Saturday, April 17, 2010

Just Keep Driving

Not too many people realize this, but in Japan, we drive on the left side of the road. This is something to do with the British influence on our culture--we have a mesh of European influence that also seems to surprise people when they find out. As for example, we have many many bakeries with French style breads. So many and successful that one of them opened a franchise in Paris.

Anyway, we drive on the left. So naturally, we walk on the left, look for the traffic first on the right before crossing the road, etc. When this is ingrained in you, it's hard to correct. Even after 25 plus years, I have a hard time. When I come face to face with another pedestrian, I avoid left. They avoid right. We do the dance. I do it EVERY TIME. I tell myself "go right, go right" but my body just goes left. Then the person I am approaching senses the weird tension and focus on my face and they just stop because they don't know if I am going to attack them, which complicates the matter even more. Then we do the dance and I just run away shouting "so sorry!!!" I'm a total SPAZ.

Much like any other Metropolitan cities in the US, Seattle has a Chinatown. Officially, it's "International District-Chinatown" that used to be Japan Town back in the days until the WWII internment camps wiped out the neighborhood. Now, it is a collage of all Asian cultures and it's a great place to eat. However, the traffic is a MESS because--I hate to say it--but Asians can't drive or walk. Seriously, I don't know why they don't just put traffic lights at every corner because 4 way stops are just a circus. Asians, no matter where they come from, just step out into traffic whenever, blow through stop signs, and park randomly. They (I'm saying "they" like I'm not one of them) go 35 miles an hour on the on ramp of the highway and go 50 miles an hour in the fast lane. Every time my husband and I pass a bad Asian driver, we scream in unison, "you are not helping the cause!!!" I don't know it's because there is a longer history of us walking than driving or it's driving on the other side of the road thing, but I have to say, this stereotype is 90% accurate. For Japanese people, I can attest that pedestrians win. Even in a crazy city like Tokyo, people on foot will stop traffic to get across the street--and they win, because there are so many of them. The key is to act like, "I don't see you, so you won't hit me."

My mother is 82. She is very active, independent and always comes to visit with an international license when visiting so that she and my father can go about their days without relying on me or my husband, which is lovely--and frightening. Once, she went out shopping and when she returned, she couldn't parallel park in front of our house. She came into the house asked if I could park the car for her because she couldn't quite get the angle right. I go outside to find her rental car almost perpendicular to the parking spot, the back wheel on the curb, with the trunk open. The trunk was open because after she gave up, she figured at least she could unload her goods. This is also the same woman who scratched her car ALL THE WAY AROUND without getting out of her parking spot at her own house in Tokyo because she couldn't get the "angle right" to back out and kept turning in a small space, THE WRONG WAY. My father was laughing so hard when he was telling me this on the phone I had to ask him to tell it twice to fully understand what he was saying.

I also spent 13 years in Boston. I realize every big city on the east coast prides itself on having the worst drivers in the country, but Bostonians are seriously intense. They are aggressive, mean, and honk the horn if you even THINK of making the wrong move. If they encounter a bunch of Asians crossing randomly, they will just hit them and then scream out the window for being a "f*cking re-tahd" with the middle finger strongly pointing upward. It would not be pretty.

As for my driving, I try to be good. I don't have a single moving violation to date and my husband, who is an excellent and critical driver seems to think I'm alright. It's my personal quest to reverse the stereotype but as ponder my DNA and Boston driving experience, I'm not sure how successful I will remain as I get older. I'm seriously considering making a bumper sticker that says, "I'm Asian. Please forgive."


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  2. Hehe, I never really thought of Asian people being bad drivers… I’ve always thought they were pretty equal with the rest of humanity. ; )

    I have been sneaking around on your blog and reading all your posts, and I saw that you enjoy Studio Ghibli movies! (I guess they are very very popular in Japan, but here in America I am always pleased to find another person who also loves them.)

    I am not Japanese, I am not even Asian, though, I do appreciate and respect the beauty of all the cultures, and try to learn about them as much as I can.. I have never yet traveled out of this country. I suppose I am only 16 and will have plenty of time to do this later, I would really like to go to these places someday.

    I am studying to be an animator myself (not that it really matters to you really, unless you were a voice actress), so, Miyazaki is a sort of inspiration to me.

    I really like it when you talk about food… on one of your posts you said that “Americans seem to have a love hate relationship with food.” And that is so very true… and it is sad.
    I love food, I love to cook food, and I love to eat food… I have never been a chubby person, yet I don’t purposefully work out to stay fit. Maybe I am lucky? Anyways, I am very much a lover of food, food of every culture…

    And you have gained another follower to your blog! ; ) I am learning Japanese along with a few other languages, so I would love to talk with you a bit to figure out how to give a sentence a proper structure, and how to pronounce words just so that when I do someday go to Japan, people won't look at me like I shouldn’t be there. There is a certain art to these things, no?
    I don’t know how to spell anything with Japanese letters either…. So, I suppose I should learn that too. I am very determined.

    Have a fantastic week. : )

    Your new follower,



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