Sunday, August 30, 2009

Driving Ms. Daisy

Posted by kuri, ping, the pinglet, & mini-ping on 8/30/2009
So, it's official...

I'M ON THE ROAD!!!!!!!

And oh, what a long, long, long, looooooooooonnnnggggggg process it was.

If you've been following my driving school saga, you'll know that after obtaining my permit at the end of July, I had to complete 19 hours of driving lessons and 16 hours of instruction before I could qualify to get the hell out of that place graduate. I decided that it was time to get things done so for the next four weeks, I went to school eight hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays.

Three hours of driving plus five hours of instruction every weekend? If I've been out of touch with you recently, this is why. After all that time trying to:

(a) listen to people droning on and on about how not to hit anyone, and 
(b) drive on the wrong side of the road while watching for pedestrians who care not that they may later be in the hospital,

I didn't really have too much time to do anything except sleep when I got home. Although of course that never happened because as soon as I got home, a very shattered-looking Ping would inevitably inform me that he was going to bed after having to care for the ever-genki Pinglet all day.

After getting my permit, I was allowed to venture out onto the streets of town. Of course, I had to do this in a car that was plastered head to foot and front to back with signs telling people to get the hell away from the car unless they wanted to be involved in an accident. The majority of the 19 hours of driving instruction were private, but there were four hours of group lessons. Those were fun. Yeah. The most "exciting" (and I mean that facetiously) hours were learning how to drive on the highway. Have you ever had to drive 100km/hour with someone who doesn't know how to get off the on-ramp and merge with traffic? Hmmm? Or someone who doesn't see pedestrians and makes old men and their dogs have to dive out of the way to make sure they don't end up in the hospital? Yeah. Fun times.

In order to take my final driving exam at the school, I had to take yet another exam to prove that I understood that I should stay on the left side of the road and not hit anyone. I actually passed this with flying colors on the first try. This was definitely down to luck since many of the questions on the test had to do with the operating instructions for motorcycles and restrictions on tractor-trailers. Considering that I will be driving neither of those, I ended up guessing for about 1/2 of the test, although my guessing technique is down to a science because I was the only one who passed that day.

My driving test was one of six routes selected by the school. The gods must have remembered my permit test conducted in a torrential downpour and decided to smile on me because not only was the weather lovely, the route I had to drive was the easiest one of all of them. I passed with (relatively) little problem, although I got the inevitable "you take the curves too fast" and then proceeded to get my papers to take the REAL final exam at the official driving center.

Are you keeping count of the number of exams? Japan's got a thing about testing. In addition to two driving exams, I took three written exams to get a simple drivers license. Two exams of 100 questions and one exam of 50. In addition to this, I also took about 30 practice exams to make sure that I passed.

The final exam at the driving center is only offered during the week so Ping had to take off to watch the Pinglet. I started the morning off by waiting on the wrong line (figures). After getting everything checked and being asked what language I wanted to take the exam in, I opted for the Japanese version since all the exams I had taken to that point were in Japanese and I had heard that you needed the Japanese exam to use as reference to figure out what the questions meant on the English version.

I then went to a large examination room and we were assigned seats. There were two other non-Japanese people there, as well as a hearing-impaired woman. We were all put up in the front row. I guess they figured that they were going to have to give extra instruction to us and the nearer we were to them, the better.

The final exam was 95 questions. Questions 90 to 95 were sets of three sub-questions which all had to be answered correctly in order to get the full point. This wasn't too difficult considering that they were questions like, "See the kid playing on the road up ahead? Should you accelerate and pass him really fast just in case he decides to run out into the road?" 

The test is administered in 50 minutes. I wasn't sure of the answers to about 15 of the questions, which pretty much ensured that I was going to fail since a passing grade is 90 out of 100 points. I used my fail-safe method of "wow, putting option (b) here completes Doraemon's face." After passing our papers in, we were treated to a very-fast-and-totally-incomprehensible explanation by one of the staff about what happens if you pass or fail. 

I was pretty much resigned by this point that I was going to fail so I listened closely. We had to go out into the foyer where our examination numbers were to be displayed on the board if we had passed. The numbers came up and, it figures, I couldn't find mine. But a second (and third, and fourth) glance at the board showed that, indeed!, my number was actually there! In a state of shock, I had to ask some of the other children--I mean, university students--there what the hell I was supposed to doing. So, an eye check, then photos taken (at which point I was asked if I understood Japanese. Meaningless, since I had just endured 2 1/2 hours of an exam and explanations on what to do), a spiel on paying money to join something-or-other, and presto! I have a Japanese drivers license with a really horrible photo of myself on it. This was deliberate because if I had gotten myself dolled up for the picture, I would have failed the exam. But, by strategically not putting on makeup and doing my hair, I was assured that I would indeed be on the road by the end of the day.

So, a total of 35 hours of driving, 28 hours of instruction, and countless exams later, I am now qualified to also drive like I've never attended any classes, just like everyone else on the road. I've been enjoying taking the Ping's car out for a jaunt to the store and my own (very used) vehicle will be here hopefully within the week.

I have road trips planned around the country so if you should see me, Ping and the Pinglet in your edge of the woods, flag us down! We'd love to drop by for a coffee and a bit of a chat.

10 of you feeling verklempt. Tawlk amongst yourselves:

illahee said...

as long as we don't have to dive off the sidewalk first, right?


congratulation!! i'm so excited for you, especially for the new car!!

Nay said...

Congratulations!! Ever driving in Shizuoka, send me a message!! Would love to have you in for a cuppa :)

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! Quite an experience you've had! I can't wait to see the new car.
Love Mom

Lulu said...

Wow- congratulations.

Reading through the hoops you had to jump through though sure makes me glad I am Australian. I would of cracked under pressure....

Let me know if you are ever in Chiba!

thefukases said...

Yeah!! And the first year is the best- those wakaba mark stickers are like a get-out-of-my-way sign. It was a huge shock when I lost those as noone treated me like a princess anymore!

Enjoy your driving and if you're ever in Nagano....

Helen said...

"I am now qualified to also drive like I've never attended any classes, just like everyone else on the road. "

I am so ROFLing at that! It's hard to believe that drivers get as much instruction as they do, because they're all blooming awful drivers!

I frequently dive to the side of the road, or swerve my bike or make rude gestures at the idiots that pass me/try to kill me when I'm on my way to work.

Congrats to you though!

Gaijin Wife said...

Yay!! Otsukare!! What a mission aye. Ganbare for when you feel up to a road trip down this way!

Anonymous said...

Been there before and I didn't like it but hell--- now I have a GOLD license... and so will you too soon enough.... Congrats, congrats woo hoo....

So sorry I missed some of your posts = )

coarse gold girl said...

Oh god. I just started driving school. I didn't even make it to the end of your post. I think I will go slap myself in the head with the driving course text books a few times.

Mande's J-Life said...

I am just catching up. Congratulations! Have fun on the road! and watch out for those 60 & over men who are self-centered pricks...they are the worst drivers, worst pedestrians and the worst bikers. Nice car too! I love the color!


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