I was leaving my late evening class, rushing to cross one side of the intersection before the crosswalk changed to red, when I heard a loud, audible “SMACK”. When I turned to look down, I saw two unopened, freshly-brought boxes of cigarettes had fallen onto the pavement just behind a salaryman’s feet. They had clearly fallen out of his leather satchel.
He turned his head, as if he heard the sound of their fall, and so I said nothing as I dashed to the other side. I paused on the corner, waiting for the crosswalk to change so I could cross again to the opposite side of the street. He and I were now on parallel corners going briefly in the same direction.
I watched him as he laughed with his co-workers, never looking down or noticing he had lost his cigarettes. Not wanting to shout across the corner, I tried to wave and point, but he was oblivious.
As we crossed, separated by the street, he still didn’t notice. Once I was on my corner, I tried to wave again, but he never looked over, too immersed in laughing with his co-workers.
I glanced at the packs still laying on the ground just in time to see three Japanese college boys walk over, bend down, and pick them up. They hi-fived each other at their find and stuffed them in their pockets before walking down another road to a restaurant they were heading to.
I glanced up the street to see the salaryman walking away and down the street to see the college students going the opposite. I wondered if I should run up and explain, but now I’d have to say that the college students took it.
Either way it could get nasty.
In the end, I let it go.
It was only probably about $8 in cigarettes and smoking is a bad habit, yet I felt I should have done more. I wish I had responded at the time and not worried more for getting across the street before the light changed.
Once things escalated — the boys picking up the packs — it reached a point of no return. In Japan, what those college men did would be viewed as stealing.
I would personally view it as a kind of thievery, even if not the full on malicious type. Several people I know from other countries might not consider it so and say “Finders keepers”. However, the general consensus I get in Japan is that taking something that’s not yours, whether lost by the other person, is still thievery.
Either way, I felt kind of bad for the guy. Then again, maybe it’s a sign from above that he needs to stop smoking?