Saturday, September 22, 2007

Stand Still Laddy!

I can't finish talking about my US trip until I tell the story of one bizarre thing that happened there. Well half of it happened there. The other half occured after getting back here to Japan. in a single month, I had the unpleasant experience of having to renew my driver's licenses in both countries. I'd expected the US variation to go far smoother. In my small town it's basically a process of eye check, photo, hand over ten bucks and you're set for 8 more years. But on his day there was a glitch. It seems that an updated computer system had found an outstanding warrant from Arizona, a place I haven't lived in since university finished in the long hot summer of '90. I'd never gotten any moving violations but over my last couple years there I'd gotten about 17 parking tickets on campus, which in the wisdom of youth I'd ignored until the University had threatened to withhold my diploma. I paid, or so I thought.
I called the State DMV but they couldn't find anything. Then I called the county--same result. City of Tucson likewise had no records of anything. With each of the people I talked to, I politely and patiently explained that I was only in country for a short time and ideally needed this cleared up by 4 pm today. Each of them promised to look into it and let me know. The whole process ate up the morning.
A few hours later, I got a call from the county. They found a citation from 1989 in the amount of $10. How can I pay? Don't worry, it's been cleared. Cool. OK, so can I have you guys fax that over to Belen? No problem. After about 15 minutes, I call Belen DMV to check if they got the fax. A woman informs me that she it isn't proper policy. Shit. I ask to talk to her supervisor. He's left for the day. Right, it's Friday afternoon. I ask her to please call him, which she says she'll do, but doesn't promise anything. Later, around 3:30, the supervisor calls. He tells me he's not showing any violation on the computer at all. Come down for your photo. As they are taking it he asks me how I did it. Arizona usually takes a couple months to do what I did in 5 hours. I shrug and walk out to the car, my new license warm in my pocket.

Japan, 2 weeks later. I'd long ago received a postcard telling me where and when to show up. The place was inconveniently in the middle of nowhere, south Kyoto, well away from the bus and train lines and we had to show up between 1 and 2 pm. . There was a huge queue of people stretched out the door and shuffling slowly toward the first window. Some workers were actually standing in front of doorways to tell the queue not to block it. Mind the tape on the floor please. We reached window one. Then two. Three. Work our way slowly along. I half expected window 6 to lead to a huge meat grinder out of the film, "The Wall." After an hour, finally cleared. I find a room, where I have to sit thru a 2 hour film. I find the moderator outside having a smoke. I do what I never do, pull the gaijin trump card. I say, "Look, do I really have to sit thru this? I probably won't understand most of it (a fib) and it's not really my first license. After all, I've been driving for 25 years already." No luck, as expected. Time means little to a man who smokes. So I find a spot in the back near the window. Once the film starts, I'll pull out my book and read by the small strip of sunlight bisecting the curtains. Then I notice that I have an assigned seat, right in the middle, directly in front of the moderator. My book stays at the bottom of my bag. I guess this film and lecture will be good listening practice for my Japanese language course which begins next week. The film starts...

In terms of time wasted, it was a draw. But there was almost a stereotypically predictable outcome. My experience in the US was a volitional greasing of bureaucracy's wheels with honey, yet constantly pushing, pushing, pushing. The Japanese sequel by contrast was passive. Stand in line, mind the tape, and try not to hit your head getting into the meat grinder...

On the turntable: Elton John, "Captain Fantastic"

1 comment:

wierdwalker said...

hoo... that's a wierd bit of an experience..i know iam passing comments on a old post.. i saw this post accidently.. nice one.. keep jobs india