Monday, June 22, 2009


I do not like driving very much though I've been driving for over 37 years. I think I'm a pretty good driver thanks to getting most of my experience on EXTREMELY narrow roads in Japan.

I got my first driver's license when I was 16 and drove around Southern California for a few years. When I went to Japan after college one of the first things my missionary advisor did was to take me down to the Japanese DMV and help me apply for a driver's licence. They took my California license for a couple of weeks and later handed me a Japanese driver's license. No driver's test! No driver's handbook!

"Here you go, Miss. Drive carefully."

Wow, how irresponsible is that? Everything is backwards and I can't read any of the signs! There are bicyclists and pedestrians that one needs to be careful of and mini-cars zooming here and there!

I didn't drive much the first few years because 1) even after Tetsu and I got married we only had one car and 2) Tetsu didn't trust me out on the roads. But nowadays living a ways out from anywhere means a second car is a necessity. And I've turned into a fairly good driver. Often times just coming and going from my house I need to skillfully back up to barely recognizable turnout patches or into farmers' tractor lanes to let on coming cars pass. Most of the roads along the rice fields are only wide enough for one car to pass and so it is a challenge to back up and not fall off into the flooded rice paddies. I often wish I could show my American friends and families how well I maneuver the roads in Japan. (The road behind my house in Japan.)

Expressways are usually only two lanes each direction and I find these less stressful than the California freeways that I encounter when I am visiting my family. (Japanese expressway going up to Nikko resort. Granted Tokyo expressways are a lot more crowded...)

I give myself another pat on the back because I have learned to drive on the left-hand side of the road with the driver's seat on the right-hand side of the car. And I am pretty good at making the adjustment when coming to California and when going back again. I think in all my years of coming and going I've only made the mistake once of pulling out onto the wrong side of the street. (I know! Once is enough!!!)

But one mistake I'm still making daily is when I hit the turn signal. These are also on opposite sides of the steering wheel and so when I'm driving I often hit the window wipers lever instead of the turn signal lever and the wipers go back and forth even in this hot and sunny weather. On coming drivers must think I'm crazy and Leiya cracks up every time I do it.

Well, I went and renewed my California driver's license this week.

"Here you go, ma'am. Drive carefully."

Little do they know...


Allie said...

Oh I love to drive - I've always felt like my car was an extension of my body, and I could make it do whatever I wanted it to. But that was before children, when I was young and fearless. Now, I worry about other drivers. I don't think I'd like driving in California!

Millie said...

I think you have made those adjustments very well. I am sure I would do the same thing you do with the windshield wipers!

Michele's Quilting Journey said...

How amazing! Even your articles on the differences in driving and getting a license is fascinating! And btw, welcome to our crazy American world;) Now, you know why we don't have all of the interesting side trips that you do to blog about. We're just grateful to survive our freeways and fast-paced lifestyles day by day!!!

I'm doing a virtual charity quilting bee blitz for the next two weeks. No driving for me ;)I'm fastened to my sewing chair and creating one small charity quilt after another.

That's my speed, I'd never ever be able to drive on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the car! But as they ran, each one would get a small quilt to cover up with, at least ;)

The Calico Quilter said...

I've never liked driving - it's a necessity rather than a pleasure. (Ironic that now I have to do all the driving since my husband has vision issues.) I'm sure I could never transition as easily between countries as you do.

I see a lot of really bad driving from older adults. Probably the best thing the state could do for us is to retest after a certain age, not just hand over the new license and send you on your way. There are situations where families need to intervene and say "Oh, no, you're not driving any more!" since the state won't.