Monday, December 17, 2007

Traffic Safety Complaints

I've got a pet peeve to complain about today. If you don't want to hear me rant and rave you can skip today's post.

Look was someone brought to my door yesterday. These are two bottles of osake about half a gallon each. Aren't they wrapped up nicely? They've got the red and white paper which is used especially for gifts and celebrations in the new year. On the front of each bottle is a decorative paper which has the name of the sender, in this case the osake is a New Year's gift from the Traffic Safety Organization. This is what is getting my dander up!

I've written about the Traffic Safety committee a couple of times and I don't know if you got any undertones that I'm not really whole hearted about my own participation. Some of the things that the Traffic Safety Organization does seems nonsensical to me but I always keep in mind that as a foreigner I have different standards and values so if everyone else is satisfied and I'm the only one questioning, then the problem must be with me. I keep my mouth shut and do what I'm told. There are groups where I'll feel that my opinions will be more readily accepted but the Traffic Safety Organization isn't one of them. The neighborhood is required to send two people to be part of the district committee and as an active member of the neighborhood I decided that I would do my part by taking the position. (There are at least 20 other postions to be filled in our small neighborhood and there aren't that many that I can really help. I'm not going to give speeches to groups or write newsletters in Japanese.) I already was doing crosswalk duty so Traffic Safety seemed a logical group to join (although they have nothing to do with crosswalk duty).

Actually, all I have to do twice a year is join the district group and a bunch of policemen and spend an hour handing out pamphlets on a street corner. I don't think anyone reads the pamphlets and they aren't related to traffic anyway. But that's what Traffic Safety officers do so I did. I was a bit surprised when I my hour was up to be given a plastic bag full of cookies and candy and crackers to thank me for my participation.

"Wait a minute. This is a duty and besides who is paying for all the cookies and candy and crackers?"

"Oh, don't worry. That comes from the money people pay when they get their driver's license."

(It's a little more complicated than that but you get the idea.) It seems a strange way to spend money because there are hundreds and hundreds of us officers and I'm sure the people who pay for a driver's license thought their money was going into improving road conditions or something, not to provide snacks for the organizations' members. I tried refusing the bag of goodies but was told that I'd just mess up their records if I didn't take it.

A couple of months later when I went to a general Traffic Safety meeting I was disturbed to see the figures of how the organization's money is spent and that a major portion is spent for parties and an annual trip to somewhere so that the members can stay in a fancy hotel, eat an elaborate feast and drink till they're stone drunk. I questioned this practice to one of the members but again was told it was only a once a year thing, nothing illegal is going on, why should I have a problem with it? Of course I don't go on the trip (one reason is because there are only two women in our committee of about 50 people.)

I came back to my neighborhood government body and wrote them a letter (in JAPANESE!) expressing my doubts about this organization and asking to be removed from participation in the next year.

"We understand your hesitation about participation, yet you agreed to take the office for two years. Can't you just change your thinking and continue (you only have to do something twice a year!) for the good of the neighborhood? We are pleading with you!"

So I've kept my mouth shut and closed my eyes. There have been a couple more incidents that get me riled like being handed a very nice flourescent banner with a pole for putting along the road that says "If your going to drive, don't drink. If you're going to drink, don't drive" and being told to put it up inside the community house.

"Do not put this up outside because it might blow away and cause someone a problem."

"What! That's ridiculous! The Traffic Safety organization has spent a lot of money to make up these banners in an effort to get drivers to think twice about drunk-driving and you don't want it out on the road? You want to hide it on a back wall of the community house?"

Yesterday, when someone rang my doorbell and handed me these two bottles of osake I about dropped my teeth! Why oh why is the Japan National Traffic Safety Organization spending money to give its members large bottles of osake?! Hey, isn't drunk driving a major problem and hasn't the Traffic Safety organization been discussing the lack of awareness to the problem?! I mean, I'm not happy about the way the organization spends its money in general but at least if they feel they have to give their members a New Year's present, does it have to be a huge bottle of osake?

I will donate the osake to the neighborhood end of the year drinking party. I'm sure some people will be thrilled. I may have to write another letter and try to resign from the Traffic Safety committee again! Sigh...and my Japanese is so limited! Too bad no one on the neighborhood governement can understand enough English to be directed to this post.


Tracey in CT said...

It does seem a little strange to me too. I can certainly understand your frustration with this committee. On the other hand, I'm glad to see that it is not just organizations here in the US that do strange things!

meggie said...

This post made me laugh! It is the same all over the world I think!
I agree, why would they give a gift of alcohol, when they are encouraging people not to drink?

Kieny said...

Your story sounds very familiar Tanya, and I'm sure they happen all over the world. When things like that happen here I get very frustrated. Sometimes I want to change things or at least express my opinions but I know that as a foreigner it sometimes is better to keep my opinions to myself.

comicbooklady said...

well, at least in America and sometimes Canada, you can call a press conference and embarrass them into a public apology, spend millions of dollars on a public inquiry, they'll make 10 points of recommendations on how they can do better in the future, then nothing will change. :) oh yeah, and a few opportunistic politicians can be seen on the TV nodding their heads, saying what a disgrace.

Nancy said...

How dreadful to have to waste your limited Japanese in this way! The whole process seems incongruous. But what do I know.

Shelina said...

I would just not show up to any further meetings. Hmm, maybe it's an experiment, to see if their banners work. They are just testing you to see if you will drink AND drive after seeing their banner.

Christine Thresh said...

"Traffic Safety Committee Member Arrested for Drunk Driving"

That would be a bad headline in the local newspaper. He could plead not guilty because he drank a bottle of osake given to him by the committee!