Every so often I get to comparing driving a car here on Okinawa to what I was used to back in the States. The usual car is rather small compared to our average American car. My son, in fact, calls them “race cars” and he has a point. Quite often I feel like I’m in the Indy 500.
I’m not saying we drive fast here, Mama, actually compared to 1-75 back home it’s quite slow. It’s just that when you’re driving down a street wide enough for two pedestrians and one car, and then you meet up with a trash truck, well… The feeling is akin to claustrophobia (so what if the trash truck is small too!). acrophobia (looking over the road side down a three foot drop—into the storm ditch) and pure panic (reverse, where’s the reverse?!).
We feel like our driving talents have increased since our arrival. Hubby keeps saying, “I’ll get a Caddy and drive it through Atlanta traffic on two wheels – you’ll see!” Trust and defensive driving are the keys to staying alive here, however, trusting the fellow next to you to do something (like u-turns, turning left from the through lane, etc) that you aren’t expecting.
Therefore, one drives defensively with eyes wide open. Defensive driving is trying to close your mouth when the taxi driver decides he needs your lane and there’s only three feet of space there; laughing when the man in front does a double u-turn and ends up behind you; waiting to see if anyone will let you through the left hand lane from the right so you can make the street that was hiding behind the bus a moment before.
That last example is purely American. I darn near lost my cool while trying to turn left one day recently. I waited and waited and waited until the five cars behind me started honking. With traffic coming in both directions, I realized they meant for me to move out into the street to force the oncoming cars to stop. Well, even though I automatically swing into the right lane nowadays to avoid stopping behind a left-turner (no matter whether there’s traffic or not), I still lack the courage, brazenness and/or heart to just move into traffic like they do here.
That kind of courage or knowledge of self seems to be taught here from a young age. Not long after our arrival we took a drive towards south Okinawa. On a flat, straight section of road we spotted five youngsters ahead. One stout fellow raised his hand to stop us and proceeded across the road with his friend.
We quickly realized there were no cars in front of us and none for miles behind. As we turned to watch them after we passed, those two boys with the three girls from the other side raced giggling and laughing back across the road – back across to await their next victims!
Sayonara from the land of confident Okinawa drivers and minature Coca-Cola trucks.