Wednesday, June 17, 2009
the 6ft blond geisha on the road...part 1
Ok, so here's the deal. I grew up in Tokyo...which, for those of you that aren't in the know...is a city similar to New York. We rely HEAVILY on the public transportation system. In fact, getting a drivers license is EXPENSIVE in Japan. not like the $30 kind of price tag that you find here...more like a few thousand dollars. PLUS parking is incredibly expensive and hard to find. Houses/apts in Japan (especially Tokyo) are much smaller than in the U.S., and so many times they don't come with parking spaces. So to find a parking space can be a real pain in the ass.
Needless to say, I was very used to just riding around the city on my mountain/city hybrid bike and that was my main means of transportation. I rode to the gym on it, to work on it, to go meet my friends for drinks, etc. (bonus right there! you won't get picked up for a DUI on the bike! lol)
SO one of the biggest transitions for me in my "coming to america" journey ( reminds me sometimes of that Eddie Murphy movie...and believe me, some of what I have experienced is about as crazy as that movie) is the whole "DRIVING" factor. Until about a year ago, I had NEVER ( and YES, I DO mean NEVER) driven a car before.
So this whole thing was quite terrifying for me...
but after being in LA for a few months, I finally called Melrose Driving School. When they picked up the phone and I mentioned I was interested in their driving classes, the woman on the phone said "ok, miss. is that going to be for your daughter or son? " Sigh...." No, I answered, it is for me" I answered with a slightly embarrassed laugh.
So driivng class began...and the little hybrid Melrose Driving School car came to pick me up at home for my first lesson.
It was quite funny to watch the reaction of many of the neighbors in Hancock Park, the area where I was living. They watched puzzled as I got in the car. Yeah...I know...full grown woman stepping into the passenger side of a driving school car and learning the basics of driving...probably not something they ran into everyday. Oh well.
As for me and my journey through driving school, I had this great teacher, Camillo. He was a wonderfully patient guy ( much younger than me of course! LOL) who was really passionate about teaching his students how to drive and navigate through the streets properly . On the second lesson, he brought out these handwritten drawings and diagrams that he had made to explain some of the rules of the road. He told me that when he retired from teaching, he would frame the various drawings and hang them up, because he had used them to teach so many students and he was quite proud of them. I agreed with him and said it was a great idea. (I hope Camillo DOES do that when he does decided to retire from teaching driving. He was a great teacher.)
Anyway, my transition on the roads took a long time. It seems that there is this energy on the streets that, if you grow up here in the U.S. you totally don't notice, but if you are a newcomer to driving AND to the streets of the U.S. it can be incredibly overwhelming. So for me, I was on sensory overload...I would react to everything probably more than I should have...LOL. yeah, Camillo never had a dull moment when he was teaching me, that's for sure.
I would tell him some of my Japan stories and he would listen in fascination while we practiced our sudden stops, parking, u-turns ( which was my favorite thing to practice, by the way), etc.
Every once in a while I would make a rough turn or something or would feel like I wasn't in control, and I would laugh nervously and say something like "hold on Camillo...this might be your last lesson!" Camillo would just laugh and tell me it is good I had a sense of humor about things and could laugh about my mistakes.
OH my dear Camillo, you have NO IDEA... if I didn't have a sense of humor, I could have never made it in Tokyo! LOL..
and I DEFINITELY could have never done this big transition back to the U.S.
Then it came time for the driving test...
stay tuned for more memoirs of a 6ft. blond geisha!