Monday, April 6, 2009

Japanese Car Accident

April's Fool's Day is supposed to be funny. You're supposed to play a prank on someone, maybe even more than one person. I had a couple of ideas in mind but didn't get the chance to follow through. My April Fool's Day was anything but funny!

Have you ever been in a car accident? How about a car accident in a foreign country? How about a foreign country that doesn't speak English? On Wednesday I was driving the kids home from school and we were less than five minutes from the house when I saw a car pulling out of a parking lot. I swerved right (don't forget, we drive on the other side of the road) to avoid her, but it didn't work. She hit the passenger door (on the left side of the car), the back quarter panel and side of the bumper. She pulled out onto the road and turned right, only I was right there and she didn't see me. For you local readers, it happened on Route 24 almost across the street from Maruetsu. She pulled out of the parking lot that's behind the police officer.

The Japanese police were there in about three minutes! I pulled over and called the base police. We live in Ikego, not on the main base (Yokosuka), so I called the Ikego emergency number to have the MPs (military police) come out. After that I called my friend since I had her child in the car with me, and then I called Bob at work. I've never called him at work [here] before because we've never had an emergency. He was in a meeting and called me back about 10 minutes later. About 15 minutes after that he showed up. The MPs arrived a few minutes before Bob, and with them came the liaison. The liaison is bilingual and communicates/translates for everyone. The person driving behind me happened to be an American and she pulled off in front of me and stayed until the MPs arrived. So Kristen in Ikego, thank you very much! You helped calm my nerves and I truly appreciate you taking the time to stay with me. The woman that hit us came over to see if we were all right. She was very kind, didn't speak a word of English and was obviously shaken. She apologized saying "Gomenasai" a few times and I smiled and nodded my head. I wasn't sure exactly what to say or do because Japanese law is different than in the U.S.

I didn't need Bob to come out there. Everything was being handled, we were all fine and only a couple of minutes from home. The MPs were going to follow me back anyway, so him coming wouldn't be necessary. But he showed up anyway which ended up being a relief, and his command was very gracious. He didn't have to go back in to work and they even called a couple of times to check on us and make sure we were all right.

I always carry my little camera with me. It's a tiny thing that takes video and doesn't even have a view finder. It's not much bigger than a cell phone, and naturally I took pictures while we were waiting. My car and her car, then the Japanese police van and police officer. After we got home Bob asked me if I was going to blog about it. It hadn't occurred to me right away, my nerves were a bit rattled and my hands had just stopped shaking. When he saw me sorting through pictures and starting a rough draft he chuckled.

The ball is rolling with the insurance and all that jazz and now it's a waiting game to see if the car will be repaired or if we'll get another one. It's a 1997 Honda Odyssey and not worth a whole lot...just about all the Americans here drive junkers and they're passed down as people PCS. The passenger door in front (the driver door for you in the U.S.) won't open, the rear passenger door opens but feels like it'll fall off (and makes a creepy sounding noise) and the bumper on one side is kind of hanging off...but won't fall off. The bumper was also pushed up so it blocks the hatchback from opening.

We're all fine and that's what counts! The liaison from Security called this morning. She told me the woman that hit us called to ask about the kids and is worried about them. Oh, I forgot to mention that the woman's insurance company called Security the night of the accident to check up on the kids. Anyway, the woman wanted to bring something by Security for us and Security called and asked if that was all right. I reassured the liaison we're all fine and said it wasn't necessary, but the woman had already planned on coming. I asked if I should bring a thank you card down for her and she said it'd be nice. I asked what time she was coming because I wanted to go with the kids so she could see for herself that we're all fine and that the kids are running around and act as if nothing happened!

Shortly before we left I told the girls where we were going, what we were doing and who'd we be seeing. I told them the woman would be speaking Japanese and that we wouldn't understand her, but that someone would be there to translate for us. I also told them she would probably bow and apologize, and that they could bow back and give her a hug if they liked. We walked in and she immediately started bowing, Keanna bowed back, Sydney went to give her a hug and then Keanna joined in. It was a big group hug and the woman was clearly touched. We spent maybe five or six minutes there and had a nice translated chat. She has a two year old grandchild and felt terrible when she saw the kids in the car. She also brought us cookies, and cookies (the size of my hand!) help make everything better! I wrote a card which she opened and the liaison translated for her. I gave her an American card and she opened it backwards - we all chuckled at that. Japanese books, magazines, etc have the binding on the right side.
She got a little teary eyed after hearing what the card said, bowed to me and I bowed back and gave her a hug.

And as for the cookies, they're delicious...and the 13"x9" tin came with 20 of them!


Amanda said...

So glad you're all ok, and what a sweet lady!

Lea said...

And to think here in the US you just cuss at each other, lie about having the best lawyer in town and start rubbing your neck!! LOL

So glad you're ok!! TAKE CARE!!

Where's the Fork said...

Now you can add Japanese car accident to your list of overseas adventures. Very glad you and the girls are okay.

Steph said...

I'm glad everyone is okay.

Joe and Samantha said...

Hi. :) Try to post on this blog-
Anyway- We're staying at a Marriott.

I would just like Dee(My sister-in-law) to maybe get a chance to meet you all(with us) - so she knows some people. :)

And I'd like to meet you!

Maybe we can try to do something in the middle? Lunch one day or something?? No idea how much cabs cost-etc

As it gets closer, I'll msg you again.

Inkspots said...

So you're ok! We've been in a couple accidents while overseas--none recently thankfully--and they are scary situations with the whole unknown and all. Hope the process continues to go smoothly.

Dollars to Yen said...

Are the cookies made with real birds? I'm asking for a friend.

terri said...

WOW Katie! You sure are having quite the adventure!
I'm glad everyone is ok and the lady worrying about the girls was very nice. Even nicer that you got cookies! :)

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