We interrupt your scheduled Hong Kong broadcasting to bring you this message: Do not assume that you may advance through the intersection just because your light is green. What? You didn’t see that Japanese sign where it says not to make a right turn back before you pulled onto the street? Well too bad. Please sit here in the thick of traffic while I spend 30 minutes writing you a ticket, then pull you over again because I put the wrong traffic violation on it and have to re-write it. Yes, you still have to pay it. So I’m in Yamato checking out this produce stand my friend Stephanie mentioned. Sure enough, the veggies are pretty cheap and I congratulate myself on fresh food and saving money. Next time maybe I’ll try those funny-looking oranges or whatever. But for now I better get back to my scooter, which is parked next to another scooter and several bikes and a sign that says, “Don’t park bikes here.” I hurry across the square and–get this–pray I won’t have a parking ticket. And I didn’t! I was very thankful. God has kind of a sick sense of humor sometimes. I pull off the sidewalk into the crosswalk, back up out of the crosswalk, and wait. Should I go straight and sort of zig-zag home? Or should I turn and risk traffic going the faster direct way? The light turns green. I go right. Cars are stacked up in traffic, but this is no problem for me: I weave around them all just in time to catch another green light.
Then I see the a police woman and a police man. The woman is waving to me. I wave back. She waves me over. Oh. I stop, thinking she’ll say something in Japanese, which I won’t understand, and then she’ll say, “No pass cars!” or something and let me go. No such luck. “Light! No right!” she says. “Huh? Pardon?” I ask. I went straight through that last light. “There, you turn right, yes?” “Oh. Yes.” “You American?” “Yes.” She pulls out a map of the intersection with many infractions and red Xs drawn on it, then points to where I was and says, “No right turn!” I said. “Oh, I did not know that. Is there a sign?” She says, “Sign? Yes. No right turn,” tapping the well-worn, hand-drawn map of infractions. She asks for my license. I give her my Florida license, base ID and Japanese license. She looks at them all and says, “You are United States American?” I confirm, and she has me fill out some paperwork that will tattle on me to Chris’ squadron (sorry whoever has to deal with that paper!). Then she says, “I will write you a ticket. It will take five minutes.” Half an hour later after she’s done shuffling my licenses around and has given up looking for my Japanese address on my license (I’d already written it down, but she wanted the license version for some reason), she hands me back my paperwork and has me sign the ticket. She apologizes and asks me to instead print my name last name first. Then she goes back to the other man, who has meanwhile been flagging other people down and sending them to another cop to get tickets, and together they look at the paperwork and start laughing. I frown, put my helmet back on and drive off. I’m sitting at the next light when the same policewoman comes running over to me. “Sumimasen! Sorry! May I see the blue paper?” This means pulling over again, turning the Scoop off and popping the seat again. I hand it to her. She again explains my wrong turn, then shows me how she wrote it down wrong and fixes it. So she’s allowed to fix her wrong paperwork, but I can’t just fix my wrong turn when I never even drove on the section of road with the sign?! ….said the person who parked illegally two minutes prior…..ok still. Anywho, now I have to take my dumb ticket and 5,000 yen to the post office by next week! I guess you don’t really live somewhere until you’ve gotten a traffic violation, but sheesh! This is especially dumb because I’d concocted a very Japanese outfit for today and was enjoying it. Now it’s my Traffic Ticket Outfit. Dumb. So much for trying out the oranges; my produce money for the rest of the month has been spent.