Ai Pei Sheah


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Japan also got shit happens mah

For most of us Malaysians, we all had it bad. Real Bad. And those overseas lived in heaven with superefficient services. However as we grumble about everything under Malaysian sky, lets look at one other developed country that we've respected a lot (thanks to Mahathir's Look East Policy) - Japan.

Electricity was out on Aug 14 & not much better than what happened in Malaysia. Ah, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Anyway, before we go forgetting about disrupted LRT services here we must remember that continuous improvement is what we are looking for .

Tokyo when lights go out

Shukan Bunshun (Aug. 31)

After a blackout struck Tokyo and surrounding areas Aug. 14, the media carried the predictable reports. A total of 340,000 train passengers were "inconvenienced" and 1.4 million households were "affected," we were told.

But what we didn't hear so much about was the human drama that unfolded for three hours on that Monday morning, as thousands of people had their lives turned upside down from being deprived of power.

Shukan Bunshun fills in details after interviewing about 1,000 people living and working in the stricken areas who have their own stories to tell, from the trivial, to the humorous, to the deadly serious.

One of the many inconvenienced train commuters was a 34-year trading-company employee on the way to his uncle's funeral. For him, "inconvenience" came not only in the form of arriving late for such an important event, but the oppressive heat and claustrophobia inside his carriage. His Tokyu Line train was stalled for half a hour with no air conditioning and the doors jammed shut.

"The worst part was the heat. My mourning clothes were ruined by all my sweating," he says.

Elevators stuck
It was a similar, if not more claustrophobic, experience for the 58 people who happened to be inside elevators at the time. But even those who didn't ride had a tough time.

A 38-year worker at an IT company had the misfortune of arriving at the building housing his office on the 30th floor just after the electricity stopped.

"I had to walk up the stairs, and on such a hot day. Then I went to buy a juice, but the vending machine was not working. When I went to make coffee, the water had been cut off. So in the end I walked back down the stairs to a convenience store on the first floor to get a drink."

At thousands of other offices across the city, elevators weren't the only things on the fritz. All manner of hi-tech equipment broke down, including electronically controlled security doors, leaving workers either trapped inside offices or blocked from getting in.

Few workers had their work as disrupted as day traders, people who use PCs to buy and sell stocks, currencies and financial instruments.

"I made a huge loss trading because I was working with inaccurate information," grumbles a trader, who explained that the movements of the Nikkei index were not updated after power was restored.

Not all bad news
Still, it wasn't all bad news. Says a 54-year-old currency trader: "The power suddenly went out in the middle of a trade, and it didn't go through. But if it had gone through, I would have lost around 200,000 yen."

Yet for one woman using an ATM to withdraw cash, the blackout's timing couldn't have been worse: the machine swallowed her card the instant the electricity was cut. "I couldn't leave the scene and was stuck. I had to wait for three and a half hours until a clerk came," she recalls. "My entire day was ruined."

For her and millions of others in and around Tokyo that day, being inconvenienced and affected was never so frustrating.