All things considered—we were living in a foreign country that we only marginally spoke the language of and it was past midnight—we should have taken a taxi after missing the last train home from a late night in Tokyo. But with the promise of a $50 bill looming over our heads, the dark night sky suddenly lit up with alternative possibilities.
I had been studying abroad in Japan for nearly two months and knew darn well that my pre-paid rail pass was only good before 11:45 pm, the ominous time when the train system abruptly shut down. Fortunately, I was not alone that night; a girl in my group who I had previously never spoken with was also stranded. Freckled with a pair of dark glasses framing two weary but harmless eyes, she looked about as lost as I did.
“Listen, I know this may sound crazy, but I think we are only 4 or 5 miles from our apartments. If we just follow the train tracks home, we should be able to save ourselves about $50.” I completely agreed with Melinda, secretly in awe of her money-saving scheme. There was only one obstacle in our way: the two inch heels on my feet.
“That sounds great to me, except that my heels all ready feel like they’ve been split in two from these shoes.” Melinda looked down at my feet and then lined her foot up against the side of mine.
“Looks like you are about my size, maybe a tad bit smaller. How about we switch shoes?” I eagerly accepted her pair of comfortable, albeit worn-out sneakers that felt like a piece of heaven on my feet.
To memorialize the moment when two almost-strangers were about to commence on an adventure, we took a photo. Then, we started walking.
Now, train tracks are fairly easy to keep in sight—the area of the tracks are cleared of trees, and there are always lots of wires dangling overhead of them. So even if the street did not exactly unfold beside it, we figured we’d be able to keep it in our view. But something else distracted us, something neither one of us could have foreseen: friendly conversation.
We spoke about the boyfriends we had left behind and our Japanese economics professor who scribbled uselessly on the chalkboard and seemed to know hardly anything about the economy. At one point the rain started to come down heavy and solid. Armed with an umbrella because we were in the middle of the rainy season, we simply laughed while rain and time rolled off our backs. By the time we figured out that we had completely lost the railroad tracks, a friendship had been born.
Losing the tracks had sobered our light-heartedness up pretty quickly. Over the next hill we could see a plume of light shining that turned out to be a 7-eleven. Despite the store being open, the language barrier stood in our way. Down the street we found a cab, and relief swept over us as we knew we could simply say “Gotanda” and the driver would know exactly where to take us. Besides, we had at least saved half of that $50 bill by walking. After settling in the back of the cab and telling the man where to go, he abruptly opened up the passenger doors with a touch of a button and motioned for us to get out. Gotanda was merely a block away and we were wasting this man’s time.
Money often equals convenience, and it sure could have saved us a headache that night. But there is another price you pay with convenience. I could have handed over that $50 and made it home safe and snug by 1:00am. But instead, I walked away with a lifelong friendship anchored by a story. What a bargain.