This conversation took place, in Japanese, a little while ago between myself and a staff person at a Internet cafe in Yokohama:
I arrive at the front desk. The staff person is helping a departing customer. I arrive a second before another departing customer queued behind the one being helped.
Staff (to me): One moment, please.
She finishes with the customer she was helping. He departs. The guy waiting gives me the nod to go first. I, having lived here much too long, nodded back ‘no you go.’ No you go.’ ‘No you go.’ We went back and forth a couple of rounds and then he went.
While he was being helped another departing customer queued behind him. When the staff finished with him, I slid over.
Staff: One moment please. Let me help the paying customer first.
I figured it was the house rules, so I stepped back allowing him to step up. Just then another departing customer arrives and queues behind the man who the staff was helping. I began to question this rule in my head.
When she finished with him, he bowed apologetically to me and departed. I stepped over to the desk.
Staff: One moment please…let me help this paying customer, first, and I’ll be right with you.
I looked at the customer. He looked at me, sensing I was not digging this house rule at all, hesitant to step up.
Staff (to other customer): Please…
He shrugged a little and stepped up.
Just then…yep, you guessed it…another customer turns the corner and heads for the front desk. Patience worn thin, I start plotting.
She finishes with the customer, and as he steps around me he gives me a nervous smile, then leaves. I turn, step in front of the staff person, place my member card on the desk.
Staff (hardly looking at me, focusing on the customer behind me): Next departing customer please.
Me: How long am I supposed to stand here? (I said in English before I could catch myself)
Staff: (In English) Very sorry, you wait, please, wait, there.
Me: (recovered, and in Japanese) But, I’ve stood here through 3 or 4 customers now. Aren’t you concerned I might leave?
Staff: (Still in English…and with a little attitude) Sorry, wait, there.
Me: Speak Japanese, please. Your English isn’t very polite!
Staff: (In Japanese) I’m so sorry but that is the rule. Departing customers are taken care of before arriving customers.
Me: You realize it’s a stupid policy, don’t you?
The man behind me decides to chime in.
Man: It’s no problem…he was waiting. Please help him.
Staff: I’m sorry, but…
I step aside.
The man who was waiting turns around and walks back into the cafe, towards the bathrooms. Wow, that was cool of him, I thought. The staff and I watched him walk away. Then, I turned to her. She looks at me like the automaton she is.
Staff: Welcome to Yokohama Internet cafe. Would you like to use a computer or…
I walked out the door and went to the Internet cafe up the street.