The other day I popped down to the local police station, for it was time to renew my driving license. The procedure was simple enough. I filled in a form with my personal details and answered a short questionnaire. By means of leaving boxes unchecked, I assured the nice people at the police station that doctors hadn’t told me not to drive, that I wasn’t in the habit of suddenly passing out and other such indicators that I might be a danger behind the wheel. I liked their faith in honesty, but I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone had ever checked those boxes.
I handed in my forms and waited for half an hour or so, as those who had arrived before me were called up to have their eyes checked and pay their renewal fees. I knew when it was my turn before they even called my name because a couple of staff members were having a discussion and looking puzzled. I recognised them as katakana illiterates, and as they looked up, about to give my name a go, I was already standing in front of them. I said my name for them and they smiled and gave me my eye test.
Then it was time to wait until I could have my photo taken for the new licence. I was sent to the corner of the police station, where a video was playing on a loop. It was a driving safety video, warning us to wear our seat belts, drive within the speed limits, not to drink and drive and all the other sensible pieces of advice you should heed when operating a motor vehicle. We heard an interview with someone whose child had been killed in a road accident and were shown what would happen to us if our car hit a wall even at a moderate speed. It could have been quite the depressing film, but thankfully our narrator was a cartoon bunny rabbit to keep it all cheery. It reminded me of the Tufty Club in Britain. That was hugely successful and employed a cartoon squirrel. But then again, that was aimed at teaching children under the age of five how to cross the road. I’m not sure it’s quite as necessary to employ the cute friend technique when informing grown-ups how best to avoid death on the roads. When the rabbit appeared on screen after a demonstration of crash test dummies hurtling through windscreens, I kept quiet. I wasn’t sure when the appropriate time to say ‘Kawaii!’ was.