Facing Your Fears

I have said before that I prefer to draw as little attention to myself as possible.  But when unwanted attention comes it can leave me with lingering distress, and it can take me a long time to recover.  I suppose the old saying about falling off a horse is true,  get right back on again and get over it.  That’s sometimes easier said than done.  One recent self inflicted trama happened on November 5th, 2006.  I will never forget that day.

Bobbie and I planned a trip to Sendai to visit some friends and we were going by train.  Neither of us had tried to telephone for a taxi in Japanese and we live too far from the station to walk so we decided to take our car and park it somewhere near the station.  I researched parking garages in the vicinity and soon discovered it was not cheap to park in central Koriyama.  A country where, in order to register your car, one has to prove to the registering authorities that there is a spot to park said car should have been a clue to me that parking in town is at a premium.  500 yen (about $4.30) for thirty minutes is not uncommon and there is no maximum amount.  A twelve hour trip to Sendai and it will be a very expensive parking tab.  I even asked coworkers about cheap parking near the station.  Usually the response was laughter followed by, “No, really, what were you going to ask me?”  Someone did mention a hotel that offered parking for 500 yen a pop, max!  That sounded good to me.  After all, it was the hotel we had stayed at for three weeks. I was familiar with the parking garage and it was only a 15 minute walk to the station. So on Sunday, November 5th, 2006, Bobbie and I drove to the hotel, parked the car and walked to the station.  We had a wonderful time in Sendai, sightseeing and visiting with our friends.  Late that evening we took the train back to Koriyama and a taxi to the hotel.  It had gotten colder and we decided we didn’t want to walk.  At the hotel we located our car jumped in and drove to the exit.  I stuck in my parking ticket and the display illuminated 5500 yen.  We both went, “wooo” at the same time.  Clearly the garage charges by the hour.  Oh well, just one of life’s little lessons I


was about to pay for. I slipped a 5000 yen note into the slot.  The machine spit it back.  I put in a 1000 yen bill, it spit it back.  A 10000 yen came flying back at me as well.  I turned the bills around, upside down, over and backwards. I even smoothed them out, nothing helped.  I put in a 500 yen coin, a one hundred yen coin, even fifties.  They all were tossed back.  Ok so we’re stuck here.  My ticket is in the machine, the machine wants 5500 yen, and it won’t take my money.  The machine is talking to me in Japanese and lights are flashing. What could be worse?  It got worse.  Now there are two, maybe three, cars behind me wanting out.  I am now in a panic, everyone is looking at me and waiting for me to move and I’m holding everyone up.  I have just officially drawn more than a little attention to myself.  Just as I’m about to bolt from the car and race up the ramp to freedom a hotel attendant comes to my aid, apologizing of course, and he doesn’t even know why yet.  

Quickly he takes in the situation and surmises my dilemma.  He manually raises the exit gate and begins to instruct me, “hai dozo, hai dozo” (please do, please do) and I do, up the ramp down the street and home as fast as I can.  Unfortunately I am now emotionally scarred.  It has now been almost five months since that horrific event and I have not parked in a pay parking garage since then.  If we need to go into central Koriyama for anything we park at the Mall and walk, it’s only about a twenty minute walk and we have coats and hats to protect us from the cold.  But things are about to change.

Our friend from Sendai is coming to visit and we will pick him up at the station.  Bobbie can not be convinced that he would enjoy a twenty minute walk.  She thinks that the rain mixed with snow, the wind and the 30 degree temperature would not be pleasant.  So as I drive by the last of the free, easy parking my heart rate increases and my anxiety goes up.  Uhmm, I know, I’ll park at the "Big I" building, an office and department store, parking garage.  I’ve been in there with a friend (he was driving) and everything went ok.  I'm feeling better now, everything will be fine, except I can’t locate the entrance in the maze of streets and alleys.  Boy I’m getting more anxious now.  Ok I’ll park in another garage I see.  Here goes.  Too late to turn back now. I’m in, I have a ticket and will have to pay to get out so I might as well find a place to park.  We’re parked now. We have been to the station and we have our friend in tow.  Only one obstacle left, getting out without causing a commotion. Walking back into the garage I notice a lady with her ticket at a machine and putting money in it. Is she validating her ticket?  Am I supposed to pay here before I go back to my car?  I don’t know.  What happens if I get to the exit and it won’t let me pay?  I just know there will be line of cars behind me and I won’t be able to back up.  I was so preoccupied with that thought that I didn’t get off the elevator on the fifth level but went all the way to the roof.  Wonder why that lady looked at us funny? I think everyone is starting to look at me already.  Calm down, gain control.  I’ve done this hundreds of times in the U.S.  What could be different?  Oh I remember, I CAN'T READ THE SIGNS HERE! I only know entrance and exit, and most of the time I can’t understand the verbal instructions!  Gotta do it though, can’t leave the car here.  I'm back in the car now, driving slowly to the exit, putting in my ticket, 300 yen for about 35 minutes, I put in a 1000 yen bill, 700 yen change comes back, gate opens, drive out.  I turned to Bobbie, “I told you there was nothing to it!”  She smacked me. - Chas