Thursday, October 20, 2011

The kindness of strangers

I ran to meet Mavis outside my office today only to discover her front tire was deflated. On closer inspection, I found the black cap on the tire valve was missing and I spent a couple minutes searching the concrete to no success. I compared it to the back tire's valve and finally realized the inner valve part was also gone. The inner valve part that is secured by screw nuts (harrr) that were still intact, meaning the parts didn't pop off while I was riding but were taken.

You may ask, what kind of depraved individual takes the valve from someone's bike tire? A royal asshole of the highest fucking order, that's who. In Vancouver if you chain your bike to a post by its wheel, your bike frame and the non-chained wheel are likely to go missing. In Japan, where small acts of passive aggression are everything, I guess they just steal the valve part, which still leaves you fucked.

After practically carrying my bike to the nearest bike shop and getting new parts, I managed to eek out a couple of hot tears as I rounded the imperial palace, feeling betrayed and angry at Tokyo. Had my transgressions while seated on Mavis's brown throne amounted to being stranded with a deflated tire and was this my bike karma? I wracked my brain to think of any altercations I'd gotten into in the Kaisha's vicinity but came up blank. I tend to be particularly careful in the blocks around work and save my one-phrase admonishments for idiots closer to home...

I tried to picture what the person who messes with someone's bike in broad daylight and in a populous area looks like. I came up with an ill-fitting suited man with a mosaic where his face should be. Like footage from a cop show.

I'm tired of biking, love it though I do. I refuse to go back to the train but with the increase in bikes after the earthquake and Tokyo's generally piss poor accommodations for bikers, it's exhausting to constantly come up against pedestrians, cars and other bikes. Earlier this year as I was riding across a pedestrian crossing, a salaryman (sorry, no better word for him) came riding along in the car lane not bothering to stop and see if anyone was coming out from the curb (and, ahem, ignoring the red light he should heed if he wants to act like a car). He blindsided me and banged into the side of my bike, somehow managing to stay upright, and pedaled off without a word. I was so taken by surprise I didn't have time to shout anything at him but have since come up with a few choice phrases, naturally. I later found that he'd hit the part of my bike where my light's mechanism is and I couldn't turn off that light for months.

I'm the victim in these stories, in case I didn't make that abundantly clear, but what about my own wrongdoings? They are not nil, try as I might to be a considerate person on the road and sidewalk. Last night, in fact, coming home on my usual route I was coming up a wide one-way road that expects two-way bike traffic judging by an intersection light only bikes can see. I feel that if you are going against the car traffic by bike, you should not make bikes going in the cars' direction move for you - you are the one who can see the oncoming cars and to force an oncoming bike out into that is not very nice. On a number of occasions I have come to an almost chicken-like state with bikers who want me to move into the car traffic so they can bike down the street against it. I sometimes can't be bothered enforcing my superior biking etiquette but it's begun to fuck me right off as of late. It's very similar to the issue I've had as a pedestrian with men in particular, who want me to get out of their way and will come to a complete halt until I do so. It makes me unreasonably stabby when this happens, mostly because I want to know what the hell went wrong with these people to cause them to act with such uninvited hostility (and to a woman no less, feminism be damned) that I have yet to find elsewhere.

So last night I slowed my bike to a halt during one of these cock size competitions and told the guy it was a one-way street (admittedly weak argument but points for flawlessly remembering and executing the word for "one-way street"). As I pushed off he tried to rebut this charge by telling me my light should be on (it normally would be but had been out of order for 24 hrs). I rode off feeling very pissay.

Go on and tell me I'm a jaded foreigner who should just shut the fuck up or get out. Don't worry, I'm working on one of the two. I love you ardently, Tokyo, but these "encounters" (not to be confused with what you can arrange on Craigslist) turn me into a high blood pressured bitch on wheels who secretly says really nasty stuff about this host country's people without moving my lips. I don't like feeling this much anger.

I don't know what will lessen the stress of commuting by bike in Tokyo other than designated bike lanes. You're either in the gutter being hedged in by cars or on a crowded sidewalk feared and resented by pedestrians. I hate pedestrians when I'm biking and I hate bikers when I'm walking; we weren't meant to co-exist on the sidewalk and I will just throw it out there that places like China do it (god forbid) much better with huge bike lanes in their metropolises. I don't want to be the bad guy on a bike scaring people who think I don't see them or accidentally grazing arms when a walker suddenly changes course.

As for the lowest of the bunch, the people who steal bike valves and leave trash in bike baskets (too numerous to count), I will try to quash my anger and trust that the Karma of Mavis will work its magic.

19 comments:

BiggerInJapan said...

just the other day, a fellow gaijin crossing me on the street. He acknowledged me, nodded, and then said "welcome to hell".

I still have not figured that one out.

Robin said...

I read somewhere that the Japanese police will be more strict with bikes and enforce rules that bikes are not to be ridden on the pedestrian curbs...be careful...

Chris said...

"I will try to quash my anger and trust that the Karma of Mavis will work its magic."

Karma is next to my kitchen door. She's shaped like a piece of old iron pipe about a meter long. She has delivered herself 2 times that I remember.

Will said...

I'm trying desperately not to think that all bike riding people from The Great White North who happen to be living and still biking in Japan are not just a little upset about a lot of things. I'm trying...really, I am.

Peace.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Biggie: Maybe you still have that newbie glimmer in your eye after all these years?!

Robin: That would be interesting...and scary! I bike on some roads but try to avoid it if possible.

Chris: Ouch! Could she be spared for a trip up to Tokyo?

Will: Here's what I think your comment means - I am a biker from Canada who bitches a lot and therefore give the impression we are all like that. If I've misunderstood, please do explain.

Ms.Godzilla said...

I wonder if switching to a scooter would make your life easier or worse. In Kobe they are the main form of transport, but parking in Tokyo sounds scary...

gec said...

Condolences. Japanese sidewalks and roads really are a mess. I could never decide whether to cycle in the road or on the sidewalk in some parts of the countryside town where I lived. The sidewalk was like a series of mountains and valleys. Nevermind bikes, I found myself wondering, how do old people even walk here?

I was impressed when Matsuyama (Ehime) put in some bike lanes. Of course they painted these GREEN zebra stripes to make it all visible, so you're cycling over them going gu-gu, gu-gu, gu-gu...

Anonymous said...

Spells broken, huh? He's not really going to marry you?

I feel sorry for all you young uns who came to Japan in the last couple of years. Yes, you missed the best party of the 20th Century, by about fifteen years.

I've been following many of you 20-something bloggers and 99% of you aren't doing too well emotionally. If the culture hasn't already tattooed itself on your DNA, time to go home.

Corinne said...

Ahhh it's so nice to read your razor sharp words again :)

But seriously, you'd be less insulted if they took the whole bike than just sneakily get the parts, horrible!

I'm with you though, hate bikes when I'm walking and hate walkers when I'm riding... A scooter gives you more authority, but I find the game of chicken is with cars, and you don't want to be losing that one, plus helmet hair is really not good.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Ms. Godzilla: way back when I thought about it but I don't like the thought of being a small unprotected scooter up against the heavy Tokyo traffic!

gec: That sounds almost worse than Tokyo! I guess there's no space for bike lanes here but if other dense cities can do it, it would be great if we could too.

Anon: Pump your brakes! Who's talking about marriage in this post? While you may be right that we missed the party, I nonetheless enjoy living here, despite the 5% of unpleasant things I possibly blow out of proportion on my blog. I hope you're doing well emotionally after all your time here (which I have assumed from your choice of words) and I wish you well!

Corinne: Helmet hair is a HUGE factor to consider :)
Playing chicken with bikes and walkers is bad enough, I don't think I could handle the stress of actual heavy machinery!

Rob said...

In my humble opinion, Japanese passive-agressive assholes that go out of their way to get in your way, leave trash in your bike basket, or pull your valve internals really don't have enough fear of vengeful violence. Stab away; I mean, barring photo documentation, the keisatsu aren't going to believe anyone if they claim some little blond gaijin head-butted them for getting in her way.

Maybe this won't help with the midday vandalism but I bet it'll help with feeling frustrated and powerless.

aimlesswanderer said...

Yeah, use the "all gaijin look alike" mentality to score a few unpunished, well deserved kicks to an asshat or three.

Anonymous said...

Yeah you should get a helmet when riding, and I got 3 horns and many lights wired on my bike. I been hit twice here, both serious, so I dont fuck around. My advice is to stay off the bike, but some of us gaijin need transportation. They dont like my horn, but it saves my life, unless I get beat down for it someday...lol.

久璃子 said...

Yeah, the passive-aggression that some people resort to in this city is ridiculous. You mention people who leave trash in others' bike baskets - I have that beat, one time I was all set to bike down to National Azabu, and went downstairs to find that someone had *vomited* into my bike basket. And it couldn't have been accidental - my bike was parked inside a garage, and about three other bikes were closer to the street than mine. Needless to say, by the time I got done cleaning half-digested yakisoba out of my basket, my stomach was no longer in any state to go grocery shopping ><

hellopoponta said...

My deepest sympathies. Personally, I don't know how you company-warriors survive working in Tokyo. I won't last a day.
I have a friend who once had the side of his car slashed. He said he had a good idea of who did it. A guy in the same dorm working in the same company. Apparently, he smirked when walking past my friend.
Also, I was once advised by my driving instructor not to go for a flashy colour for my new car. Reason being that somebody might damage it.
Some people....

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Rob: I kind of love that you are encouraging my wrath (via head-butting). We are definitely on the same wave-length.

aimlesswanderer: It's a definite possibility but I fear repercussions when they realize despite looking all the same, there's probably only one female whitie biking their path everyday.

Anon: Three horns? Really? I believe you about not fucking around. I have seen the potential for some nasty accidents and this is on the sidewalk. It's all a little scary some days but I do love riding over the train.

久璃子: That's so not on and would probably send me over the edge. It's bad enough out in "public" but knowing the fucker who vommed in your basket lives in your building is such a shitty piece of info. I should post about vomming all over the place...there's been a couple times people in my building vommed in the foyer (walls, everything) and then left it ALL weekend until the super cleaned it up. Disgraceful behavior.

hellopoponta: As I am fond of saying, it's a jungle out there. I will never understand the underlying meanness to complete strangers that seems to be quite common here.

MoreThingsJapanese said...

This was a hilarious way to start the day. Thank you. Thoguh I do feel for your biking madness. Hope you find a compromise!

Learn Indonesian in Bali said...

I agree with Robin I have ever read the same article about the Japanese police will be more strict with bikes and enforce rules that bikes are not to be ridden on the pedestrian curbs.
this is important information for gaijin. :)

Diane said...

Do be careful while out there, some people are mean.