I am in the train station in Lyon, lots of people milling around awaiting the TGV that will take them to Aix en Provence or Marseille. There is a very good, if a little complex, system whereby your carriage number corresponds with a letter of the alphabet posted on the platform. In this way you know where your carriage will stop and thus you can find your seat with ease.
I spy an elderly Japanese couple. They must be in the late 60s or early 70s. They are very small and wearing long Japanese rain coats. They are distressed. I approach and say, “Ohio gosaymasu.” They nearly fall over. They return my greeting with big smiles. I cannot speak enough Japanese to say “Can I help you?”
This I must learn.
However a couple of minutes later the old gentleman comes over to me and shows me his travel document which shows that they are in seat 52 and 53 in carriage 3 which corresponds to the letter U on the platform. He cannot make any sense of this.
I can understand numbers and so I say Hai!! Hai!! as he explains and am able to lead them to the place on the platform where they should wait. Lots of “Hai so desu.” I say I live in Okinawa and they are thrilled. They say they live in Osaka and we grin. We then bow and go through many, “Aregato gosaymashitas.”
I am so pleased to have been able to help this couple so as to pay back, in a small way, the multitude of occasions that I have been on the receiving end of courtesy and kindness in Japan.