So last Wednesday I taught at this Japanese middle school. And as I was riding home on my mini midget scooter, I caught a glimpse of a Japanese motorcycle cop off to my left. I was cresting a small hill, and he was just kind of sitting there when I cruised past. I thought for a moment: Is this cause for concern? and then concluded, No, Ken Seeroi, you are a most excellent driver.
Sure, everyone says that, but I really am. I know this based upon the large number of cars, trucks, and bikes I’ve demolished. Well, maybe “demolished” is an overly strong verb. Let’s just say “crashed,” or “rendered unusable.” That sounds a bit better. But I mean, let’s say you’re going into battle—who’re you gonna want beside you in the trenches?—a pie-faced file clerk who’s driven a desk the whole war, or some William Dafoe-looking dude who’s all scarred and gnarly from scores of battles? That’s the guy you’d want to ride with, right? Yet somehow when I explain this to women I meet in bars, they never get it. It’s just simple logic, really. Anyway, I’m a good driver, is my point.
So I just kept going, winding down the hill and through the neighborhood. It was a mild, nearly springlike day. The plum trees were dressed in white and red blossoms and birds were singing sweetly. Well, actually, there aren’t a lot of birds in Japan, since about half the land mass has been replaced by concrete, but if there had been a bird, I’m sure he’d have been singing. Whatever, it was a nice day, and I was just glad to be out riding my little motorbike. Then from behind me, I heard a tiny woman’s voice.
“Excuse me,” said the voice, in Japanese. I looked over my shoulder and holy crap! there was an old lady riding behind me, on a scooter just like mine. It was like that weird dream where a witch is chasing you. I’m assuming I’m not the only one who has these.
“Excuse me,” she said again. I couldn’t freaking believe it—an old Japanese lady on a scooter was trying to have a conversation with me. Or maybe she needed help. I stopped, because I’m chivalrous like that.
I quickly got off my scooter and went to see what was wrong. She met me half way. “Do you have a driver’s license?” she asked.
“Yes, of course,” I answered. What a weird old broad.
“Do you have a driver’s license?” she asked again. Apparently this was a species of Japanese lady that says everything twice. I was tripping out at this point, and then I noticed something and Boom! my head just exploded. She was like 70 years old, but she was wearing a costume. Like a police costume. The old lady and the motorcycle cop were the same person.
“I do,” I said blankly. I was in shock.
“Do you have a license?” she asked again. That snapped me out of it. Lady, what the eff? Enough with the license already. What, a white man can’t have a driver’s license? And then it dawned on me. She actually wanted to see the thing. No sirens, no orders; this was police work in subtle Japanese style. And then I realized, she must’ve pulled me over because of my race. Because I’m white. I’ve heard stories about this.
I was not pleased. I got out my license and handed it to her. Racist. I said nothing. That’s how you say you’re mad in Japanese.
“Is this bike 50cc’s?” she asked quietly, because my license only allows me to ride a tiny motorcycle.
“Yes,” I responded. One word answer. Oh, I was telling her off good now, with my silence.
And then who comes around the corner but a dozen guys, my middle school students, and they all start shouting, ““Seeroi Sensei! What’d you do? Are you being arrested?”
Oh man. “Not now, not now,” I said. “Not a good time, guys.” I tried to wave them off. No need to see your English teacher getting stopped for Driving While White. They erupted in a fit of giggles and promptly fell all over each other hiding behind a stone wall. Then every few seconds a head or two would pop up and more giggling would ensue. Japanese kids are not very discreet.
“You know you ran a stop sign,” said the old lady cop.
“You mean you didn’t pull me over because I’m white?” almost poured out of my mouth. I let that sink in for a second, and then said, “Really? There was a stop sign?”
“At the top of the hill.”
Oh, that’s a little different. I mean, a stop sign, well. You’d have to pull over anybody who did that. Don’t suppose it’s too late to start acting nice. Perhaps a bit of Ken Seeroi charm would be in order.
“It’s just such nice weather we’re having,” I said. Then, “Aw jeez, I didn’t see it! I’m terribly sorry!” I tried to look apologetic. “It won’t happen again! I’m a teacher, you know. At the school here.”
She wrote me a 5,000 yen ticket, which I had to sign. “You can pay it at the Post Office,” she said. She was fair and professional the entire time, which was unfortunate because I thought she might’ve cut a brother a little slack. But at least she didn’t stoop to speaking English at me, which I was thankful for. “Be careful,” she added. Actually, she was a pretty nice old lady. Still can’t believe they let granny have a badge though.
So I rode straight to the Post Office while she flew away on her broomstick. The ticket was like 53 bucks, which is a pretty decent deal for completely blowing a stop sign right in front of a cop. Of course, the next day the whole school was abuzz with talk of how “Seeroi Sensei got arrested.” Jeez, you’d think they’d never seen a white man get pulled over before. For next week’s English class, I think it’s time we learned the phrase “Fight the power.”