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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three Times a Charm

After miserably failing my drivers test twice, I decided to pay 23,000 yen and attend driving school. The instructor was very familiar with foreigners and he knew how to troubleshoot bad American habits. The class was two hours long for which I first thought was a long time to go around a driving course that takes only 5 minutes to complete. What I later learned was that two hours of practice was not even close to enough time to feel confident to pass the test. The instructor first drove the course and explained each maneuver that had to be done…in real time. My head was spinning after that short drive. There was no way that I was going to pass the test. The instructor observed my weak attempt at mimicking his driving skills. I thought I knew how to drive since I did have 32 years of experience. Wrong!! I felt like I knew nothing about driving in Japan. Driving on the left side of the road was one thing, but knowing that your within 1 meter from a curb, 30 cm from a line, pumping brakes and turning while “Yoshing” at the correct moment, (the list goes on and on), was something totally different. I was a “green” driver and the driving course proved it. I had a lot of intense work ahead of me. The instructor quickly found my weak points and drilled me over and over again. Looking back in hindsight, the instructor was doing me a huge favor. The problem was that the instruction was so intense that I lost track of the time. Before I knew it, the instructor was giving me advice and writing a receipt for his services. What I didn’t realize was that his instruction stayed in my head for two days. I couldn’t sleep without visualizing the course and his voice haunting me, “No, accelerate! No, look for bicycles! No, look far down the road! No, ‘Yosh’ before the corner! No, too slow! No, too fast! No! No! No! I had to take the test as soon as possible just to try to get his voice out of my head. I was going crazy.

Monday arrived and Erika and I drove to Shonai Town to find five schools where she will be teaching next month. We decided to do this first before I took my driving test since it was on the way. The schools were difficult to find out in the countryside. Two hours had passed and we could only found two of the schools. We gave up since we had to make it to Oita City before the deadline of 1:30 pm. We made it to the driving course with ten minutes to spare. This did very little to soothe my frazzled nerves. Erika quickly registered me for the driving test and after a two hour wait, the examiner appeared. I recognized him as the same examiner who tested me for the first time…not good. He was very serious and asked if I had practiced driving. I nervously replied that I had and that I was ready for the test. I remember nothing of the test because I was either numb from being nervous or I soon forgot bad things. I politely thanked him for allowing me to drive him around the course and then we proceeded inside to meet with Erika, my translator. The examiner chatted with Erika for ten minutes explaining what I had done wrong and his concerns about my driving during the holiday season. I peeked at his score sheet and it read, “30”. I was ready to leave with another failed test under my belt. The next thing that happened totally shocked me…he shook my hand. Erika then said that the examiner had given me a score of 70…I passed!! He didn’t want to disclose that information right away because he feared that I would have ignored his concerns. I was thrilled, but in a contained manner. I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t care about his concerns. I expressed my gratitude and I respected his comments and told him I would be extremely careful. Inside my head, I was jumping for joy.

I want to thank Yano Kouzou (Manager of Hayami Driving Center). Without his guidance and expert training skills, I could have never passed the test. He was fantastic and I would highly recommend him to anyone. Yano sensei called me tonight and checked to see if I had passed the exam. He was relieved and happy to hear the great news. I also want to thank Himoshita Keiichi (Oita Prefecture Driving Center) for his help in getting my paperwork approved.

I’m glad it’s over and I won’t have to repeat it again until I’m 70 years old. Whew!


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