Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dear Dude on a Bike,

I got home last night and felt both shaken and ashamed for my words. I don't know why you decided to bike on the right side instead of the left, which even pedestrians seem to understand, or why you stubbornly insisted on staying on the inside of the sidewalk so that we played a game of bicycle chicken, our headlights coming within inches of each other. You looked a little surprised when I didn't yield to you, but you should know I have been dealing with this move by salarymen as a pedestrian for several years now. I'm not sure why I seem to attract your type - refusing to budge, determined to make me go around - maybe it's because I have it out for rude salarymen. I wish you would tell me why, in all my years as a pedestrian, what could have ended in collision usually ends in a smile and maybe a "sorry" as we both try to zig zag out of each other's way, but here in Tokyo, it ends in a standstill and maybe a rough elbow.

I probably sound entitled to you, Dude on a Bike, and I think I am to the extent that I should be able to get down the street most of the time without being forced to bend to the will of an ornery salaryman or a Vuitton-toting bitch. Tell your friends to cut me some slack and let's try to cooperate as we coexist on Tokyo's streets. That said, I'm sorry I told you that you should be on the other side of the sidewalk and that you're an idiot, most people don't deserve that. This is my second verbal confrontation with a stranger in Japan and while after the first, I felt smug for responding so appropriately, this time I wasn't provoked by your words, but by your actions, and I am shocked at how quickly those nasty words came shooting out of my mouth. You may be an asshole, but I should have refrained from calling you an idiot.

The other thing I wanted to tell you, was that I hope you don't make the mistake of thinking all foreigners are barbarians after your encounter with me, for there are gaijin much gentler than I. I'm also not that bad in the scheme of barbaric foreigners: I don't look at all-you-can-drink plans as a way to get my money's worth, or ride the train while exclaiming loudly as I make sweeping generalizations about Japanese people, or try to school other foreigners on the proper way to "navigate the intricacies of Japanese culture". I probably act meaner than I look, but I never claimed to be perfect. I know it's hard not to equate one irate foreigner with all of the others, I mean we all look alike, but just as I won't write off every Japanese guy as a bull-headed asshole, I hope you'll realize that my frustration and anger come not from being a foreigner, but from being a girl constantly shoved around. Deciding to say those nasty words to you probably does come from being a foreigner, though.

With any luck, you will have written me off as a slightly crazy whitie who has maybe reached the end of her rope. That's certainly what it feels like sometimes. So again, Dude on a Bike, I'm sorry for my words said in anger. Next time, maybe you can consider biking on what is generally considered the correct side and not threatening to collide with others.

8 comments:

Melon said...

It is shocking how difficult it can be to get down the street sometimes. And although I try to stay on the left, it feels like nearly half the time the person coming at me wants to go on the right. It all makes so little sense. I'm sorry for the unpleasantness of this encounter, but you are certainly not alone. Commute-bicycling can be quite a stressful experience.

Jeffrey said...

The whole nonsense of riding bikes on, usually, not very wide sidewalks has always seemed like lunacy to me. That being said, I rather play chicken with another bike than an on-coming or bearing down on me auto.

Japan Australia said...

Bikes can be a big hazzard in Japan and I have had several near misses with them!!

Sarahf said...

I get this every day, but my favourites are people who can't walk in a straight line. I always have to stop and wait for them to decide where they want to walk. Our city have put in cycle lanes, but everyone ignores them (except me) and cars park on them all the time.

David said...

Never apologize to those people!!! Seriously, I know the type you're speaking of, and I have watched them from behind as they switch sides of the sidewalk to walk on/ ride on, for no possible purpose other than to make oncoming traffic walk around them. It's like some sort of ego boost, or something.

I try my best to be a polite, respectable gaijin, but that sort of thing I can't forgive. Figure I spend most of my time here feeling huge and awkward and overweight, then by god I'm going to use that to my advantage against those pricks.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Melon: Riight! It feels so weird for me to be on the right now, even on foot.

Jeffrey: It is absurd. Unfortunately the law here considers bikes to be essentially vehicles in the category with cars, but there are all these weird exceptions to where bikes can techinally go (and of course no one pays them any heed). I bike on the street if the sidewalk is crowded but often it's impossible/scary/I don't go that fast.

Japan Australia: Indeed it is, there are a shitload of bike accidents.

Sarahf: Yes, thank you! I have so many times almost run into someone who at the last second decides to walk diagonally right into my path. Bike lanes are great, too bad they won't put them in here. There are some around the city on the sidewalks, which was such a waste of fucking money because the pedestrians are all over them.

David: I switch around sometimes when foot traffic makes it impossible to go in a straight line but when I come head to head with people who are out to make me go around rather than cooperate, I usually do as you say and use my body to my advantage. I wish I could let it go sometimes but I can't bear the thought of yielding to some people...

Generic Jen B said...

Do you remember that crazy jogger lady who screamed at us to move over so she wouldn't have to slow down? Unrelated but I just remembered it and it made me snort. Ladies don't snort do they. Chuckle then. Which is what middled-aged folks with rosy cheeks and red noses do. I give up.

TheOctopus said...

Reminds me of the old guy I encountered cycling towards me on in the wrong direction on the inside lane of a busy three lane road.

I was buggered if I was going to veer out into whatever traffic was potentially coming from behind me just for the old fart's convenience so we had a nonverbal standoff until he got the message.