Category Archives: Bureaucracy

Passing the Time Popcorn Style


I had to go renew my driver’s license yesterday. This takes place in a dreary Quonset hut tucked behind the local police station. You pay your money, take your eye test, have a photo taken and then sit through a lecture and video. I was sitting there waiting for the lecture to start when a man came into the room. “Sterner-san, I turned on the English sub-titles so you should sit up front where you can see them.”

(Grrr. I can see them from here; I just passed my eye test, you know. And you could have called less attention to me by dumping a bucket of confetti over my head.)

But I’m a good little citizen, so I gathered my stuff and moved forward. Then the lecture began with, “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen and thank you for waiting. I put in the English video because we have a foreigner here today, but don’t worry. The words are the same as the Japanese narration, so just ignore them.”

(OK, make that two buckets of confetti with a rousing backup chorus of off-key kazoos. The kind part of me figured the man had one of the most mind-numbingly boring jobs in the universe and had to get his kicks somewhere. The not-so-kind part of me wanted to do unspeakable things to his danglers.)

Then he started to drone along about traffic statistics and such. The rest of the captive audience pretended to listen. I folded my hands in my lap, closed my eyes and visualized him as a popcorn machine happily pinging away in the lobby of an old fashioned movie house. The people’s voices coming from beyond the partition were other patrons waiting for the movie to start, but when it did we were all disappointed. It provided vital information like that we must always wear seat belts and drive slowly around children, especially when it’s raining, and mustn’t forget to stop at stop signs.

OK, I’ll try to remember all that.

There was one cool part, though, a demonstration of what happens when a car slams into a wall. At 50kph, the front end of the car crumples and the crash dummies inside it get whiplash. At 130kph, the front end crumples, the car raises its rear into the air and the whole vehicle does an elegant back flip, landing on its roof. There was no word on the fate of the crash dummies, but I fear the worst.

So, I now have a shiny new driver’s license which I will probably never use. I know that I should never drive the car I don’t own into a wall at 130kph. I will ALWAYS make sure my crash dummies wear their seat belts.

I was also reminded that a solid dose of boredom helps me appreciate the sunnier aspects of my life, of which there are many, and I continue to be grateful for that.

Oh, and a little popcorn goes a long way.