Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yellow Sand

My mother-in-law came back home from the hospital today. Actually, I drove down to Tokyo and picked her up. The doctors at that small but famous gastrointestinal specialist hospital still insist that her recent problems have less to do with any worsening of her cancer than her attitude. Attitude was definitely something she had plenty of. Her leaving the hospital was by her own insistence, mainly for the stated reason that she was sick to death of hospital food and wanted some "real" meals.

Anyway, I had to go to Ye Olde Academy for a little while in the morning because my grade was hosting a guest lecturer whose presentation was open to the public. Donning a suit and tie for the first time in ages (not counting stage performances), I helped usher in the guests. Once that was done I rushed home, changed, loaded up my BLUE RAV4 together with my son and my father-in-law, and set my course southwest.

There was a nasty west wind blowing the whole time. My BLUE RAV4 has a high profile and isn't particularly heavy, so it's a bit sensitive to crosswinds. That made driving tricky at times, so I kept my speed down to a nice, easy cruise in fortunately light traffic. That wasn't the worst of it. You see, every winter when the wind blows from the west we get a nice gift from the Gobi Desert. When we left Namegata and got on the expressway there was just a faint, brownish tint on the horizon. When we got to Tokyo, however, the city was virtually gone. About all we could see as we crossed the Rainbow Bridge was a wall of filthy ochre.

(Image borrowed from The Times Online, but this was very much the sight that greeted us.)

Traffic was eerily light today, so even at a leisurely pace we made it to the hospital in record time (about an hour instead of the usual two and a half). MIL was still in the middle of her last I.V., however, so we hung around for a bit...and patiently endured her whining. Meanwhile the wind picked up even more. When I started taking her luggage out to the car there wasn't as much sand suspended in the air, but the wind-driven dust was murder on my face and especially in my eyes. I could barely see as I loaded up the car. The wind was shrieking when we finally got MIL into the car and headed out into the Tokyo streets...

...and found them backed up. We proceeded at a snail's crawl for about a block and around a corner until we found the cause. The wind had torn a whole, massive sign post off of a building together with several signs and some of the bricks from the wall and deposited the mass right in the middle of my side of a very busy intersection. The police were in the process of giving up trying to reroute traffic. I was in the inside lane, and suddenly the line of cars in the outside lane all started U-turning right in front of me, cutting me off and trapping me. I remained stuck there, cursing crowded city life and human beings in general, for a number of minutes until a police officer finally stepped in, made the assholes people in the other lane stop, and waved me through so I could make my own U-turn. I then headed into totally unfamiliar territory, thankful as could be that I had Ms. Navi to guide me to another expressway on-ramp.

By now the wind had subsided, the yellow sand had gone, and we had a beautiful view going back across the Rainbow Bridge. It was easy driving all the way home. MIL was thankful to be back and overjoyed to find that my wife and daughter had spent all day cleaning her house in preparation for her arrival. (Considering my in-laws NEVER clean their house, it had been a frightening task!) Unfortunately, MIL didn't hesitate to show the attitude we're probably going to have to deal with for some time. She told my wife what she wanted for dinner, changed her mind after my wife had already gone to the store and bought it, and then, after my wife had gone back to the store to get the requested item and spent more than an hour preparing it, she started moaning about her stomach and refused to eat a bite. Needless to say, my wife was less than thrilled. We know full well that MIL's problems have far more to do with her state of mind than her state of body, so she's probably not going to get much sympathy.

And now the wind is shrieking outside. But that's okay; Japanese and Chinese researchers are apparently saying that the yellow sand helps combat global warming. What's a little damaged car finish and respiratory illness among friends? }:-P


  • Somehow I think the Gobi dust fighting global warming is probably about as useful as a flower pitcher against a forest fire, but there you go.

    Sounds like MIL probably isn't feeling well, but as long as her personality overrides her illness, you might as well go on living your life. When she stops complaining about minutiae, you can cast a sharper eye towards the problem.

    Family, the double-bladed sword.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 3:33 AM  

  • Don't eat yellow sand

    By Anonymous Dave, at 3:42 AM  

  • Interesting...besides the obvious lung & vision problems..any benefits?

    Perhaps the soil needs some sand in other words...or maybe not.

    Loess deposits are interesting, the Palouse areas of Washington and Idaho
    are a great place to it coming from China too?

    By Blogger ladybug, at 4:53 AM  

  • Wow... I never know that it can be like that in Japan... thought all this time, it's very clean or probably only foggy coz' of the winter season.

    Hmmm.... when people are sick, usually they need or expect to get more attention from other people which sometimes can caused pain in the neck for the other people.

    By Blogger Selba, at 4:20 PM  

  • We encountered a dust/sand storm coming home from Mito late Saturday afternoon. Thought it was a localized phenomenominonimumum or however the hell that word is spelled.

    Reminds me of a funny (depends on one's perspective) story. When I worked for an aerospace electronics company near the desert in California many many many years ago, the President got a new car. A week later he was out of town on business and some VIP guests came to visit our factory. The VP "borrowed" the Presidents new car (a Ford LTD as I recall) to take the VIPs to lunch in Palm Springs. A sand storm whipped up and the paint on that new car was badly pitted down to the bare metal on one side. There was a frantic effort to get the car repainted before the Pres got back!

    Well, since it was your car this time, you are not laughing. Sorry. Glad you're all OK and hope your MIL gets a lift from the change of venue and food.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 9:36 PM  

  • Wow, that image is amazing! We get some sandy Santa Ana winds in the fall, sometimes, but not quite so bad that it strips paint off cars.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:51 AM  

  • Goodness me, that's yucky. Do you find it in your teeth?

    HOw long does the storm last on average?

    that image looks like a fading antique sepia photograph.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 7:54 AM  

  • We just get the pollution from China not the sand. ;(

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 2:16 AM  

  • And I thought our New Mexico dust devils were bad.

    And I thought my own mother-in-law was difficult. Actually she is, kind of. You have my sympathy, Moody.

    By Blogger San, at 6:51 AM  

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