This is officially the worst week of my life. First, one hell of an awful visit to the doctor, and then today, I got in my first car accident.
What made it worse was that I was supposedly showing people how to drive. It’s hard to argue that that’s what I was actually doing considering the utter failure that ensued.
I was attempting to turn right on green, a task not without challenges but in no way difficult, and failed. One second I was following the car in front of me, the next a car horn was blaring and baring down on us. I hit the gas, praying to get out of the way in time and I almost did- but didn’t. It just hasn’t been that kind of week. The other driver swerved enough to only clip the back end of the car and smash his headlight, but seeing as how he didn’t want to risk oncoming traffic, collide we did.
Shit. Shit. Shit, are you guys OK? Shit.
The new English teachers were both sitting on side of the car that had been struck, and both looked more than a little freaked out. No one was hurt so now began the agonizing process of swapping insurance information with an angry Japanese man. I pulled the car over, turned on the flashers, and approached him, bowing and muttering gomenasai. I think that translates roughly to ‘I’m really fucking sorry.’
He wasn’t yelling, but he wasn’t too pleased either. It seemed to him I was in the wrong, and I didn’t have the heart to argue otherwise. After a minute, I finally made it clear that no, I didn’t understand a word he was saying, and that if he had a cell phone he better bust it out so I could call someone who did.
He dialed my Japanese guardian angel and coworker Kuniko a few times, but she didn’t pick up. Today was her only day off this week, and I’m sure she was trying to enjoy it.
When she didn’t pick up I just about barfed, but instead held it down and had him call another friend to translate, but alas only her Dutch husband answered and his Japanese skills aren’t quite up to snuff when it comes to settling insurance claims. So the driver and I stood and gestured, until finally my darling wife came over and had us trade information. I promised we’d call him soon, and with a suspicious glance at the roman letters on the piece of paper I’d given him, he let us go on our way.
“Do you guys need to go back home?” the new teachers asked.
I hung my head and nodded. Yeah, I’d need to tell the boss-man about this.
The new teachers wisely went on a walk while I called Kuniko, who finally answered and called Iwayama-san, who called the insurance company. Kuniko asked if we didn’t mind staying at the house for a few minutes so Iwayama-san could come check out the carnage.
I still can’t get over how polite the Japanese are.
Iwayama-san showed up grinning, like he always does. The only difference was that for once he didn’t have a cabbage or a bag of apples to give us. He asked if we were ok and I told him yes, and he asked me if the car still worked and I told him yes. I told him I was sorry and he just grinned and patted me on the back. Iwayama-san adores Gaijin, and believes we are at our cutest when we are at our most inept. I’m surprised his dog has all four legs really. He seems like the kind of guy who’d try to nurse a bird with a one wing or a raccoon without a tail. For all I know he’s pleased the car has a nice ding in it now, it makes it that much more endearing. He told me not to worry and that he had a good deal on the insurance. I asked if we could still use the car and he laughed and said yes and then was on his way.
So we piled back in the car, apologized to the new teachers who apologized to us and we all laughed about how we’re all becoming Japanese. We sat down to a cup of tea and I realized that this time last year, I had just won a beard contest and finished a marathon and that life’s not always going to be peaches and gravy and that sometimes it’s really, really hard, but—and this is from a man whose had entirely too much peaches and gravy in his life—when the peaches and gravy finally run out (and it will) there will still be the people who apologize for being in the car you smashed and the people that bring you bags of apples, and though there may be no peaches, there’s people like my darling wife- people who are more than willing to take the wheel when you lose control, and drive you home for a cup of tea when you need it most.
J. Darris Mitchell lives in Takayama Japan with his darling wife, and two wonderful new teachers who will be using the car he almost destroyed. If you enjoyed this story please share it. Click here to read more about Iwayama-san.