Usually, when you gotta go, you gotta go, but maybe you can’t when you’re supposed to be driving the bullet train.

For most jobs, “Hey dude, can you cover for me for a few minutes? I have to take a dump,” is a perfectly reasonable favor to ask a coworker for. Kind of gross, sure, but perfectly reasonable.

But again, that’s for most jobs. It wasn’t a very wise choice for one employee of East Japan Railway Company to ask someone to keep an eye on things while he was away from his seat to hit the bathroom, because his seat was the driver’s seat of the bullet train.

On the morning of May 16, the westbound Hikari 633 Shinkansen was making its way down the Tokaido Shinkansen line from Tokyo to Shin Osaka. The entire trip takes about three hours, but at some point between Atami and Mishima Stations in Shizuoka Prefecture, the driver, who was experiencing stomach pain, called a conductor into the driver’s compartment. He then asked the conductor, who is not licensed to drive the Shinkansen, to keep an eye on the tracks ahead and look out for any trouble, then left the compartment and went into the passenger area to use the bathroom.

▼ Generally not the sort of place where you want employee conversations to boil down to “You got this, right?”

Perhaps taking inspiration from the Shinkansen itself, the driver returned in an efficient three minutes. However, while he was doing his business instead of his job, the train was travelling at 150 kilometers (93 miles) an hour, meaning it had carried its roughly 160 passengers roughly 7.5 kilometers without a qualified driver at the controls.

Thankfully, no accidents occurred during the driver’s bathroom break, but JR East management is still upset over the unnecessary risk the train’s passengers were put in by the driver. That’s not to say that they wanted him to just hold it, tough. Instead, Shinkansen operating procedures dictate that if the driver becomes ill or otherwise physically unable to drive the train, he must inform the central control division, and may only have another employee take his place if they too are licensed to drive the train. If not, the train must be stopped until the driver is once again fit to drive or a qualified replacement can take over, so this is the course of action the driver should have taken in his situation.

The driver is now facing disciplinary action, and JR East says it will be reexamining its policies to help insure such incidents don’t happen again.

Sources: NHK News Web, Jorudan
Top image: Wikipedia/Spaceaero2
Insert image: Pakutaso
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