Friday, August 31, 2012

Freezing in the Bright Light

I don't necessarily want to see a return to last summer's draconian power saving measures. Removing a third or a half of the lights in train stations wasn't a bad thing, in my opinion: they were too bright for my taste anyway, and are again now that they've returned to "normal". Shutting down most of the escalators in stations  was a different story, though, and contributed--particularly in some of the deeper underground station areas--to a lot more crowding in already crowded rush hours. Riding a crowded train with no (or only very little) air conditioning was not a pleasant experience, either, in the muggy Tokyo summer.

I'll grant that the confusing scheduled blackouts were not a palatable alternative. I sympathized with businesses, especially small ones, that were disproportionately affected by power outages and for which they were a real hardship. Shutting down a lot of the neon and garish display lighting was not a bad thing, though, and I wouldn't have minded seeing that continued in a lot of cases. It was taken a little too far in some, maybe many, of the train stations, though, and on the trains themselves, at least for a while. When trains are delayed while heat stroke victims are treated or taken to hospital by ambulance crews, power conservation has been carried a bit too far.

This morning I was almost wishing for a return to those days of sweltering trains, however. Even at a little after six in the morning, it was getting hot outside. The temperature was moving inexorably through the high twenties into yet another 30+ morning. People were walking around the (now eye-achingly brightly lit again) station, fanning themselves and wiping sweat from their faces and necks. But on the train, the air conditioning was evidently set to "arctic". Passengers--rather few at that hour, particularly on the train going out of Tokyo--were using their handkerchiefs, and newspapers, and brief cases, and even their spread fans, to shield themselves from the blasts of icy air, huddling in hunched horripilation.  That sweat that accumulated while shuffling along in the stifling heat of the concourse and the platform was now freezing over, or so it seemed, and I remembered Jack London tales of Yukon adventurers fearing over-exertion that would kill you when your sweat froze.

You can't open the windows on most trains these days, and even an uncrowded train becomes oven-like with no air conditioning at all during the heat waves that our summers lately have become. That doesn't mean, however, that a rolling refrigerated car is the best alternative.

I freely admit that none of my friends would hold me up as a champion of moderation. Nevertheless, I'd like to see the train A/C set to "cool" rather than "Fimbulwinter".