Foreigners hit the skies while ever-increasing numbers of Tokyo-ites hit the highway in order to avoid the radiation poisoning looming overhead. I am handling this disaster the old-fashioned way- with my head in the sand and a drink in my hand. Literally. When Spouse arrives tomorrow, I fully anticipate a day or two spent completely senseless vs. my usual base state, mostly senseless, as I will be “loaded to the gills” as my Dad likes to say. Good thing Spouse is getting here soon or I’ll have to teach Offspring #1 to drive- a few years early.
As it turns out, re-entry to our home country is probably more negative to our health than staying in Japan. Having not driven in 8 months, I consistently hit the brakes on the rental car with a tad too much gusto causing various Offspring to hurl headlong in to the front seat. Where is that oh so useful button on Andretti-san’s car that one pushes instructing the car of heavy traffic conditions thus allowing IT to take over control of the gas pedal. All that going back and forth between the gas and the brake and watching the car in front of me constantly is so cumbersome while I’m trying to tell the Nose what to Fed Ex me.
This GPS actually forces me to enter- with my own fingers- the address. The GPS in Andretti-san’s car appears to be a Harry Potter type device. One can use a cell phone, or a mysterious phone buried somewhere in the car, to call information. The operator doesn’t give a phone number; she sends the coordinates directly to the car and the location magically appears on the screen. This is all completed with the push of one button- getting her on the phone. With my rental car, I’m surprised there’s not a hole in the bottom for my feet.
Since all driving is done on the left side in Japan and I’m converting to the right side, the first few days have been hazardous for those around us. Propping my elbow on the door window is my reminder of which direction- and what lane- to go in a turn.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Being in the US means shoes available for my son Sasquatch. Off we skidded toward the mall to enjoy Americana type shopping. Twice, while in one of the stores selling its own brand of cologne, which apparently got doused by three gallons of it upon opening to cover any odd smells to produce a new more noxious and potent one, I found myself using the Shazam app to get the artist name of a song. What’s next? Justin Bieber? Further, I was so aggravated with the clerk doing her job, ringing up the purchases, as she continued to interrupt these downloads to ask questions, I could hardly be polite. Couldn’t she see I was multi- tasking?
The Clampitt clan continually caused traffic issues in the mall not being used to walking on the right side. Given the escalators are also reversed, I immediately tried to ride the down escalator on this maiden voyage causing many to look over as if I were about to drop with convulsions. Perhaps they were evaluating the best way to avoid interactions if the rigors set in- who knows what I could be suffering from. In Japan, all escalator riders politely stand to the left side so the hurried few can climb and escalate (is that a word?) on the right. This caused confusion for all of us as we grappled with a) getting on the correct escalator b) standing on the correct side c) then realizing no Japanese, or no one else for that matter, was going to be running past on the way up.
On a daily and 4qh regimen, we marinate ourselves in all the grease particular to American junk food. Jack in the Box Tacos, Taco Bell, and Ice Cream with flavors NOT called green tea, red bean, pumpkin or milk. My friends might not recognize me upon our return- I’ll be 18 again- fat, pimpled and greasy haired.
To quote Dan Akroyd:
“OUISER- YOU IGNORANT S%^T!”
How can you be relaxed, joke, shop, and treat the current situation in Japan with levity when thousands of people have died ?”
A question posed in various emails. In this situation, the Offspring have lived through one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, tsunamis that have killed thousands and left their adopted home a wasteland, and worried that we would be the next victims of a Chernobyl type nuclear disaster. All within a 24 hour period. I have learned that as a mother, during a crisis, one’s sole focus becomes the protection and care of the children. To the exclusion of your own well- being.
Were I to change my basic devil may care personality, lose my sense of humor, start gnashing my teeth, and run in panicked circles in the living room, the Offspring would feel the further panic of a mother not able to care for them in a crisis thus undermining their sense of confidence and stability not only now but in the future. Watching for all signs as to how to act, they watch Spouse and me as gauges to the severity of the current crisis. Our message to them, right now, is that we are safe. You are out of harm’s way. We are your parents, we are taking care of you. It’s all ok.
At 12 and 14 do they need to see all the images on tv? No.The tv has been turned off. Facebook, the newspaper, and the internet has exposed them to the truth of the situation at home. Daily we answer their questions, slowly, so they can fathom and absorb the magnitude of the truth. They watch as Spouse and I carefully, methodically comb through all the news sources and educate ourselves as to the truth of the situation. They are learning, by watching and talking to us, that panicking and listening to rumors is not the way to manage a crisis. Remaining calm, taking deep breaths, thinking clearly, no matter what the situation, is the key to managing through any crisis. A life lesson.
Right now, the experts don’t need well-intentioned, inexperienced ExPats running in to crisis zones offering aide. But once the clean up begins, help will come from many avenues and the Clampitts- all of us- will participate in the recovery of our new home. The next life lesson for the Offspring.
And many thanks to all of you for your well wishes, messages of concern, and prayers, for us and all of Japan.