It was breakfast at the Granvia Okayama Hotel.
The tour group at the next table murmured in agreement as the colonel railed against typographical errors in the itinerary.
I pegged him as "the colonel," now a paper-pusher, close to retirement. It was impossible to tune him out as he recalled his first encounter with the errant itinerary in excruciating detail.
Using repetition as a rhetorical device, the colonel recalled each typo, one at a time. Dramatic pauses meant I mentally completed his sentences.
Between encouraging clucks, the English group picked at their Japanese breakfasts. Their use of knives and forks seemed incongruous and stubborn.
I thought the typo topic had run its course when, with a flourish, the colonel announced he had found even more typos when he re-read the itinerary.
He ran out of typos, allowing the conversation to move on to the next issue.
They were not happy about having to assemble at the adjacent train station 30 minutes ahead of departure. Shared discontent ensued.
An Alternate Reality
I wondered if there was a breakaway group that had "gone native."
That group would be celebrating all the bumps in the road, because that's why they travel. A blocked road would be an adventure.
They would be savoring their breakfasts, as they were meant to be enjoyed, with hashi (chopsticks). They would be talking joyfully about yesterday's shared cultural experiences. They would be excited about today's adventures.
One of them would be giving an update on her email communications with the head office of the tour company. The company had agreed there is a problem with their typos and welcomed her volunteering to help improve their written materials. She's going to get with one of their team at an after-work bar in Tokyo the night before she returns to the UK.
As for the 30-minute departure lead time: that is just not an issue. They will enjoy chatting with each other while watching all the comings and goings of a mainline station.
But this was not the reality.
Back to Reality: Going Down
Later, backpack on back, I summoned an elevator.
The door slid open, revealing a silent tableau of the colonel and other tour members. I positioned myself with my back to the colonel.
As the door closed, the colonel started up. This time the issue was the "evacuation fan" in his bathroom. It was insufficient for his needs, well below the standards he expected of a four-star international hotel.
"Did your fan work properly?" he asked the woman beside him.
"Not that I know of."
In those few words, she maintained unit cohesion.
Escape to a Magical Island
I checked out of the hotel and walked to the train station. I was excited about getting on a local train to a port to a boat that would take me across the Sea of Japan to the magical island of Naoshima. [See earlier post.]
It would be a few minutes before my train departed, so I ducked into a coffee shop. As is generally the case in Japan, the coffee was excellent. It was good to be mentally back in Japan after the diversion at breakfast.
Coffee enjoyed, I walked towards my train. I passed the sad group now assembled in the station, resigned to their fate, compliant.
- I did not have any issue with the fan in my bathroom.
- I stayed at the Granvia Okayama Hotel in March 2014 because it contrasted with my stay at a capsule hotel the previous night. [See earlier post.]
- I took the photograph at the top of this post at a re-purposed gasworks in Athens, Greece, October 2014.