Home > Ikebukuro > Hello, Ikebukuro: Part II

Hello, Ikebukuro: Part II

July 1st, 2007

I woke up around 6:00 am, and at 7:00, I headed north to Ikebukuro. After a short stop at the new apartment, I headed out to the rental car place, which, conveniently, was just around the corner from the new apartment. I was not able to get the reservation switched to the larger van the previous day; I was very worried that not enough would fit in the mid-sized van that I ordered. After all, I had a room full of boxes and stuff outside that as well. If less than half could fit in the van, then I would need a bigger van on Monday.

When I go to the rental office to pick up the van, I innocently ask what the charges are for bringing the van in late. Not that I intended to, but I was just checking. The lady points out that it’s something like ¥1,500 yen an hour. I ask, can I extend on the fly to a 12-hour rental instead of the six I had asked for? She answered “no,” and I said “okay.” I asked purely just to know my options.

I wait a few minutes for things to happen, and then a guy comes up to “help” me. He takes my official order, and starts going on about how it’s really bad and impossible to allow me to be late. Even though they posted the hourly late fees, he said it was not possible at all, and that I had to be back exactly on time. I replied to the effect of, “okay, okay, jeeezz… I was just asking!” And then the bastard tries to charge me for the 12-hour rental without telling me that he has switched me to the new time frame; I only notice when he asks me to pay the higher fee. When I point out that six hours will do fine, he relents, but only with more stern warnings about getting the van back exactly on time.

After doing the normal check-out-these-scratches dance routine, I am off and on my way–in the opposite direction. I have waiting for me an angel and savior, a co-worker who gracefully volunteered to help me move without my even asking. I went to downtown Tokyo to pick her up, and we started to head out on the expressway.

In Japan, there are no freeways; all the roads without traffic signals are pay-only. Since I wanted to make good time, we used them, and then I promptly made a wrong turn. I then discovered that it’s impossible to pull a u-turn on the expressway, and getting off and back on at an exit means you have to pay the $6 fee all over again, receipt or no.

After that hiccup, it was smooth sailing. It’s ¥700 yen for inner-city expressway driving, ¥600 for the outer reaches, and ¥200 for the bridge that takes me directly into town–in all, about ¥1500 ($12) in tolls. My coworker and I arrive at my old place and we start loading boxes. Lots and lots of boxes.

As I have mentioned before in this blog, the apartment building I was in has a frustratingly inconvenient feature: the elevator stops only between floors, making it necessary to walk up or down half a flight of stairs to get to the elevator. So we worked in shifts; I would take boxes to the door, my friend to the elevator; then after we loaded up the elevator, we did the same division between the elevator and the van, and loading stuff into the van. Her help easily cut the amount of time and effort by two-thirds, a real life-saver. It would have literally been impossible to do by myself, partly because of time constraints, and partly because the air conditioner was a two-person haul.

To my relief, we fit almost all the pre-packed boxes into the van–a relief because it meant that my Monday haul would not only be possible, but a bit easier as well. We got the job done and within three hours, we were ready to go.

Here’s where the speed bumps started coming into play. You see, I had to sell my extra air conditioner and my gas range, else get swindled by the recycle shop guys (more on that in an upcoming post). But the buyer that I found through online ads balked at the takkyubin fees, so I had to agree to deliver myself–a huge pain, as they were not even close to the expressway route. But it shouldn’t be a big deal, I thought–I had run the route on my scooter and it seemed a tad slow, but fine.

Apparently, all the traffic jams happen on Saturdays–or I was just unlucky. We got out to the Tama River okay, but then the road leading to the bridge turnoff was jammed up. I figured once we got on the turnoff to go over the bridge it would clear up–and at first, it did–but then we hit another traffic jam on the second road, across the river. We got to the place where the guy waited to take the stuff, and then were off again–straight into a longer traffic jam. Hopefully, I though, Kan-pachi Boulevard, a big, three-lane thoroughfare, would be more clear. What a fool I was to think that. There was an ever bigger traffic jam there. Eventually, we got in striking range of the expressway, and went for it–only to encounter yet another traffic jam there–apparently, there was a traffic accident five kilometers ahead of us, and it was yet again bumper-to-bumper.

Soon, there was only one hour left of my six-hour rental, and we were still blocked up. I called the rental agency on my cell phone, remembering the dire warnings the guy had laid down for me. I figured, what can they do to me if I’m late? Knowing that they couldn’t do much, of course… but still, the kind of talking-to the guy gave me had me stressed out just because I hate being late for stuff.

After a while, just before I was ready to take the first exit off the expressway and chance the local roads again, traffic sped up. It was still off-and-on, but finally the traffic cleared up as we passed the center of the city, and the way to Ikebukuro was clear. We arrived at the new building with a van loaded with boxes, with just 20 minutes to spare.

The building people were overloaded–it seems that everybody and their neighbors were moving that day (Sachi was due to move in later in the day herself), so we had to wait outside for a few minutes–but we had a plus on our side, which was that we were using a van, which was small enough to go to the basement level. Even at that, several people were using personal vans or takkyubin deliveries, but we lucked into getting one of the two loading spaces. We hurriedly unloaded all the boxes, and just put them inside the door on the loading area. When we were sure the van was emptied, I drove it back around the corner to the rental place–and arrived thirty seconds before the appointed time of 2:00. They didn’t seem too relieved or anything when I got it back on time, but frankly, considering traffic, I saw it as a minor miracle.

On the way back to help take the boxes up to the apartment, I stopped by the 24-hour supermarket, Pororoca, on the first floor of the building. As my friend and I were unloading the van, she had the idea that using a push-cart would be so much easier. Dim as I am, I had not even considered that, and probably would have struggled with each box individually. The building guard in charge of the basement area commented to her that if we told the people at Pororoca that we’d be frequent shoppers, they might lend us a cart. So on the way back in, I stopped by and asked–and indeed, they lent us a cart! And I didn’t even have to promise to be a regular shopper (residing in the building, I can only suppose they took it for granted).

So my friend and I took about six trips instead of 30 or 40 to get all the boxes upstairs and settled in the apartment. It was just past 3:00… and the rest is a story for tomorrow. Now I’m a day and a half behind in telling the story, which is understandable–I still have another day to go before I can close the Inagi chapter of my life. So part three is coming soon, telling of day 1.5. Sooner or later, I’ll get caught up with this, and can start blogging on the minutiae. Maybe I’ll wait for the little stuff until we have finished unpacking all of our boxes, though.

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  1. Paul
    July 2nd, 2007 at 11:20 | #1

    The moral of this story is that you owe your friend one HUGE, good dinner. Maybe even a couple.

    Did the rental joint have the van going out to someone else, or was it going to be the close of business for the rig that day?

    I’ve always shaken my head at how uptight some joints are about the “gotta get it back by XXX time” if that time is well before closing time AND there’s nobody waiting for the rig when you get it back in.

    Best bet is to go for a lot more than you’d need and just chalk it up to playing it safe.

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