(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on February 9, 2011.)
We’re right smack in the middle of unparalleled historical significance and most of us, although interested and attentive, wouldn’t have noticed or cared if the world came to an end Sunday. Tahrir Square? Cairo? Mubarak? Nope, an insignificant corner of north Texas held the nation’s attention. Super Bowl XLV. World War III wouldn’t have made a dent in Sunday’s television ratings.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but it’s been a crash course in history since Jan. 25. Cradle of Civilization and all that jazz. Remember? The Pyramids, Nile River, Cleopatra, Gardens of Babylon, Humphrey Bogart. I certainly don’t mean to make light of the uprisings in Tunis and Egypt but when Persia and French Morocco disappeared from world maps, this observer has had a very difficult time remembering where Middle Eastern borders abut and what part of North Africa the French Foreign Legion reigned supreme for MGM. [France continues its role as the clown jester of Euro. It holds the distinction of having trained the Cairo police and providing Tunis with tear gas. A pretty difficult negative international double whammy, wouldn’t you agree?]
Meanwhile all eyes are on the United States. When will Hosni Mubarak step down? Who, or how many, will replace him? Jordan. Dubai. Saudi Arabia. Israel. Gaza. Cradle of Discontent, indeed!
While Green Bay took down the 45th honors and a nation of football lovers returned to normalcy, it appears the majority of bettors came away winners. The final line was GB -21/2/45 and I have yet to run into anyone who lost a bet. A hard sentence to write.
For a handful of others it was a time to celebrate the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan. For fewer yet, but just as memorable, was the rejoicing over the passing of an innocuous, nondescript test, driving variety.
Yup, gol darn and zippety-do, ole W.T.H. is finally qualified to legally threaten the lives of all local street and freeway travelers. At least for the next 21 months. But this is a story I hafta tell you.
At the appointed hour, with proper papers displayed on the dashboard, I’m waiting to begin my second driving test, having failed (miserably) a week earlier. To say I was anxious would be fair. How in today’s modern age can anyone, short of being a nervous beginning 16-year-old, flunk a driver’s test? I ask you, how?
As reported earlier I somehow managed to ring up 22 demerits, averaging one a minute. (I mean, hey, my grandkids passed first time out w/o incident!) Sounding like a chagrined excuse-maker, I implied maybe my sour-puss examiner had it in for aging Orientals. A passing grade being 15, how could an alert, personable, Japanese American balloon past that mark by seven?
“Fred” introduced himself, going through the opening salvo of instructions: directional lights, brake lights, horn, emergency brake. Off we went. It turns out he was from Whittier, went to school in La Mirada, last name like where the swallows go every year. I checked the rear and side-view mirrors more times than I have in a week and nearly wore the direction signals out, still allowing time to let him know this guy was a home boy, living in nearby City Terrace for the past 50 years.
Once parked back at the DMV, I casually asked, “How’d I do?”
Well, he explained as he signed the gig sheet, “You not only passed, I never, ever give anyone a perfect score, so I gave you a minus 1. If everyone drove like you, Mr. Hiroto, I’d be out of a job.” (From 22 to 1. Impossible. Actually a zero!)
A note sent to the Rafu as “Urgent” reached me under another “Urgent” envelope. From a concerned Hana N., it read:
“My brother was failed by female examiners two successive times. Pul-eez, without further ado, get yourself a male examiner, because, finally on the third try, a male examiner passed my brother!”
In reply to another commentary, no, I really wasn’t making fun of haiku. I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can manage the unique art form. (My mother contributed writings to the Rafu before The War.) I was once told the format consists of a 5-7-5 rhythm. If I appeared to be making jest, my humble apology. A poet I am not, amongst other shortcomings.
Monterey Park Japanese American Senior Citizens Inc. is probably the largest group of its kind. And one of the most active. Highlight of its 2011 travel agenda was an April 8-17 Splendor of the Nile tour, a 10-day visit to Egypt and a Nile River cruise.
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by e-mail. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.