上はどちらですか?

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For those of you marking your calendars when I tell you about upcoming events, you will know that today I had to take another half day of vacation so I could make my sixth trip to the Driving License Center (運転免許センター). This is all part of the ongoing process of ‘converting’ an American license to a Japanese license. Summarily, I will just say that I failed and am allowed back again on January 18 for another attempt.

Today’s title basically translates as “Which Way Is Up?” Richard Pryor starred in a movie, in 1977, by this name. It is also a phrase that was used to represent how discrimination could continue even if the law prohibited it. If a minority disagrees with an authority figure they can be labelled as agressive (or uppity, or contradictory, or…) even if the authority keeps changing the rules. If the authority is witholding something of value – a loan, a job offer, release from jail – the person on the down side of the question is placed in desperate straits. So, in America a lot of blacks in the 70s adapted by just saying whatever would release the primary objective. I am pleased that most of this abuse of power has been chipped away in America.

My experiences at the licensing center here have definitely fallen into that category, but today’s failure put the icing on the cake when I had a consultation with the head. He told me that I didn’t pass because I think I’m a good driver. In September he made a sideways comment to me that hinted at that, but today he wasn’t trying to beat around the bush. I don’t know how he decided that in September since I had not said anything of significance up to that point. Right now I just think maybe I stood up too straight or I was ‘eyeballin’ him or …

All of the offensive and bigoted things they say at the licensing center are really grating on me. There are so many things I love about this country, but being run through a ringer that is chewing up my vacation, time, and money makes it hard to see the good stuff. Perhaps I need to go to a tea ceremony again where we learn to take the bitter and the sweet. Hey, I hadn’t thought of this before… in cha no yu (茶の湯) the sweet is just a small bite and the bitter is two bowls full… hmm…

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2 Responses to “上はどちらですか?”

  1. kevenker Says:

    Dang! Sorry to hear that! That’s pretty disappointing…

  2. びっくり Says:

    At least this time I actually broke an ‘automatic failure’ rule. Last time the instructor said I didn’t stop at a white line, but I had. It was a spot where you have to stop at the line (for the law) and then you have to stop again where you can actually see the cross traffic. The only problem this time is the English translation of the rules is not good so I didn’t know I was in trouble.

    I demanded the Japanese document so I can translate it myself. I had to ask about five times before they’d cough it up. They really don’t want foreigners to know the way. January 18th should be OK…

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