With that said… my husband is quick to remind me that it didn’t happen to anyone. It happened to me. And I will never, EVER, live it down.
My friend Kim lives less than a mile from me on the Sunabe Seawall. I make exactly two turns to get to her house. Lately she’s been my workout buddy/inspiration so I have been driving over to her house at an ungodly hour so that we can hit the gym before her babies rise and her husband goes off to work. I wish I could tell you this happened at one of those really, really early hours. But it didn’t.
There is really no excuse. Oh, except for these few excuses that I have already come up with:
- Japanese roads are crazy.
- There is no sign, no painted warning, nothing to warn people who are coming up to this spot that the road ends.
- Even if there had been a warning (which there isn’t) I wouldn’t have been able to read it.
- It was early (not that early). And I had been up late (really, really late, as I often am when I get going on a project). And I hadn’t had coffee yet.
- I’d been working for 16 days straight and I was exhausted. (Plus my first graders were some of the toughest kids I have ever worked with- more on that another time).
Okay those are all of the excuses I have tried to use to make this seem less crazy… but they sound more and more weak every time I use them (which has been a lot) because this story circulated like wildfire.
So here’s how it happened. I left my house with a dog and a cup of coffee that was still too hot to sip. I was supposed to babysit while Kim got her hair done. Between subbing, photos, and a design job, I had been working for 16 days straight. I zoned out and drove past her house. Once I realized I was off course, and lost in the middle of rows of monopoly houses that feel like a maze, I decided I needed to get back out to the main road to get my bearings.
I was on a street, there was a parking lot, and I could see the main street right beyond the parking lot.
Oh yeah! # 6. We cut through parking lots a lot here. In fact, one of those two turns I take to get to Kim’s is under an apartment building and through a parking lot.
Okay, that’s the last excuse.
So, all I had to do was drive through the parking lot in front of me to get to a street I knew. One of the two telephone poles that I was going to drive between was leaning, so I looked up as I inched closer. I wondered if it was safe to drive under a leaning a pole, but there were no electrical cords and no sign markers that I could find that said not to proceed. So I continued driving, looking up, and then… well… It’s pretty obvious what happened… I drove off a ledge. I guess I should have been looking down.
It would be hard to put into words what went through my mind after I drove off the ledge. I just sort of sat there thinking, “Huh… is this a dream? Did I really just drive off a ledge in real life?” I had.
I got out of the car and realized, to my chagrin that I knew exactly where I was… (two blocks from Kim’s house), and went off in search of help. I ran into a friendly Marine who thought I was joking when I suggested that maybe, with his help, I might be able to lift the front of the car up eight inches to get it back on the road.
“You need at least 5 or 6 guys to do that,” he told me. He clearly couldn’t tell that I have been working out. Then his face lit up. “I actually just saw a whole bunch of Japanese construction workers up the street and they have a crane. If you show them a picture of your car, they will know what you need.”
So I walked back to my car: in my sweatshirt, with no makeup, and a five-pound dog tucked under my arm. I was sure that I very much looked the part of a girl who might drive off of a ledge. I snapped a picture of the car and walked off in search of the construction workers.
“Ohayō,” I said, as I approached them. They all bowed to let me pass and I said, “No, no,” offering them my phone. They looked at the picture I had pulled up on the screen. No one laughed. The Japanese hate to be rude. They just nodded solemnly and passed the phone around. The leader of the group nodded and said, “Hhhooookay,” accompanied by, what I can only call a “we-can-do-it” fist pump. They started marching in the direction of my car.
“Don’t you need the crane.. umm.. the machine?” I asked pointing at the crane. “No, no,” he told me. So we marched. A blonde girl in a sweatshirt leading six Japanese men in hard hats. Single file.
As much as the Japanese hate to be rude, as we rounded the corner to see my car, they just couldn’t help themselves. I’d say about 4 of the 6 men broke into laughter. “I know, I know,” I said tapping my head with my hand as if to say, “I’m an idiot.”
They tried to lift the car. Every time they got it a little bit closer. Then the leader signaled to everyone and they started stretching. I am so glad that Kim had walked out of her house by this point to start taking pictures. As much as I wish it hadn’t happened, I’m so grateful that I have the pictures to illustrate and remember it.
After their round of group stretching, they counted, heaved, and voila! The car rolled back onto the street and I was back in business.
Kim was late to her hair appointment, and I can guarantee she has felt better about leaving her children in the care of others in the past. But these things happen. Again, not to everyone, but to some of us. And I stand by my statement: It could happen to anyone.