Posts Tagged ‘accident’

Flautist Again

2012年 8月 1日

My father-in-law has two main hobbies: one is pottery and the other is playing the shakuhachi (尺八). Almost exactly four years ago he started teaching me how to play. Almost exactly three years ago I was hit by a car while cycling. One of the saddest parts of that was how it knocked a lot of the creativity and inspiration out of me. After that I put the instrument down for a long time and took care of other, less creative things; however, this week – mostly thanks to my kitten – the shakuhachi is back in my hands.

Monday I made sure I could still make sounds and then practiced the basic notes. Tuesday I ran through several fingering exercises and played one song. Today I practiced all the fingering exercises and played a couple songs. Running out of breath and getting dizzy is the most significant trouble right now. One small problem is that my soul patch is too bushy and makes it hard to keep the instrument in the right location. Judicious use of scissors will correct the small problem. Hopefully daily practice will correct the other.


Cycling Safely in Japan

2011年 9月 29日

Just over two years ago, I was taken off my bike by a car on a safe little back road. In my Mie prefecture, safety for bikes and pedestrians is not a given, we must be very alert and responsible for our own safety. Not only drivers’ habits, but also physical conditions here are different: awareness of those differences is critical.

On my morning commute, one of these came to the forefront as an Audi pilot repeatedly did her best to scrape me off on a stone wall. Fortunately, I foiled her efforts so I can bring my tale to you.

We were on a road with a clearly marked centerline and lines demarking a shoulder area. By American standards this road is narrow; however, there is plenty of width for a car to easily travel between the lines. The shoulder area is also wide enough for even an amateur cyclist to ride without trouble (although there are a few sign posts and power poles obstructing the shoulder, requiring forays into the roadway). Traffic was heavy and halting, so with little effort a bicycle is swifter than the cars which creates interaction and hence risk. I always enjoy roads where bikes and cars are moving at the same rate, minimizing reaction, but we all know that is the rare case: congested areas favor the bike; and open areas favor the power of the engine.

As I was passing by crawling cars, one driver repeatedly swerved into the shoulder as I was attempting pass, with her final move to the edge as she braked for the red light. Eliminating the suggestion that the driver was maliciously seeking revenge (an extremely rare occurrence here) my assumption is that the driver was not looking at her passenger side mirror nor making head checks. I protected myself by braking each time, which a cyclist should always be prepared to do (the car always wins in an accident).

Understanding why this happens helps to alleviate some of the frustration, if not the fear. Many Japanese roads – especially in the more countryside areas – are very narrow. Many times in our city, there are roads on which opposing traffic can’t pass without someone leaving the roadway. As a result, people are taught to pull to the outside edge of the road whenever possible. This practice becomes habit, with many drivers continuously using the shoulder as part of their lane regardless of how much free space there is on the road. These drivers are obvious, but this morning’s driver is the more cautionary situation. Something – perhaps brake lights on the car ahead – were, I assume, triggering her response of pulling to the side of the road when stopping.

While looking for drivers suddenly entering the roadway from the left, don’t forget to watch for drivers suddenly veering left from the roadway.

Death on the Tracks

2009年 12月 10日

Maybe two weeks ago I rushed to the train station hoping to catch a train to my rehab, I was on a tight schedule since I needed to return to Tsu afterwards. When I arrived at the train station things were delayed. Rarely are the Kintetsu trains more than a minute or two behind schedule. Only a few things can cause delay:

  • Earthquake
  • Typhoon or heavy rainstorms
  • Lightning strike
  • Accident

After an earthquake they usually stop the trains while they are checking the tracks for alignment. If the power lines are intact and there isn’t any obvious track problem, I think they start running the trains at slow speeds until everything is fully checked out. This can create sizeable delays, but most folks are smart enough not to complain because “Safety First” is the motto around here.

I don’t fully understand why rainstorms can shutdown the tracks, but it could have to do with electric problems. Clearly, when a typhoon is passing through there are high winds and flooding, so I get why they put things on hold then.

Almost six years have passed and I’ve heard of one or two lightning strikes, which always require some repairs to be done.

Three varieties of accidents can occur: train, vehicle, and human. I’ve seen a couple minor derailments but have never heard of two trains hitting each other. Something very odd would have to occur to violate the safety procedures that much. Also, I haven’t heard of any train-vehicle accidents. One safety feature I noticed shortly after coming here was that every railroad crossing has a button to push if someone or something is stuck on the tracks. My understanding is that a signal is sent to every approaching train when a button is pushed. Human related accidents are the most problematic and hence most common.

When express or limited express trains go through local stations or railroad crossings they are moving pretty fast. Although the drivers are watchful and they’ll blast their horns if anyone is joking around too close to the tracks, if a person sets their mind to being hit by a train, there’s no way for the train to stop in time. Suicide rates in Japan are about 50% higher than America (a whole other lengthy post) and the common method is throwing oneself in front of a train. Some people say suicide is a selfish act; well, doing it in front of a train screws up the day for thousands and thousands of people.

My delay was indeed a suicide case, and the closest I have ever been to one. Once I caught a train, it rolled along slowly and when we went through Hisai station there was an army of workers crawling over the platform. Several people were taking copious notes and many others were measuring everything imaginable. Hearing about suicides always saddens me, but it was striking to see the aftermath. My hope is that more people abandon desperation and look to the future, so that we don’t have to worry about such a thing.

I Can See Clearly Now

2009年 9月 7日

Yes, the rain is gone, but that’s not where I was going with this. When I got rolled over the hood of a car and slammed into the pavement, it did a number on my glasses. Or, really, what’s left of my glasses. Thin metal frames really show their maleability under that kind of duress. We are debating whether it is possible to straighten them enough to act as a back up pair, but last week I ordered up new glasses and today I picked them up.

Heavier plastic frames are a new look for me, but I have a good feeling about these. Particularly, I think the shape will reduce troubles caused by my peripheral vision. My first pair of glasses kept freaking me out because I was “seeing things” coming up beside me. It took a couple years to adjust to that without going paranoid.

Study and reading are favorite activities of mine, so the last five weeks have been tough. My vision is good enough that I can still read without the glasses; however astigmatism causes a lot of eye strain, making it hard to concentrate for long periods. (I think getting your head smacked against concrete might effect concentration as well.)

Next, I need to send the information off to the insurance company for their approval. I hope they don’t try any funny stuff like suggesting my old glasses should be depreciated for compensation. The fact that my vision has made no appreciable change in the last six years should help mitigate any nonsense like that. (“I didn’t need new glasses until your client ran me down.”)

Here’s to all the new things to see!

Sunday Soundcheck 53

2009年 8月 23日

Sound number three in the P column is pu, written as ぷ in hiragana and プ in katakana.

Purotesutanto (プロテスタント) is a pretty easy one: Protestant. We typically think of Japanese people being rather private about personal information; however, there are a number of things Westerners normally consider personal which seem to be like asking someone their name here. Soon after meeting people, I am often asked my age, marital status, and religion. Japanese people have learned (probably from Hollywood’s distorted view of the world) that Christian equals Catholic; and, upon hearing Christian, they start crossing themselves. Protestant is a term that can be used to set them straight quickly. I don’t recommend words like Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc. if you want an easy conversation.

Puripuri (ぷりぷり) is a huff. Something I have been in a lot since my accident. Being injured, having plans canceled, hearing unpleasant news from insurance reps, etc. can be vexing.

My Tattoos

2009年 8月 7日

While I’ve got no qualms about other people getting (good) tattoos, I generally have no interest in tattooing my own body. However, thanks to being rolled over the hood of a car and bounced off the pavement, I’m sporting some wonderful shades of blue, yellow, purple, red, and black. Most of the bruises were quite deep and didn’t appear for several days.

Shoulder Bruise and AbrasionMy hip joint was probably the first point to make contact with the car and, as such, is the most tender right now. Despite requests, I won’t put photos of my tush on the internet, so everyone will have to be satisfied with this shot of my left shoulder. There is a matching bruise on my left forearm. I’ve been trying to piece together what hit where, but it’s amazing how confusing things get after the first few hits.

Torn Ear, Temple Abrasion, Black EyeI put up a shot of my face too. The black eye has almost no yellow left and should be looking good by the time I arrive in America. The temple abrasion has a nice layer of skin and doesn’t need a bandage. This has improved my ability to go out in public without frightening children. I asked the nurse today if it was kirei(綺麗), which can mean beautiful or clean, and in this case would generally be healthy. She said yes and I said that it wasn’t (pretty) before the injury. She made a comment about me being ‘full’ of jokes. I told her I had to make a lot of jokes, otherwise I would probably cry. They get to see me everyday, and I did get them to laugh when I said, “Itte kimasu!”, as I left yesterday. This is the greeting you give when leaving home or some place you are regularly expected: it means, “I’m going out and coming back!” and feels like, “I’ll be home soon!” And the best news of all is that the color of the ear wound is getting healthy. Until this morning we couldn’t get the doctor’s approval to fly on Monday, but barring a relapse we should be America bound soon.

Update: My sweetie came by this evening before I could submit this post. She shoved my head in the sink, washed my hair, and inspected the wound while changing the bandage. She thinks it has improved dramatically over the last 12 hours!

The plan is to rest all weekend and eat healthy until Monday. Then in the morning we’ll go to the hospital for a final cleaning and clearance from the doctor before heading straight to the boat to the airport. Our plans in America will probably be a little abbreviated, but our main goals should be met.

Just before the accident I had been studying Phillipians 4 and trying to commit part to memory. I think that this month has been a test of my belief and I hope I come through it faring well. It hasn’t been easy, but don’t they say nothing good ever is?

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all men, for the Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your minds and your hearts through Christ Jesus.

Not According to Plan

2009年 8月 2日

I wanted to post a Sunday Soundcheck today, but a lot of things this weekend are not according to plan. The schedule shift started about 8:30 on Saturday morning while riding my bike home from a relaxing morning eating healthy food amidst misty mountains and watching misty rain tap on the river surface.

A young man in a small car, apparently late for work, decided that rules like stopping before entering a roadway are optional. I saw him coming and, guessing that he was going to make a hasty stop, started squeezing my brakes. Unfortunately, he didn’t even slow down and I had no way to avoid the accident. I got rolled over the hood and took a hard bounce on the other side.

A pedestrian called for an ambulance and I took a little ride. My vision was really screwed up for an hour or so, which prompted a CT scan along with the numerous X-rays. I’ll thank mom for making me drink all that milk as a kid, because the bones held up well; although my hip bone seems to be the first part that hit the car, so it is pretty sore.

My EarThe worst of it was finding out part of my ear had been torn loose by the pavement, but I had figured out that was where all the blood was coming from and held a clean towel over it. The pool on the roadway was pretty impressive. In the operating room, I made a nurse run for a mirror while we waited for the Otolaryngologist. He needed to check for any damage to workings of the ear before they could put the pieces back together, so I used the chance to get a look. Unfortunately (or perhaps forturnately) I couldn’t get a good angle to see exactly what was up. Later when we were checking the CT scan the difference between the ears was obvious.

Now my ear is covered with a mountain of gauze, so I have to trust it looks good under there. Tomorrow morning we’ll dig down and take another look. In the afternoon we’ll get to chat with the insurance company.

Naturally, I am feeling a lot of pain, but overall I feel pretty good and am hopeful that most parts will heal up well. Particularly, I am happy to still be among the living and enjoying God’s creation. I guess He’s not done shaping me yet.

Cheap Tools Equal Danger

2009年 7月 13日

Good tools are usually worth the money spent. Not only do they make tasks easier and improve the quality of products, but they generally improve safety. Kitchen knives, chisels, wrenches, … the list is long.

Alpental ski rentals gave me a lesson, back on Christmas Eve 1999, if memory serves me well. Rather than my usual choice of demo skis, I chose the standard package and, when making a hard turn at the top of a cliff, came to the sudden realization that the bindings were poorly maintained. My downhill ski released and shot me right off the cliff. Amidst the screams of my favorite ski partner: I took a chunk of ice off the mountain with the back of my head; lost the other ski, both poles, half a boot, my hat, and at least one glove; and made something that looked like a cherry sno-cone with the fluid from my split lip.

Our day of skiing ended once we gathered my gear. My current habit of wearing a helmet also started as a direct result.

Saturday night I got another such lesson from my commuter bike. Not wanting to watch an expensive bike reduced to a pile of rust, nor wanting to tempt the rather scarce thieves in Japan, I opted to buy a cheap hybrid to park near the train station. Recently I noticed odd behavior from the chain and rear derailleur, and was planning to make time to get it inspected.

Applying hard pressure to the pedals for a quick burst of speed, the chain skipped several links forward causing the pedals to spin freely, making for a bad combination of inertia and leftward rotation. Not quite as hoped for, I did get a burst of speed, but the bike did not. Carrying a fully loaded pack helped encumber me and prevent me from taking much preventative action.

My left elbow hit the pavement hard, trading some flesh for tar and sand. My right ring finger apparently exerted enough force to break off a brake handle, resulting in enough pain to worry that I might have broken a bone. Realizing I needed help cutting some skin off the elbow, I decided to seek medical help.

I was afraid to go to a hospital in Tsu because it was late enough that I might miss the last train back to Ise, so I trotted the broken bike to the station and locked it up, bought a towel at the convenience store, and scrubbed out the elbow wound in the station bathroom, before boarding a southbound train.

On the other end, there was a comedy of errors in getting treatment which included finally going to a bar for help and me having to ride my good bike to the somewhat distant medical facilities.

Positive points included: no damage to my shakuhachi; unscathed, homegrown peaches in my pack; finding new bandage development which is producing amazing healing; new vocab skills; chat time with cute nurses; reassurance that even at 44 I can weather a nice slam into concrete; and some wonderful twists at the shop on Sunday resulting in speedy, inexpensive repair.

Sad News

2009年 3月 21日

I taught a fun class in the morning and then returned home. Along the side of my house is an alley that accesses all the houses behind me, so my area is very social. I noticed one of the neighbors, holding her dog and chatting with my next door neighbor over her fence. I went to join them and heard a confusing Japanese sentence. Either they meant, “Naito-kun became not here (i.e., went someplace else)”, or they meant, “Naito-kun died.”

After a little explanation, it became clear that my neighbor’s cute, light brown poodle met his final fate on the holiday yesterday. Apparently he ran out in the street during morning rush. My street is not a big one, but it is heavily used during the morning commute; and many of the drivers race down the street. The elementary school uses this are for the kids to get to school, so we are a little concerned about safety.

Apparently, the driver was going considerably fast and slowed down to look back after hitting the dog, but never stopped. In America we would consider that extremely rude, but in Japan it is completely shocking. By the time the neighbor got a taxi and found an open animal hospital the doctor gave her a strong recommendation not to try to save him as his lungs were in bad shape and his eyes were growing very distant.

I love animals very much and am always petting the neighbors’ dogs when we are outside. So, I was a little late for calligraphy because I stayed there and listened a lot. We were just talking a couple days ago about how hard it is to talk to someone who has had a loss; it’s just impossible to find the right words. However, she really seemed to need to be heard and understood. I bought just a few souvenir presents in Kyoto yesterday, but I gave a package of small Japanese sweets for eating with thick green tea to the neighbor. She felt they would be perfect when she pays her respects today.

This made me think about my Fritz who passed away this year, but poor Naito-kun was still a little puppy and Fritz, Fred, and me have lived a long and happy life together. My neighbor’s kids are all adult and moved out, so she really depended on his love. Fortunately most of our block are friendly and supportive.