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Short Stories

Zatoichi v. Gaijin

By September 23, 2020One Comment

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 resembling an engorged tick with a silver phallus shaped weapon at the ready. (Actually a mini, bike pump). The other short and frail dressed in a white workman’s outfit with a bandaged right leg, holding a cane concealing this octogenarian’s 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 goal I had no idea existed.

On my trusty steel steed enjoying an early morning ride around Tokyo, I closed in on a traffic signal just turning red. My joy short lived and shattered by the deafening sound of a car horn. It’s not one of those polite 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.

Now I would like to justify my next series of actions with the following: The sidewalk width road was packed with cars going both directions. I glimpsed 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 choice number two– slam into the fence to avoid the offending car, which 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 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. In tandem with my well-trained middle figure I yelled at the top of my lungs the good ole “You Mother F__ __ __ __ __ ” and driving the point home with a “F__ __ __  you.” Even if English wasn’t there second language there was no doubt that driver and passenger understood what was being communicated. I thought to myself, “It’s like riding a bike, you never forget.” Suddenly, I was filled with rapturous NYC rage. I loved it!

Enjoying the waning moments of rage, 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 was not coming my way. This move is also part of my NYC tutelage. 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.

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 was a MAMIL – 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 skin tight, private parts revealing cycling garb. That is until he got a closer look at my face and beard.

Noticing I was a MAMIL and a “gaijin” (foreigner) and not backing down, he looked over his shoulder to his car and stoplight to confirm it was still red. I surmised that he was determining his next move. Once the light turned green he would be holding up traffic. What next?

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 start a street brawl with a “gaijin” MAMIL.

Tension released after retreating to our respective corners, I waited for the light to turn green. As the light changed, I darted across on my bike 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 a thought, “Was that Zatoichi?”

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