Thanks to the Swine Flu, I now own a bicycle. If that Pig Influenza hadn’t sidelined me in bed for a week, I would have surely blown another paycheck on yet one more all-you-can-drink karaoke session. But as it happened, once my fever broke, my wallet contained a spare hundred bucks worth of yen, so off I went to the bike store. I bought the largest bike I could find. It was still tiny, like riding a midget, but also just as fun.
A bike is a great way to get around. I went to the next town. Wow, just like my town. From there I found a lazy, tree-lined downhill. I was like, Man, cycling is so relaxing. Gradually, the downhill got a bit steeper, I stopped pedaling, the trees ended, and then without warning my meandering path turned into a highway entrance. I was like, Man, not cool. Suddenly there was this terrible truck roaring behind me and a tall railing keeping me from the sidewalk. Faster and faster went the tiny bicycle until the handlebars started shaking and I felt a sudden need to urinate. Something flew off one of the wheels and cracked on the concrete. Well, I thought, I probably didn’t need whatever that was anyway. At this point the truck behind me decided it would be a good idea to start honking. So there’s a giant white guy on a teenie-weenie bike entering the freeway at like a hundred miles an hour, and you think honking will improve matters? Thanks for the support.
A bike is a great way to get mind-bendingly lost. Once the road leveled out, the truck blew past, and I tossed bike and self over the shaky railing, I was far, far from home. Like in Kansas far. No way was I going back up that hill, so I thought, The hell, I’ll just loop around. I figured that if I only made left-hand turns, I’d soon circle back home. I’m smart like that. I made three perfect left turns before coming to a halt in an alley, where a glaring old man said, in English, “No way.” So helpful, the Japanese.
There are lots of maps in Japan, but for some reason they’re all in Japanese. And as I rode around confused I kept bumping into things, notably other bikes and people. Now, as far as I can tell, there are no rules whatsoever about riding a bike in this country. Right side of the road, left side of the road, the sidewalk, it makes no difference. I succeeded in pissing off guys in suits and grannies like there was no tomorrow. Eventually, by calculating the angle of the sun and asking directions in slobbering Japanese, I found Denny’s, which wasn’t home but was still nothing short of awesome, since I had a craving for a massive breakfast, famished as I was from all that riding. Denny’s also has a really nice automated bike parking system, at least until you use it. I rolled my front wheel up a thin ramp and suddenly jaws locked around it. Then I couldn’t get the damn thing out. Some crazy Japanese device had taken control of my midget bike. So I had breakfast anyway, then came back out and cried in front of the bike vending machine until some school girl showed me how to pay for my bike’s release. Two bucks to park a bike? It’s going to be a while before I eat at Denny’s again.
I’m pretty sure the cops in Japan have nothing better to do than to give me directions, which is a good thing since I asked at every police box until I finally found my way back to my village, took a long bath, and resolved never to leave the house again. It’s a big, confusing country out there. Probably best to just stay at home.