A Little Tipple ...

I suspect a lot of the readers might be getting a little bit 'bored' by hearing me say "We're on the train again for this episode ...", but I tell you, it's such fertile ground for story topics!

On the face of it, you might think that wouldn't be true. Unless I wanted to write about that scene I see in front of me on every train ride - the seven people on the bench opposite me all browsing their smartphones - what else is going to happen on the train? Well, if you subscribe to the theory that 'everybody has a story' (as I certainly do!) then it's just usually a matter of sitting and watching, as it's never too long before something comes up. (Actually, this is not so different from what I experienced sitting quietly in front of my little tent when writing the 'My Solitudes' stories some years ago.)

I was headed back to Asakusa after spending a day out at the Ome workshop, and I was on one of the very late trains. It wasn't so crowded; perhaps there were a dozen or so people scattered here and there in the car. At the end of the bench across from me sat this man - a salaryman headed home type of guy. There was at first nothing particularly noticeable about him, but now and again he would look up and down the length of the car. He did this often enough that I became a bit curious about it, and watched him from behind my newspaper. I was rewarded a minute later when he loosened the front of his overcoat and reached into the inside pocket. I then recognized the unmistakable movement of unscrewing the lid of something, and he then took a quick hit from a pocket-sized flat whisky bottle, screwed it closed, and slipped it back into the pocket out of sight, settling back into his seat with a happy sigh.

Now, this is no crime of course, but I suppose it's probably against train regulations to drink on the train, leading him to try and do this as surreptitiously as possible. I returned my attention to the newspaper, but some minutes later (was it five? ten?), I noticed the same pattern developing. He began to look this way and that, up and down the carriage. Well, I was hooked now, losing all interest in my newspaper, but keeping it in place anyway, and certainly not looking directly at him.

And yes, pretty much right on schedule after enough looking around, his hand crept into the pocket, and he scored himself another little taste.

The rest of the train ride turned out to be a real Rake's Progress. My ride downtown took around 45 minutes, and by the time I had to get off for the change to the subway at Kanda Station, he was pretty much 'gone'. The tastings had gradually become closer and closer together, and he eventually gave up even returning the bottle to his pocket, just holding it openly in his lap. Whether or not he had specifically selected a corner seat I have no idea, but it had certainly been a good choice, because he now sat completely slumped, supported by the seat wall. The stop after I get off is the end of the line (Tokyo itself) and he must have either staggered off the train, or fallen asleep and been carried all the way back to Ome when the train reversed direction.

My own experience with whisky can be summed up very concisely; I first tasted it during breaks with the other musicians when I worked in a hotel dance orchestra, but I didn't care for it and the other guys learned to not bother offering me any. I don't think I've ever had any since then, and that must be around forty years back. Should I try it again? Perhaps as an 'adult' I'll be ready to appreciate a nice drink.

But then again, considering how much time I'm spending on the train recently, maybe that wouldn't be such a good idea ...


Comments on this story ...

Posted by: Jakub Makalowski

Interesting contrast to the several occasions I've seen someone happily enjoying a beer on the train with no concern of being noticed. Once this was even in the early morning.

Personally I find these days a good scotch to be one of the greater pleasures. Trick is knowing which ones are the good ones and which are basically duds.

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