I went out to a sushi train restaurant with my friend Sebastian on Friday night. I know they’re not a new innovation, but I’ve never been to one.
I’d been warned off going because friends had told me they’re expensive and it’s too easy to rack up a hefty bill. Other people I’ve spoken to think they’re tacky and so last year (and people think Aucklanders are snobs).
Anyway, I’ve always loved the idea, and sitting there as perfect little plates of culinary creations pass by, yours for the taking, I said to Sebastian that it’s like a complete reversal of the airport baggage carousel.
I hate waiting for luggage at the airport. Everyone stands around anxiously, pushing trolleys in front of you, pushing in front of the yellow line to get the first glimpse of their (inevitably) black bag that looks exactly like everyone else’s. You can’t miss picking up that bag, because if you miss on the first try, it goes straight into a furnace. So look out!
For me, it’s always a moment of high anxiety. I’ve had luggage go missing before, so I’m always watching the dispensing bit in the middle as it dumps new bags onto the carousel, usually in clumps of five at a time. This time…no. What about this lot? No. They’ve lost it. It’s gone. It’s in Thailand. Fuckity fuck.
At sushi train restaurants, anxiety is replaced with delight. Everything that comes past could be yours. That salmon nagiri. That tuna thing. That battered prawn wotsit. All of it, just take it. Eat it.
After the initial excitement wore off, I realised I was being picky. Certain things would come by, and I’d internally go “meh”. Then a bit of impatience crept in. I don’t like these things, give me more of the things I like. Hurry up.
Impatience then turned to pragmatism. These look ok, and there seem to be a lot of them coming round. I’ll grab them while I’m waiting for the thing I want.
I woke up this morning and realised that some of us treat life a bit like a social sushi train. Think of every item on the carousel as a person in our lives, that we’re either friends with or at least fall within our social circle. (Leave out the people you don’t like, they’re being dumped out the back of the nearest Baker’s Delight with the unsold custard scrolls).
Plates at sushi train restaurants are colour-coded, which denotes a pricing structure. Imagine that these colours denote the place of a person in the social pecking order.
Some of us select only the people that come on a red plate, because they’re the most desirable. If there’s not enough red plate people, then we can fill our weekends with some white plate people as a second choice. But if the red plate people become available, we can quickly put the white plates back on the carousel and tuck in while the undesirables are whisked away on the train for someone else to select.
Do you ever feel like you are on the sushi train? Selected by friends as an optional extra? Or maybe you’re just going round and round, selected by no-one.
The difference between life and a sushi train is that you have a choice as to whether you’re an item on the train or one of the people sitting on a stool making a selection and subsequently embarrassing yourself by trying to use chopsticks.
Take yourself off the carousel. Swap places with the people who are making you feel devalued. Shove them on a plate, put them on the sushi train, and let them trundle out of your life.
Then find some real friends and go order a burger. Both are more filling.