Commuters starting to turn on their unmasked peers.

There’s a lot of nervousness around regarding the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak all over the world. And with a virus whose mode of transmission still isn’t fully understood, the close-quarters of Japan’s many trains can be a stressful experience.

Still, there’s no excuse for what took place on a westbound train along the Nanakuma Line in Fukuoka City. At approximately 8 p.m. on 18 February, its cars were brought to a screeching halt when someone pushed the emergency stop button.

Over the intercom, the man who pushed the emergency button told staff, “There is someone coughing without a mask on.” The train then made an emergency stop at the nearest station where the coughing man and man who reported him got off to speak with staff.

Apparently, the coughing man explained that he wasn’t wearing a mask because he couldn’t buy any due to the shortage, and the two reconciled in the time it took for the train to arrive. As a result, the train was delayed by three minutes.

▼ When changing trains, three minutes can make a big difference in someone’s commute

A Fukuoka City Subway rep told media, “I don’t even hear about these kinds of things when the flu is going around. Why would someone stop a train because of a mask?”

While most agreed that stopping a train wasn’t the most sensible or effective way to deal with the situation, public opinion was widely divided over who was at fault.

“Getting into arguments with coughing strangers on a train is a great way to get the saliva flying.”
“I understand his stress, it creeps me out seeing unmasked people spluttering and whatnot on the train.”
“Stopping the train just prolongs the time you spend together. Idiot.”
“They both did wrong. Arrest them both.”
“He dutifully reported a bioterrorist. What’s the problem?”
“The other guy really should have used a handkerchief or towel instead.”
“How about offering the guy a mask instead of screwing up everyone else’s day, you selfish moron.”
“These are the problems that happen when information isn’t properly given and understood.”
“People are dying from this virus. If someone coughed without a mask near me I’d punch them.”
“They should make mask-only cars.”
“Corona-panic is in full effect! It’s getting like a movie out there.”
“Something like this was bound to happen. I wear a mask just so other people don’t freak out around me.”

It’s important to keep an alert attitude in keeping safe from germs. But as tensions continue to boil over, we should also be wary about dangerous paranoia, both in others and ourselves.

It’s certainly a troubling state of affairs when I start to think that the hikkikomori might have had the right idea all along.

Source: Nishi Nippon Shimbun, Itai News
Images: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso 1, 2
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