I`m assigned to two elementary schools: the first school, which I wrote about in a previous post, is my main school, or the school where I`m officially based. I work at that school Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but on Mondays and Tuesdays I`m an assistant at a different elementary school.
I`d been at my base school for the last few days, including Monday. On Tuesday, I was scheduled to go to the secondary school to introduce myself to the other teachers. So, Tuesday morning, I left my apartment at 7:30am. The school is less than 5km away, but I wanted to get there early with the hopes of making a good first impression at a new workplace.
Walking to the bus stop, I checked Google Maps again to confirm the route. The day before, my supervisor told me to take a bus that starts at Minoh`s main train station, but that station is about a 15 minute walk from me. On the other hand, Google Maps told me that there was a different bus I could take instead, only a few minutes’ walk from my apartment, that supposedly stopped right next to the school. I`d never heard of the bus before, but being the lazy self that I am, I decided to try taking it. Besides, I thought, Google is always right.
So the bus was scheduled to come at 7:52am.
7:52am arrived. The bus did not. I waited. A minute passed. Then another. By 7:55, I began to accept the fact that the bus was not coming and that relying on an unfamiliar route had probably been a huge mistake.
I stood there, stranded at the bus stop, with no idea how to get to school. And I was supposed to be in the teacher`s room in 20 minutes!
Heartbeat accelerating, a prayer beneath my breath, I checked Google Maps again for alternate routes. One of the first options said I could take the next bus at that same station. It was either that, or run to a stop 10 minutes away and risk the possibility of missing that bus too. So I waited at the same stop and got on the next bus to show up.
After tapping my pass and finding a tiny corner of space to stand, I checked Google Maps again – and realized that the routes had completely changed. In other words, I had no idea which stop to get off at.
I spent the ride pressed up against the window, in a bus filled past maximum capacity, wondering how I was going to get myself out of this one. At the fourth stop, I decided to get off.
After exiting the bus, I checked Google Maps, yet again, only to discover that I was still more than 3 kilometers from school – and there weren`t other buses coming to save me anytime soon.
By then, it was 8:20 – I had to be at school 5 minutes ago.
Id managed to stay calm up until that point, but I finally started panicking. I paced up and down the sidewalk, wondering how on earth I was going to make it to work in time – or at least without arriving 2+ hours late. I was so desperate that for a few minutes I even stood at the side of the road and tried to work up the courage to wave someone down that`d be willing to drop me off.
And that`s when I remembered the taxi app. Before coming to Japan, I`d researched lists of useful apps to have while traveling in Japan, and the Japan Taxi app was one of them. Uber isn`t widespread in Japan like it is in the States, but taxis are common. I didn`t expect to ever actually use the taxi, because I`d heard that they`re outrageously expensive – especially in Osaka – but I`d downloaded the app in case of emergencies. And I`d say that the situation I`d driven myself into could be considered worthy of an emergency.
I`d never opened the app before, but luckily it was straightforward, simple to use, and in English (for the most part). I added my name and phone number and set my current location – kind of like Uber I guess – and pressed call. I waited an excruciatingly long 45 seconds for a taxi to answer. To my relief, one did. The driver took about 6 minutes to get to me. By then, it was 8:30.
I`d given up trying to get to school on time, but now that I`d found a proper method of transportation, at least I wouldn`t be an hour late.
I hopped in the car, told the driver the name of the school; he typed it into his GPS and drove. During the ride, I couldn`t figure out if I was relieved or frustrated or if I wanted to start laughing or burst into tears. I was still in debate when the driver pulled up at the school`s front entrance.
I pulled out my wallet and checked the fare. The total, for about 3km, ended up at 1880￥, or $17.27. With a heavy heart, I handed my driver the money, including a little extra for tip. (He gave me back exact change though, which surprised me, but hey I`m not complaining).
I admit that I was expecting worse than 1880 after hearing horror stories of absurd fares; expecting worse somehow softened the blow of having to dish out nearly $20 for an 8 minute ride.
But considering that a bus could have taken me to the same destination, I`d much prefer to travel via bus for 220￥ next time, even if I do have to walk 15 minutes to Minoh train station.