So last Wednesday I taught at this Japanese middle school. And as I was riding home on my midget little 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 a bit strong. 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 Well, actually, there aren’t a lot of birds in Japan, since about half the land mass has been replaced by concrete, but if there had been a bird, I’m sure he’d have been singing.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.”