Get out of the car.

The sharp tone of the driving test practitioner sent a chill down my spine. I had failed five times prior and was unable to take it twice due to goofs on my part. [1] That’s nine trips to the center by train because I cannot forget the first trip where I started the process. Because you cannot schedule the test over the phone. You have to go and schedule it, and then go and take it. Nine trips at ¥1200 is a whopping ¥10,800. Then there were the test fees six times. ¥18,000. Plus I did an hour of their practicing. Another trip (¥1200) and ¥6480 for the practice.

I had spent ¥36,480 up to this point and when I was coldly instructed to leave the car my heart sank. As I went around to hear the news from him, the practitioner had also gotten out of the car and asked for my license. His words left me stunned. So stunned I could only ask “What?” to which he repeated his command to take out my license.

I had passed.

While all the failings were my own fault, some I felt were more than others. I have trouble grokking why my taking a turn a little wide or pulling to the side of the road for a left turn a little late has anything to do with my ability to use a manual transmission safely. I have been driving eight years in Japan without a single accident or ticket. I may not be the best driver or the safest driver, but I think the record says something.

But that is not how it works. You follow the rules and getting the test the way they want it. If I have trouble passing, they offer training courses. And if the stress from the whole ordeal has me waking up in the middle of the night in a sweat, panicking that I need to pass the test soon, well, that’s on me.

It was not a life or death situation. But this is how deadly potent the mind can be. My leg was violently shaking as I took that last turn to park the car and finish the test.

And it’s just a driving test. I was going to pass it eventually. But that looping feeling of not knowing when it was going to be over consumed me. I couldn’t hide from it. And I wanted to so badly. I knew how silly it was. But every single morning I sat in that brown and often damp-due-to-the-rain driving center, I felt a twist in my heart that wouldn’t let go.

Now I can legally drive a manual transmission in Japan. That’s it. That’s all that has changed even though my own anxieties and worries left me with something that I hope leaves me as soon as it can. Because I’m still waking up in the middle of the night.

  1. Once I didn’t bring a piece of paper and once I wrote 9/7 instead of 9/9 on the test date.  ↩