Apple Country

Stories of rural life as an ALT in a northern Japanese fishing town.


Goodbye Car

(Monday 26th January)

In other news, I was on my way home from evening taiko practice thinking how great it was that I hadn’t scratched my car yet this winter, when I skidded on the ice and collided with a snow bank on the other side of the road.  It was dark and the ice had refrozen into a sort of cheese-grater fashion, so this jolted my steering wheel and caused me to lose control; the already terrible breaks did nothing whatsoever, so my only choice was to let the snow bank take care of the situation for me.  It was over very quickly and there was no time to swerve; I just remember veering off to the side and thinking “Oh shit”, then hearing and feeling an almighty bang as I was bounced up in my seat upon impact.   The airbags burst out and my hip got bashed up against the steering wheel, but I knew I hadn’t hit my head.  As the car started filling up with smoke I wasted no time trying to get out, panicking slightly as my door was jammed and wouldn’t open, but managing to crawl out the passenger side instead.  The smoke smelled really bad, and after remembering that the engine was in the back of the car, I knew it was just coming from the airbags.  Upon realising I couldn’t see anything, and in no apparent danger, I popped back in to retrieve the glasses that had flown off my face.

An old lady came hobbling out of nowhere to see what had happened while I was on the phone to my neighbour, and her Tsugaru-ben was too heavy for me to understand properly so I passed her over to tell my neighbour where we were.  Luckily we were only 8 minutes from home so it wasn’t long before they came over.  Meanwhile a family from the house right by the scene came out, whose 12 year old daughter had heard the crash from her bedroom.  Even though it was bloody freezing, they stood outside and waited with me, bringing me a cup of tea and generally being lovely to me.  Then we looked up and realised the concrete telephone pole had cracked so that it was bending slightly from the waist.  Oops!!

When the shock started to set in, I started thinking all those horrible ‘What if’s, like if there had been a person or car there, would I have injured them?  What if I’d hit the pole harder and it fell down?! But there was no pavement, and I knew that I always slow down if I see another car or pedestrian coming, so I hoped that wouldn’t have been the case anyway.  I was going between 45 and 50km/h, which is probably the fastest I should have been going on icy roads (even with winter tyres), but luckily not fast enough to do myself any injury.  Even my supervisor said he drives faster than that on the ice.

So it turns out that despite me thinking that I wasn’t allowed to use the town car for anything except work, this evidently wasn’t the case as my supervisor appeared to have no idea why I had rented a car at all.  To cut a long story short, there was a misunderstanding and I can actually use it to go anywhere in Aomori, as long as I don’t have any passengers, I buy my own petrol for long journeys and I don’t leave it where I can’t get to it easily in an emergency.  I already understood this, but the difference was I just thought I couldn’t use it outside work whatsoever.  Oh well!  Saves me a few quid.  I had to spend the day at the BOE giving a detailed report of the incident.  I didn’t get any points taken off my license because I didn’t do myself or anyone else any injury, wasn’t speeding or driving irresponsibly, and it was clearly the ice that caused the problem.

The man I rented the car from was so kind though and was barely making any money from me using it.  It had to be scrapped, and I felt so bad that I wrecked his car not even having had it for a month.  I made him a cake.  I also felt a bit better when he said that I was his third customer that day who crashed one of his cars.  A teacher at my school also wrecked his car that morning on the ice.  It was clearly a bad day for driving!!  Naturally, the next day was gloriously sunny and all the ice disappeared off the roads.  At least this time I got myself in trouble I was only eight minutes from home, as opposed to 4 hours away by train in another prefecture.