Thursday, October 26, 2006

My Car Accident, Part I

On, Wednesday, October 25th at 6:50 a.m. I got to experience a car accident in Japan. Before I tell my story; I want to quickly explain the major similarity and difference to wrecks in Japan vs. the USA (your personal experience may differ).

Similar: It stinks (not literally ... I mean it's no fun, no good, etc.)
Difference: You can't understand a lick of what anyone is saying

On with the story ... I was driving to work and was 1 stop light away from work on a two lane road. The light turned red so the guy in front of me stopped, I stopped; however, the car behind me decided to accelerate! Honestly! She told the everyone that she pressed on the accel pedal as they call it. I just happened to look in the review mirror only milliseconds before impact so I had no time to prepare. She hit me so hard that I hit the guy in front of me.

(Pictures: 1-her car, 2-back of my car, 3-front of my car) She immediately got out and ran to my window panicking making sure I was OK, atleast that is my guess of what she was say ... oh yeah, she was also saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." My head was whiplashed, but I felt OK, no loss of consciousness or anything. I got out of the car and proceeded to tell her daijobu desu, which means It's OK (I'm OK). She ran up to the other car and made sure the other guys was OK and he was. I proceeded to call Ashley for the phone number of the car lease company and she reminded me I should call ReloJapan so I did, meanwhile, the other parties were call the police (and maybe family) ... I guess. Toyota City paramedics came in about 15 minutes and procceded to make sure everyone was OK. We all were. After they marked in chalk on the ground where my car and her car was positioned (he already pulled off), we pulled them off to the side of the road.

Around that time a co-worker, Ono-san, in another department stopped up the road and ran up to make sure I was OK. He can speak/understand Janglish (Japanese & English). He helped me get the information of the other people and helped to explain to ReloJapan a little better idea of where I was, etc. He called the office and got a hold of one of my A/Ms, Ohki-san. When Ohki-san arrived, Ono-san proceeded to go to the office (~7:30). Ohki-san proceeded to talk to the other parties while were were waiting for the police to show up. (The picture to the right is the guys car that I hit)

Finally a policeman on his little moped showed up and proceeded to say and lot of stuff (in Japanese) and I think everyone was explaining what happened. The lady was taking full responsibility and told everyone it was her fault and she was accelerating and not braking. So they got out their insurance information and me, mine. The policeman started to fill out his report and gather her information and then gathered mine (sidenote: hand a policeman an International Driver's License and you can almost literally see the wheels turn as he tries to figure out what to do ... picture, Left). He called in to someone to check out what to do and finally everything was OK. He proceded to take my information and finally the other guys. Meanwhile tow trucks had arrived for the other two parties to take their cars. I think the guys was drivable, but the ladies was not. Mine however was. While the policeman was wrapping everything up, Nakae-san (a Group Manager from another office
that knows me pretty well) and Sekine-san (a translator that works in another office but I often help with translating and vice versa) showed up to make sure I was OK and if I needed any help. Later, I found out that when they got to the office that morning, there were several people talking about the accident and a couple ladies told her and Nakae-san that they thought it was me so they both hoped in a car and went to find out. So around 8:10 a.m. I drove to my regular parking lot and proceeded to call Ashley again and tell her everything was OK and go into work.

Now is a good time to explain about driving in Japan and your company's relation to you. I'm gonna throw out several pieces of information so you can get a better picture. For Toyota (maybe other Japanese companies as well) if you are pulled over while having drunk then you will be fired! If you are in a traffic accident that is your fault then you must get up in front of your group and tell them that you are sorry for having an accident and basically "disgraced you and your co-workers." Then you and your whole group will have to stand on a street corner for about a hour and hold signs that say "be safe while driving, etc." In some companies, there is a wall of shame, literally! You get your picture taken and it is posted on the wall ... I have seen it! Since it wasn't my fault I will not experience any of these opportunities!

I walked to the office to which everyone is already talking about it and everyone asks me if I am OK, do you need to go to the hospital, etc. For now I am OK so I proceed to get started on work stuff, go to some meetings, etc. For lunch I got out with another co-worker as I needed to go to the bank to get another problem fixed (and it was). That is about all the work I did this day.

At 1:00 p.m. I met with my General Manager to explain what happened. I started explaining, but by that time he already had heard in detail so he cut me off and said, "I know what happened, I am only interested in your health." I told him I was OK, but my neck was getting a little stiff ... oh yeah, they already told me before lunch I was going to the hospital! So I told him was going to the hospital at 3:00 and would get checked out.

At 2:00 p.m. the lease agent I deal with for the Corolla came to Kamigo to switch me cars. Earlier that morning, I had talked to him and we arranged for him to pick it up at mine & Ashley's house at 8:00, but Ohki-san called him later and probably said you may want to come and look at it this afternoon. So at 2:00 Uno-san came with a replacement car that I can use until the other car is repaired! No questions asked ... of course he had already heard the story. He said it will probably take 1 month to repair and I could use the replacement car until the other one is returned to me.

Ohki-san, Sekine-san and I wen to the Toyota Memorial Hospital & Clinic to get some x-rays. If you don't believe that Japan is very structured, just go to the hospital! We had an appointment (this is a hospital, not a doctor's office). Ohki-san filled out my paperwork and I proceded to get a hospital card with all of my information stored in it (basically like a membership card, this is one membership I didn't need!). You use this card for everything. We went into the waiting room where they then called for me to go into a private consulting room where the nurse asked me questions and Sekine-san translated and I answered. She then did a couple of small physical checks to make sure there was no major neck trauma (stuff like hand
strength, balance, feeling, etc.) From there we took my updated card and went to radiology to get two neck x-rays which took all of 3 minutes and returned to the waiting room. They called us back in and had the x-rays up on the computer screens. I was told everything looked OK and they asked if I wanted any pain medicine so I said sure. They punched it in the computer system and sent us back out to the lobby. By this point I found out that Wednesday was basically surgery day for orthopedics so they didn't take any walk in consultations ... I am going back tomorrow!

At the lobby we got the bill and I paid at an ATM machine in the lobby. You guessed it, slide the card in get your total and then pay with a credit card or cash and get your receipt! We got an ID number for my prescriptions and when you number appears on a large board you got the window (pick up the phone, dial you number) and someone brings you your prescriptions. Then your done! We went back to work and I proceeded to finishin checking my e-mails, etc. and then it was 5:00 p.m.

Overall, it was an eventful day, but one I could have done without during or stay in Japan! I will definitely have to say that everyone was very helpful and it is definitely a blessing to have many friedns and co-workers at work that care about your health and safety.

Today I had to go back to the hospital (with Ochiai-san and Sekine-san) to talk to the orthopedic specialist. This time we went to a different building building and were seeing the doctor withing 15 minutes. After he talked to me for a minute (via Sekine-san) he wanted to have 2 more X-rays taken. We went down to Radiology, got the x-Rays and were back up in 10 minutes. They took two more, one of my looking down and one of me looking up. When we saw the doctor he said that everything looked good. He said that in a netural position my neck looked fine, but he wanted to check the other 2 positions as you can see if there is some damage more easily in those positions. He gave me a prescription for pain and some cold packs for my neck. We went down to the pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions (you don't get a piece of paper, it is all done electronically). When they gave me the pain pills they actually gave me another pack of pills to coat my stomach becase the pain pills are very strong (or so they said). While that was taking place Ochiai-san was trying to figure out when I would get paid back for the money that I had to pay yesterday so it was a pleasant suprise when he told me I would get the money back then! We returned to the 1st building of the day, I signed a receipt, and received the money back in cash that I paid yesterday (that's service, no waiting for the check in the mail)! Sekine-san also told me today that my whole ordeal applied for workman's comp so that's why I got the money back so quickly! Well, that's about it ... I will take some medicine for 10 days and use cold packs for the next few days and everything should be fine!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Random Stuff

Well, I just started thinking today about stuff in Japan that I find interesting if not annoying at times.
  • 24 (the TV show) is a big hit in Japan. Lots of people that I and other ICTs work with talk about 24 all the time. The funny thing is they are only on Season 3 or 4 so lots of people rent the DVDs. I got our friend, Lynn, hooked on it, well she want to watch it and since I have all the seasons I let her borrow Season 1 to start ... 3 weeks later she is done with Season 2!
  • The price of gas is ¥140 yen per liter ... 4 liters per gallon ... and a conversion rate of about .0085 ... that's $4.76 a gallon! It costs $40.46 to fill up our bB. $2.00 is nothing!
  • They don't bag your groceries at the grocery store. They put them in another basket and then you walk over to a counter and bag them yourself!
  • I have seen more people drive on the shoulder of the road, passing regular traffic, than I have seen cars broke down on the side of the road. One morning when I was going to work and there was no traffic (and I was cruising along) this guy decided he needed to drive along on the shoulder, I don't know!
  • They use hazard lights to say thank you, I like that! They use hazard lights to tell people they are braking also ... I sorta understand, but that's what brake lights are for, right?
  • And maybe the funniest thing we have experienced so far is ... well, some background information is needed. On our friend Merle's website he has posted a music video done with guys on treadmills. You can see it below. Well, we were in Nagoya at a sporting goods store and heard the song playing over the loud speakers, we just started laughing.
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  • And the last one fore this post is about fashion. It IS okay to wear black fishnet stockings, a camo skirt, t-shirt, blue jean jacket, and pink stilettos!

Monday, October 02, 2006

And you're doing what for 15 months?

So we thought that it might be a good idea for me to put on here what it is that I do during the week while Jonathan is at work. I have recently joined the CCEA, Cross Cultural Exchange Association, which is composed of women from around the world. Most women are here with their husbands like me, some have married Japanese men, and about half are Japanese women. With this association there is a monthly meeting and a monthly meet and greet lunch at an American restaurant. There are also about 11 interest groups that meet once a month. Today I went to and enjoyed book club, where you read the book picked and then discuss it at the meeting. I am also interested in the needle arts group, where anything that involves a needle and thread applies. Also every Thursday I have Yukata class where we are learning to make our own Yukata, summer kimono, which is very fun and interesting. - By the way we make our Yukata's completely by hand...no sewing machines allowed!! - Once a month after Yukata class there is tea ceremony and the next week calligraphy, at our Yukata teachers house but taught by a different person that I'm looking forward to trying. There is also ikebana, Japanese flower arranging, once a month that I can't wait to start. I have started to meet lots of new people and make friends. It seems like there are at least 2 days a week that I'm gone all day long, whether I'm at a class/interest group or out with friends shopping or wandering around town. One day a week, at least, when I don't have plans out and about I do the laundry and stuff around the house. The other days I have homework to do, whether it's reading my book for book club or sewing some part of my Yukata together. Then the weekends we've been traveling and staying busy.