Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Behind The Wheel...

Winds are blowing now from the northwest, bringing all the smoke down from the Monterey County wildfires. The landscape of rolling hills and farmlands is taking on a lovely soft focus -- Central Californian countryside through a Pro Mist filter! But the big news of the day is.......


And why shouldn't I? I picked the most auspicious day in the Japanese almanac (though I wondered if I wasn't screwing it up by ignoring time zones,) I washed the truck, cleaned up the inside, sweet-talked to it ("Be nice to me tomorrow, okay?") found a (lucky?) penny in the truck bed, made sure I had my little temple talisman in my purse... I did all the (probably) useless and (definitely) superstitious things my Edokko grandmother would have done. Aside from washing the truck, I did all of this secretly. Big Dog and his Western logic would have told me I should just practice more. But rituals are important. It was my way of preparing myself mentally. And to stack the odds against, say, a child running out of the bushes into the street and smack into the truck. Or having the brakes lock up. Or the steering wheel come off in my hand like some cartoon moment.

Yes, it also helped that a wonderfully sweet lady was waiting for me at Window 11, and another friendly and down-to-earth local woman tested me. It would have been a different scene in LA, I am sure.

My tester, "Kathy," was curious, though.

"What did you do to have to take a driving test again?"
"I'm from Japan."
"Oh, and you didn't get an international license?"
"No. I never had a license! I never drove a car! We have a giant, efficient network of trains and buses and subways..."
"It must be nice having such an advanced public transportation system with these gas prices!"
Yeah, it would be if the fares weren't so expensive.

We cruised around a bit in traffic-heavy San Luis Obispo and, just like that, I became a legal, registered, licensed California Driver. Heaven help us all.

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