Friday, May 25, 2012


by Pa Rock
Old Fool

There was so much that I had to get done today.  I left home about 8:00 a.m. with my list, knowing that I had lots to do with no time to waste.   Unplanned interruptions in my tight schedule could not be tolerated.  So, of course...

My first stop was at Torii Station, an army facility about ten miles north of my apartment.  I needed to visit with my personnel clerk (and good friend), Hisako, who had finally managed to secure the official orders that would send me home in July.  She and I went over the paperwork, and then she left her office and walked with me to another building when I engaged a different lady about getting airline tickets that would eventually take me back to  Phoenix.  That lady required some information which I didn't have with me, and I told her that I would go home and get it and be back, ideally before lunch.  An unplanned interruption, but one that I could hopefully manage.

From there I headed south and stopped at Lester Naval Hospital which is located very close to my apartment.  (It is where my oldest son was born nearly thirty-nine years ago.)   I had a prescription to fill at the hospital's pharmacy.  It was as I was leaving Lester that my day took a sudden turn for the worse.

All of the military bases on Okinawa have one or more traffic gates where visitors have to stop and show guards their government I.D. cards as they enter.  Leaving is much simpler:  you just exit through the gate on the other side of the guard shack and drive away.  They are referred to as "gates " because each has an actual tall wire gate that can be closed and locked in the event of an emergency.

I was in line waiting to exit when my mind must have wandered a bit to the left  because I suddenly heard a loud crunching noise - and then realized that I had hit the post that holds up the gate.   (Local cars have the steering wheel on the driver's right and the left hand side of the car runs along the outer edge of the road - and I had misjudged the distance between my car and the gatepost.)  The crash tore off the front hubcap, ripped off the passenger mirror, and put a large, wide scrape down the entire side of the car.  The gate guard, who had been standing only a few feet away, came over, took my information, and told me to wait for the military police.

I stood in the shade of a small tree (with my poor little car blocking one lane of fairly busy traffic) for the better part of an hour.  Finally a young lady driving a security forces car (the Air Force equivalent of military police) arrived, took pictures, and gave me some paperwork.  One of the questions she asked during her investigation was how long I had been driving?  When I told her forty-eight years, I suspect that she was thinking about how I had been ripping up and down the roads since before her parents were born!  As the young policewoman was leaving, she told me that my accident was one of the most common types that Americans on Okinawa seem to experience.  (Good old "common" me!)

I went home and put out an all-call to my friends for assistance.  (My fear was that the Japanese police would take an undue interest if spotted my dinged-up car on the road and noticed that my passenger mirror was missing.)  Valerie showed up to help, and she and I spent a very long afternoon running her errands and mine - which now included a visit to my insurance agency and an unproductive stop by a repair shop.  Tomorrow night she and I are heading to Guam for some well-deserved R&R.  We are borrowing the car of a friend while we are on that small island - but Valerie will be driving!

And as for the gate and gatepost at Camp Lester?  Not a scratch!

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