Schwartz for this Rant.