Quarrying & Mining Magazine
Last Word

Aunty Netta dispatches from Japan

Netta Burnside experiences more than used-machine buying at her most recent auction in Japan.

If there is ever a country you want to be banged up in hospital, it is Japan. With an extremely painful, late night stomach and back ache, and a suspected appendicitis, my hotel room was suddenly crammed like a Fokker 50 enroute from the Islands with what seemed like more ambos and Drs than the NZ health system employs.

My Japanese does not extend much beyond speaking YEN, basic pleasantries and ordering beer, and the Japanese Emergency Medical Technicians spoke even less English.

A shy young boy who worked at my hotel as a late night water delivery person was called in to translate. After much chatter, I was loaded onto what felt like a flat rack, and shoved into the back of a very old, but exceptionally tidy, ambulance. The only thing with less hours on the clock than heavy machinery in Japan are their seldom used ambulances.

Meantime, the EMT staff numbers grew and I had six people in the ambulance with me, with a random new dude now on board; I swear he was just walking past and saw a good selfie opportunity.

But, the hospital service – oh my word, it was first world and fast and no one asked what ethnicity I was, or how I identified. I went through triage, had a CT scan, and a painkiller drip inserted in my arm in 20 minutes, with my young, hotel water boy translating politely and blushing immensely when he had to say …”you need to take a piss”.

Everyone was excited about my stomach cramps because the Japanese don’t really get sick; they are disciplined and healthy, and appear not to rely on an emergency service as much as we do. Being the only patient in the Emergency Department and being non-Japanese, was a bit of a novelty with the ‘selfie’ dude still in on the action. At one stage he gave me a blanket and asked questions in some sort of Pigeon Papiamento.

Their health system is like everything else in Japan, structured, organised, timely to the point of being almost militant, and the reason why we love their used machines so much. Everything is taken care of properly from the start.

The auctions themselves were another round of high prices, and we scrapped over the nice low-hour machines.

The buying was ‘civil’ and mostly about good friendly competition. Not like my first auction visit to Yokohama 20-ish years ago when I decided to make friends with the two Russian buyers who would not engage with anyone. I saw this as a challenge.

Naive AF, I tried everything to get them to talk to me. After three days of getting nowhere, I sat beside the first man mountain Boris who wore a black leather trench. I thought he was super cool! Anywho (Netta-speak for anyhow), I excitedly announced I wanted to buy the next machine – a D5 dozer for Alan Brownell.

Boris turns to me and finally speaks …”Nyet, my bulldozer”. I was ecstatic that he finally broke the icy Siberian silence and I tried to explain why I liked the machine. He stopped me mid babble, put a finger in the air waving it slowly side to side and repeated; “Nyet my bulldozer”. At the same time he pulls back his trench to show me his ‘piece’ … (think handgun – Ed)

I bought Alan another D5 at a different auction. That was a one-off, but there were a bunch of Nigerians who got booted out of an auction a few years ago because they insisted on showing me their ‘pieces’ and they weren’t handguns under trench coats.

The auction this time proved tough getting the good gear because of the backlog demand for new machines around the world.

Speaking of backlogs – I was discharged from the hospital that night with antibiotics, painkillers, a bill of 90,000 YEN ($1000) and my appendix still in place. It turns out too much eating out can also cause a backlog. 

Related posts

Technology – can’t shoot it, can’t live without it

QM Mag