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2005年7月12日 (火)

Train announcements can't please everyone


Train announcements can't please everyone


Noticing a passenger force open a closing door and squeeze himself onto a departing train, the conductor immediately chided him over the public address system: "Please don't rush into the train when the doors are closing! If you get hurt, you alone are to blame."



This happened early last month on a Chuo Line train that was just pulling out of Kokubunji Station in western Tokyo. Another passenger filed a complaint with East Japan Railways Co. (JR East) about the conductor's "rude speech." After checking into the claim, JR East admonished the conductor-a veteran with nearly 30 years-for his "inappropriate announcement."


When this incident was reported by the media, JR East received as many as 420 comments from the public, 90 percent of which came to the conductor's defense.

Hackles are bound to be raised if people are told bluntly that if they get hurt, it's all their fault. Still I also empathize with the conductor's sense of duty that made him furious with a reckless passenger.


"What a conductor says on the PA system when he or she is deeply upset is a test of his or her professionalism," noted former train conductor Katsuo Koda, 60. For many years, Koda worked for the state-owned Japanese National Railways and afterward on JR-operated commuters and sleepers: he was famous for his dry and witty announcements. "You have to think on your feet and be able to ad lib. It all comes down to that," he said.


Keiichi Ubukata, 72, a former NHK announcer, said it was unfortunate that the JR conductor was unable to defuse the situation with a little joke, such as by telling the offender: "I'm afraid our doors are a bit flimsy. They can break if you try to force them open."

Twenty years ago, Ubukata made a major professional blunder and paid for it: Emceeing the New Year's eve "Kohaku Utagassen" (red vs. white song contest), he mistakenly called singer Harumi Miyako by someone else's name-Hibari Misora. Having taken flak for his gaffe, Ubukata emphasized the importance of being able to deal with such sticky situations with humor.


I used to hear conductors make comments such as, "The hydrangeas are in full bloom now," or "Have a nice day, everyone." Not anymore.

According to a JR East spokesman, it is impossible to please everyone these days because, while some passengers prefer a completely announcement-free silent ride, others still like to hear a kindly voice over the PA system.


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 10(IHT/Asahi: July 12,2005)


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