High noon Tokyo, two men fifty paces stare each other down like a scene from the shoot out at the OK Corral. One dressed in black tights resembles an engorged tick with a silver phallus shaped weapon at the ready. The other short and frail is dressed in a white workman’s outfit with a bandaged right leg, holding a cane concealing the octogenarian weapon of choice – a mini Samurai sword. Squinting like Clint Eastwood, the centenarian sizes up his opponent – who at half his age happens to be me the tick. Tension mounts while waiting for each to make the first move. As cruel as this scene looks, odds are in my favor that I am about to check off a bucket list item I had no idea existed.
On my trusty steel steed enjoying an early morning ride around Tokyo, I am closing in on a red traffic signal. My joy is short lived and shattered by the deafening sound of a car horn. It’s not one of those polite short beeps signaling, “I am here be careful.” This was a long blare implying “get the f __ ___ ___ out of my way or you will die.” At least that was my interpretation of it.
I now would like to justify my next series of actions with the following: The sidewalk width road was packed with cars going in both directions, I got a glimpse of the grim reaper in my rear view bike mirror so swerving into oncoming traffic was a bad first choice. To avoid experiencing the sounds of bone crunching and metal on metal, I opted for slamming into the fence – The offending car just missed me by a grain of rice. A tangled mess, my anger welled and I screamed, “What’s the point of the horn?” My only conclusion, this was some old geezer having a massive heart attack and the weight of his limp head hitting the steering wheel caused the car to swerve and horn to blow. The quick thinking passenger grabbed the steering wheel and took control of the car just in the nick of time. In hindsight I wasn’t too far off.
While untangling myself I immediately went into NYC mode. NYC stands for New York City, and if you have ever been to NYC then you will know what I am talking about. If not, I will ask you to imagine life on the streets as an urban wild west – where humanity meets the road. Instead of gunfire and hoots it’s horns and insults. Think of it as a modern day gunfight in which split second verbal and finger reactions are fired off in response to car horns. Who wins, depends on the mettle of one’s character. This lethal mix of bikes, pedestrians and automobiles makes for an incendiary combination in which tempers flair at the drop of a hat. And having lived in NYC for 8 years I was well trained relying on my voice and middle finger – The chosen methods of response in this current situation.
Freed from the fence, I was back on my bike quaking with anger. Thanks to the narrow road I was within arms length of the car window of my offender and yelled at the top of my lungs the good ole “You Mother F__ ___ ___ ___ ___ ” followed up with a “F___ ___ ___ you,” to drive the point home. Even if English wasn’t there second language, there was no doubt the driver and passenger understood what was being communicated. In tandem with the verbal reply, my well-trained middle figure really put the cherry on top. I thought to myself, “It’s like riding a bike, you never forget.” Suddenly, I was filled with rapturous moments of NYC rage! I loved it!
Enjoying the waning moments, I rode my bike towards the cross walk and stopped to wait for the light to change. Out of habit I turned around to make sure that the driver or passenger were not coming my way. This move is also part of my NYC tutelage. You see in NYC it was not uncommon that the driver of a taxi or car would get out and start yelling in hopes of a physical altercation. Not being a fighter by nature it was always a yelling match for me. To my surprise when I turned around the driver was walking in my direction with a sense of brave purpose. Stopping fifty paces apart I sized him up as he squinted in my direction. “If we were to duke it out I could use his limp to my advantage,” I thought to myself. His emanating rage evidenced by clenched fists threatened my existence as I reached deep inside to call forth my evolutionary need for survival. Readying myself for a rumble my body trembled. However, there was one problem, I am a MAMIL – A Middle Age Man In Lyrca, or the tick if you recall. From his vantage point I must have looked like an easy mark considering my cycling garb. That is until he got a closer look at my face and beard.
Seeing I was a foreigner and not yet backing down he looked over his shoulder to his car and stoplight to confirm it was still red. I surmised that he was using this fact that there would a driverless car if the light turned green to save face. He reluctantly took a step backward in the direction of his car. This was indeed his excuse to back down in order to save face rather than to start a street brawl with a gaijin (Foreigner). Tension released after retreating to our respective corners – car and cross walk, I waited for the light to turn green. As the light changed I darted across knowing he was turning left and could have easily clipped me had he timed it right. Within a safe distance I sat up on my bike with a feeling of satisfaction soon followed by disappointment thinking to myself, “I could have made Wyatt Earp proud.”