Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Charinko jitters

To my great regret, I am no stranger to bike accidents. Whenever I'm due some karma, it seems to arrive in the form of a slapstick bicycle scenario, involving a taxi, a misplaced patch of ice, mechanical failure, or- on one memorable occasion- all three simultaneously.

And today I was accelerating across Nagahori when, with an all-too-familiar SPROING! noise, my chain slipped the rear wheel, my steed bucked and, but for the rattlesnake reflexes of my right leg, I would have pitched over my handlebars as I have on more than a few previous occasions. Had it not been for the fortuitous circumstance that I was running a red light at the time, I could quite easily have veered into the side, or- better still- under the front wheels of another vehicle. As it was, I was able to retrieve the situation before the junction became too busy and rolled my bike over to the kerb to assess the damage.

Feeling a little self-conscious after my theatrical swerve in the middle of the junction, I was none too pleased to see that the gaggle of Japanese waiting on the far side of the road had eyes only for the henna gaijin on the clapped out bicycle.

Nevertheless, if there is one thing I have learnt about the natives of my host country, it is that they respect a sense of ritual; hence their love affair with such esoterica as Sumo wrestling, or the Japanese tea ceremony. I gave a friendly smile and bow to the assembled kaishain, then, with the methodical demeanour of a priest or blacksmith, rolled up my sleeves, looped my bike chain onto the cog of the rear wheel, rolled my steed back and forth a few times until the chain caught as neatly as a noose around the neck of a condemned man, and rode off down Naniwa-suji in search of fame and glory.

As it turns out, I found neither, but the memory of my perceived near-death experience and my expert performance as bicycle repair man certainly made the rest of the day easier to handle.

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