Karmic Endoscope


Driving home from Kita Rissei Elementary (北立誠小学校) this afternoon, I saw an accident waiting to happen. Little did I realize it was just an imbalanced karmic window to the future. This first half of the adventure could have occurred anywhere in the world that has bicycles and teenagers, so it really isn’t about Japan.

So, this kid is riding his bike slowly, in the road, at rush hour, with headphones in his ears, leaning his elbows on the handlebars to ‘steer’, keeping his hands ‘free’ to hold the book he was reading. We had a beautiful sunny day today, so it was too hot for him to be wearing his flannel over shirt, which he draped over the seat, tying the arms underneath to keep it secure. I kept watching as the tails danced in the vicinity of the rapidly spinning spokes. The shoe heels were crushed down to make his tennis shoes into floppy, easily-removed loafers. Clearly, this boy feels that fate needs tempting.

Brief interlude: a little tidying around the house; dinner with a student who organizes classes for me; an evening class; and a plan to bike to a friend’s apartment with some drinks.

Scene Two: riding along with a pack containing a nice bottle of nigorizake (にごり酒) from the Kisoji (木曽路) region of Nagano prefecture (長野県); passing taxis on the left while they waited at a railroad crossing. (left = right in N. America – opposite side of the road)

I have a rule never to ride on the shoulder or sidewalk in Japan because they are dangerous. When I violate my rules, bad things happen (like my head-on collision with a car in Delaware); and tonight was no exception. I felt a sudden jolting force come up through the fork and into my nicely corked, ergonomic handlebars. Oh, I forgot to mention I was on the brakes when this happened because of the railroad crossing arm. I thought for a moment about how an ‘endo’ would feel.

Endo, for the uninitiated, means “end over end”; a term much more commonly used in mountain biking than road biking, let alone a slow commute for a few kilometers on city streets. I managed to do a wheel stand on the front wheel and even released the brake smoothly enough to gently set the rear wheel back down – and a good distance from the train tracks. Later I was thinking about what would have happened to the sake if I landed on my back. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about being stabbed in the back by fragments, since the main pocket contained a six-pack to absorb any shards.

So, I was all worried about the ‘foolish boy’, but it was just a glimpse of what I had coming later. I’m sure he got home without a worry. Coming home tonight, I stayed on the nicely paved surfaces.


2 Responses to “Karmic Endoscope”

  1. kevenker Says:

    Why did you have to stop so suddenly you almost did an endo? Or did you hit something as you were braking?

    And how did you manage to get into a head-on collision in Delaware by riding on the shoulder or sidewalk in Japan? 🙂

  2. びっくり Says:

    “I felt a sudden jolting force come up through the fork…” This line was supposed to give you the idea that I struck a solid obstruction. I looked at it later and saw there was about a 7cm ledge. If I was going the other direction it would have just been an exciting little drop, but going up was not so fun.

    Sorry if I confused you about my rules. One rule is not to ride on the side of the road in Japan. Another rule is to choose roads with medians, which are relatively free of traffic and signals. That’s the rule I broke in Delaware. I was racing along the shortest road back instead of the safest one. Someone turned across traffic and hit me head on.

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