Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Even though commuting involves the highest degrees of skill, grace, finesse, endurance and discipline, it is not officially recognized as an Olympic event, for reasons I'll get into in a moment.

No doubt the Olympic Committee, in its top-secret meetings, has considered commuting as perhaps a decathlon-like event, given the multiplicity of skills involved, but they've continued to leave it out of the Olympics not only because of the transient and mobile nature of commuting, but primarily because the Japanese commuter squad would take the gold every time, so what would be the point? Olympic events must at least be competitive.

Having been a twig on the torrent of commuter Olympics here in Japan for some 30 years now, I thought I'd just share with you some of the amazing highlights from over the decades, limited only to my own experience, of course. You other commuters can start your own Commuter Olympic blogs.

This morning, for example, I saw the best Speedslip I have ever seen, the epitome of graceful headlong haste under pressure, while we were stopped briefly at a busy station along the line. From my expertly obtained window seat near the middle of the car, I could see a blurry young man broken-field-running his way through a tightly organized crowd up above, along the walkway leading to the crowded stairs down to the crowded platform we were stopped at: he was attempting to reach this train before the doors closed.

He was a good 30 or 40 yards away as the crow flies, with thousands of world-class defense players and a jammed stairway in between, with but a few seconds left before the doors would close, the train would leave the station without him and the next train would make him late for work (a small death in Japan), so he went for it full-out, running the field with briefcase through a rush hour crowd of defenders with their own briefcases, some of them even had those deadly pull suitcases on wheels that trail invisibly behind the apparently unencumbered player; he was moving fast, against the stream, the buzzer sounded, he was dodging, he was whirling, briefcase swinging, his body was turning, a couple of awesome feints, a record-breaking leap and then he was bounding down the upward disgruntled passenger-filled stairs, the doors were already closing would he make it, a fullbody bound across the platform, a mid-air turn sideways, he Speedslips between the foot-apart-and-closing doors that swish shut behind him - without messing his tie or moving a hair on his head - and takes his rightful place in the carjam. He's good for the gold , if you ask me; I haven't seen that much commuting skill, all in one person, in quite a while.

A couple of other Commuter Olympic highlights:

Most people fit into a 250 passenger car: Sept 14, 1973, Tokyo Station. The white-gloved pushers were working overtime, it was evening rush hour, I was on that train, a lovely young woman and I were pressed chest to chest, she looking over my right shoulder, I looking over hers, she smelled real good. Though the results were unofficial, being mine, I estimated that that 250 passenger capacity car held about 75,000 passengers for the requisite five or more stops; a standing record, I believe.

Other Olympic qualifiers and personal aspects in this unsung nationwide competition:

Complete makeup application dash

Eldest gold medalist

Righteous Inyerfacing

Becoming a Train Legend


Thomas said...

Thanks for sharing this - it totally made my day. I'll never feel bad again about my commute, I promise!

Well - since I walk to work across the hills of San Francisco, I never feel bad about my commute anyway, but now doubly so! :-)

Bob Brady said...

Thanks, Thomas; it sounds, though, like you have one of the world's greatest commutes!