Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, March 12, 2006

From the Front Lines of the Traffic War

I must be crazy for even attempting this, but oh, well.

It's Sunday evening. The day's chores are done at last, and I have loaded up in my BLUE RAV4 to go on a "quick" shopping jaunt to Narita. "Quick" doesn't take into account the fact that it'll take me more than half an hour to get to my destination in the first place...and more than half an hour to get back. Considering the time, and the state of things back home, it seems like a pretty rash venture, but this shopping trip is overdue. I've been wanting to do this for almost a month now, but I've always been preempted, whether by my job or by my mother-in-law ending up in the hospital (and me being asked to make trips down to Tokyo to visit her). This weekend my mother-in-law is staying with her mother in Tokyo and has kind of a tight schedule (i.e. no chance for a visit) and my school music club is busy with things that don't involve me. My work for the day is over, and I have a couple of hours.

Time to rock!

I usually like to cruise at around 120 kph (75 mph) on the expressway. (I was told by a policeman that that's the unofficial maximum speed allowed by the police...unless they're in a really bad mood). This time, when I pull out of the toll gate and climb up onto the darkened on-ramp, there are lots of taillights in front of me. There is a line of trucks ahead of me in the granny (left) lane that is creeping along at just under 100 kph (63 mph). Hitting my blinker and my accelerator, I veer quickly into the passing (right) lane to go around them, but I come up short. Ahead of me in the passing lane is a red Toyota Harrier SUV (sold as a Lexus in America) with a blue Mercedes in front of him. They are moving along at an unbelievably placid 105 kph (66 mph).

I debate being a "real" freeway driver and flashing my lights at these unwelcome interlopers, but in the end I decide to play it cool. (Last time I flashed my lights at someone, he hit his brakes. It probably served me right, too...) I stay behind the red SUV until we finally clear the line in the granny lane. Then I hit my blinker, slide left, and accelerate up to 130 kph (81 mph) to pass.

As soon as I come alongside the blue Mercedes, it immediately speeds up and matches my pace.

Over the calm, soothing strains of Secret Garden issuing from my car stereo, I yell, "You asshole!"

Fortunately, this doesn't last long. Next thing I know, the Mercedes is way behind me and receding rapidly. Then I remember that a hidden speed camera is coming up. I quickly decelerate to 115 kph, which is still unofficially legal (and I've heard the speed cameras are down on Sundays anyway), so I suppose I'm okay. Once I'm past that, I speed up to 120 again and cruise along comfortably.

A little while later I see another clot of slow-moving traffic coming up ahead in my lane. I also notice in my rear-view mirror that someone is coming up fast from behind. Yep, it's the blue Mercedes again, with the red SUV in hot pursuit. Not wanting to get cut off, I immediately punch it, getting up to 150 kph (94 mph) just in time to whip into the passing lane and pass the herd of snails before getting cut off. As I do so, the Mercedes rides my rear hard. I pull back into the granny lane ahead of the herd, and the Mercedes follows me. The SUV doesn't. He stays in the passing lane and starts to fall back. After following me for a while, the Mercedes returns to that lane and disappears into the rear distance, too.

What is going on, here?

I pass the Taiei Rest Area and, expectedly, another clump of slow cars appears. There is a big archway loaded with speed cameras up ahead, so this is always something of an obstacle course. I prepare to maneuver around it when I see you-know-who coming up fast in the passing lane again. This time I have no room to accelerate, so I have no choice but to let blue Mercedes and red SUV pull up alongside me, match my speed, and trap me in. Slobbering and fogging up my windows, I bide my time. We start the approach into the speed camera gate, and apparently the driver of the red SUV panics. He drops just a little bit behind, enough for me to squeeze in between them. Meanwhile, blue Mercedes is gaining ground on the granny lane. It isn't long before I have an opening. Next thing I know, I'm zig-zagging through traffic at just under 160 kph (100 mph), but not for long. As soon as I'm clear, I'm back down to 120 again.

My two antagonists are once again falling behind very quickly. This is just plain strange.

I run across one more pack of slow pokes before the Narita exit, and I speed up and whip around them. There's no sign of the bandits now. They appear to be gone for good. Aw, but no, I've spoken too soon. Here they come again. I slow down to 115 kph about a kilometer before the exit, and the blue Mercedes goes shooting past me at very high speed followed very closely by the red SUV...who is followed closely by a white Toyota Celsior (also sold as a Lexus in the U.S.). Now what?

Oh, well. I'm off on my ramp now. Time to make a speed record hitting the shopping mall and then getting home again in time for dinner.
(*Sigh*) Another day, another couple hundred clicks on my odometer...

8 Comments:

  • Dude, the F1 race was in Bahrain! Didn't anyone update you?

    By Blogger agus, at 12:57 PM  

  • Slow down you mainiac! You never know when some right bastard is going to run you off the road. Had my own problem with road rage once. Don't encourage them.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 2:42 PM  

  • You would definitely get a tickey in Singapore.

    A fine fine fine city, with speed limits at 90km max... on the expressway where no one is in sight except the police hiding behind the bush.

    Yep, every time, without fail.

    By Blogger Robin, at 5:35 PM  

  • I've been pulled over by a policeman for speeding once in Japan. Once. That's how I found out the "unofficial" speed limit on the expressways is 120 clicks (whereas the posted limit is 100). Actually, the officer seemed to be more concerned about the fact that I had been cruising in the passing lane than my speed at the time (140).

    He let me off with a warning, thank god (but he also made a very big deal of the fact that I'm a school teacher).

    That permanently cured me of my (till then) occasional habit of cruising home from Tokyo at 160 kph (100 mph) all the way. My BLUE RAV feels pretty nice at that speed, let me tell you! Of course, I actually got tailgated by a taxi once at that speed...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:01 PM  

  • hehehehehe i loved agus's comment..yep thats right its in Bahrain

    By Blogger saba, at 3:51 AM  

  • MM, that was exhilarating!

    KL welcomes you this weekend - for F1, Mar 17 to 19.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 12:16 PM  

  • Thanks. I'd forgotten what my favorite childhood Disneyland ride was like. (Mr. Toad's wild ride.)

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 7:03 PM  

  • I'm watching you!

    By Anonymous Blue Mercedes, at 4:58 AM  

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