Thursday, December 9, 2004

Serious Crime - Part II

Today I had my appointment about my speeding ticket with the Japanese police. It's hard to know what to say. It was pretty yucky and I'm glad that part is over.

I arrived at the police station at 10:03 and there were three men in suits waiting for me in the parking lot. I greeted them and apologized for being late (my appointment was at 10:00) and one (who turned out to be the interpreter and only English-speaker) said with disgust "We were wondering if you would come or not, or if maybe you forgot. We have been waiting for you." I apologized again and we then proceeded to walk into the station and into a tiny (tiny) interrogation room (all four of us), and the interpreter said "You kept us waiting." I apologized again and took a seat. A few minutes later (while the other men were setting up a laptop and printer) the interpreter said "We had an appointment time, but you didn't arrive when you were requested to." Finally I'd had it and I said (in my best, quiet Japanese voice) "It was 10:03 when I drove in, and I sincerely apologize that I was three minutes late. I'm sorry."

I think we could all agree at this point that it wasn't going well.

I won't describe every detail, although it's tempting. The meeting lasted about 1-1/2 hours, which is a bit shorter than I had been told to expect. Before I went in this morning, I spoke with an American friend at work who had asked his Japanese friend about the procedure in hopes of getting advice for me. The Japanese friend laughed and said that I was being taken advantage of because I was American, and that a Japanese person would never be put through this type of ordeal for a speeding ticket. Accurate or not, that ticked me off, so I was already mad before this whole 3-minutes-late thing started.

They ended up asking me a few personal questions, but not as many as I had been told to expect. After "How much is in your savings account?" and "How much debt do you have?" I said that I was so sorry, but that I was uncomfortable talking about such private matters. (You've gotta know how to work it -- in Japan it's bad luck to speak about negative things, so I thought they would be sympathetic to my concern.) (I really just wanted them OUT of my business.) What do you know, about two minutes later the interpreter said "That is the end of the personal questions."

They asked about the circumstances surrounding my speeding, and asked if I understood that I was "a suspect in a very serious crime." The funny (or damn irritating) thing is that the police asked me if I knew there was a speed monitor/picture device at that specific spot on the road. I didn't, even though I've driven that expressway many times; I just haven't noticed. So then the police explained to me that I should remember where the speed monitors are so I can slow down before I get to them, and then I can speed up after I pass them. Yes, the police were explaining to me how to speed without getting caught.

At one point the interpreter told me what my possible fine would be (he actually wrote it, because it would be bad luck to say it out loud.) He thinks it will be between $400 and $1,000. He then asked if I would like this to proceed quickly or slowly. I could tell something funky was going on, so I asked about that, and it turns out that the prosecutor doesn't work on many cases during the holidays, and he was asking if I minded if this sat on someone's desk until January. (This is really typical in Japan and something I've encountered before -- holidays are a big deal here and no one wants to strain themselves by working too hard.) I said that if it wasn't too much trouble, I would prefer that it get processed quickly. What a bunch of crap.

Believe it or not, that's the condensed version of events. I now have to wait until the police can take my case before the prosecutor for review. They will discuss my serious crime, and then I will get called for an appointment with the prosecutor. (I'll be on time for that one.) After that appointment, they will deliberate together and finally contact me when a fair penalty is decided. If I haven't jumped in front of a bus by then, I'll pay the fine and NEVER SPEED IN JAPAN AGAIN. Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment