The Double-Take at the Left-Hand-Side Steering Wheel

Unlike the rest of my peers back home who are currently enjoying their winter breaks, my break lasted just about two weeks. This is because fall semester at YNU starts in October and ends in mid-February. It’s roughly the same period of time spent studying, except set up so that the spring semester doesn’t start at the end of January — it, instead, actually starts in springtime, at the beginning of April.

Unfortunately while I was partying it up in Tokyo like crazy (as people came to visit and I wouldn’t get to see them for another seven months, at least!), I caught the season’s flu two days before my return to school, and it manifested itself in several ways over the first week back, culminating in my first absence from a class on a Friday morning. Thankfully, the weekend allowed me plenty of time to rest and recuperate, and now the symptoms are all but gone…except for one heck of a sore throat and — I’m gonna blame this on the illness — a messed-up circadian rhythm.

So here I am, playing games on my computer when suddenly hunger calls. I’d just finished off the bag of rice that’d lasted me through the past month and a bit, and my only pot was currently full of oil, having been used as a deep-fryer for karaage. I decided I’d just get a bento from the 24-hour bento place in the neighborhood, because it’s cheap, fast, fresh, and filling, and not in the Western fast food kinda way. (An aside: twice-cooked Szechuan pork stir-fry is amazingly delicious and I need to learn how to make it.)

As it turns out, it’s on the other side of the shopping street, across the river. That was fine by me, and the walk to and from the place was actually sort of refreshing.

It was on the way back that I saw a car, engine active, straddling the side of a parking lot like the lot was full and it decided to just block the lot in protest. Inside the car was a single man sitting in the front, left-hand-side of the car, with one of his hands on the steering wheel waiting expectantly.

Wait a minute, I thought.

Wait just a damn minute.

I tried to remember how the insides of cars looked back home. It was sort of surreal, that moment: no matter how many times I conjured up the inside of a car, driver’s side on the left, my mind was asking are you sure that’s how it was? Only while waiting for the crossing light on the main road did I confirm by means of the cars speeding by: yes, cars in America do have steering wheels on the left side of the vehicle, and drive on the right side of the road, and cars in Japan have steering wheels on the right side of the vehicle and drive on the left side of the road. Which means that car I’d passed was perhaps imported from America or some other place with left-side steering wheels.

What blows my mind is how long it took me to confirm that; and the fact that it took just about three months to get to this point. That was a bit weird.

I guess for the time being I’ll blame that, too, on the flu… ◆

Leave a Reply