Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Parking Ticket Part 2

Like any offical thing in Japan, paying a parking ticket is a pain in the ass.

After figuring out what to do with the thing, I made my way back to the original office that issued the ticket. The one in Sapporo (Atsubetsu to be precise). Armed with triple gaijin power (aka: three blonde western women, one from Texas) I went in to face Japanese bureacracy, hoping that feigning a complete lack of Japanese would help me out of a hefty fine.

At the reception desk, once it was established who the offender was, I was led to the back office of the station. Funny, it looked just like the inside of every other Japanese office I have ever been to. Only with more people in police uniforms. Nobody in helmets though. I guess the helmets are only for driving in. No, I did not make that last comment up just to be funny.

I was seated at a desk, across from a very cute, young officer and a very nice older officer. They proceeded to examine the ticket, and then explained to me why I had recieved the ticket. They drew a helpful diagram and everything. Just so you know -- don't park on the sidewalk. That is where the people go! Cars should stay on the street. Sidewalk = X, road = O. I wish I could have kept the diagram. It was awesome. If it wasn't a police office I would have laughed out loud.

During this time, more officers gathered around to examine my ticket. And make me nervous.

With the reason for the ticket established, the next step was getting all of my details and explaining the procedure for the ticket.

The first thing they wanted to know was where I got the ticket.

"Well, I was dropping my friends off at their house -- I was only there for thirty minutes."

"Friends? Mr. Benjamin?"

"Ummmm... yeees.... Ben."

"Your friend? Mr. Benjamin?"


The older police officer pulled out a map. He knew my friends too. At first, all I could think was, great. Now they want to drag them into it! In fact, they were trying to see if they knew anybody who spoke English who could explain things to me. Apparently they even went out to the lobby to check the Japanese of my friends (spoken, not so hot; listening? Excellent). Did "Mr. Benjamin" speak Japanese? No, and his wife only speaks a little.

Eventually, the eight police officers surrounding me decided that they should call someone who apparently spoke English. Good thing I'm gaining proficiency in ESL.

I was handed a telephone. One of the eight officers "helping" write up this ticket knew an English teacher who could help.

She explained in choppy English what I had just understood in Japanese -- yes, you are getting a ticket. You have to pay it at a post office within a week. I was also given a postal payment slip with an amount and a big red date on it -- generally good clues that there is money due at some point.

There was further discussion among the officers in Japanese.

I was given a sheet written in legalese (I don't speak that one) about how my ticket would be handled if I failed to pay. And of course, handed the phone to have it "explained" to me in English.

They all seemed terribly sorry to have to issue me a real ticket, and extremely willing to help with everything. I even tried the old "It's my first ticket" thing, but that didn't work. There was paper to be filled out, and this large Sapporo-area police station had nothing better to do than to help the gaijin living in the sticks figure out her parking ticket.

I got a big "ki o tsukette; take care of yourself!" on my way out. They were very nice about the infraction. It would have been nicer if they had ignored the infraction.

It was an interesting and unintentionally comic experience in Japanese law, to say the least.

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