He-who-Rides-a-Bicycle

The correct manner of interacting with the train: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!

The correct manner of interacting with the train: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!

[I wrote the following piece some 10 years ago for the university newspaper. In the meantime, I discovered that the bicycle is just an excuse, a pretext not to acknowledge others when you live in an overcrowded place; thanks to Steve Jobs, we now have smart phones which are so much more convenient].

There is this place in Japan called Tsukuba inhabited mainly by a tribe of people quite unique in their nature. They all seem to move about riding a bicycle, whether they go to this big air-conditioned tent called Library or to these little huts where the big chiefs initiate them in the mysterious ways of life.

I am an outsider in Tsukuba, as I have been recruited by the Elders Council a couple of years ago from a land seven seas and seven oceans away from here. Naturally enough I have acquired a bicycle of my own after some time, yet something seemed to be missing from making me a regular member of the tribe. As I came to understand not so long ago, the bicycle is not just a machine used to enhance one’s movements; it is more of a symbol for the way one is supposed to behave in this strange land.

The unwritten (and quite difficult to cope with) rule is that one should act like a shadow, crossing paths with the other shadows but never stopping.

Ohayo

ossss otsukare meshi wo kutta no?

Morning

whazzup laters

did you grab a bite?

Neata

noroc adios

ai halit ceva?

These are simply formulas meant to keep one from realizing his best mate is… his bicycle. I have spent almost two years in Tsukuba and yet the majority of my Japanese friends are not, as could be expected, members of this tribe. This used to be rather disturbing for my social ego, but recently I have reached the conclusion that I am not the only one feeling myself caught in a soap bubble blown here and there like the other twenty thousands soap bubbles created by the fantasy of some soft mad children…ho, behold the Doors! I reckon I breathed in a little too much of this shampoo, so I should probably stick to my tequila.

Having re-read what I just wrote it occurred to me that I ended up talking about myself again, a bad habit that has been taking hold of me lately. So let me get back to you, the already legendary bicycle rider, and give you a piece of advice that might come in handy sometime: do not get off your bicycle only because you cannot ride it inside the supermarket or in order to get absolutely hammered in the interval of two minutes.

Do try to get off your bicycle so as to topple others from this weird form of self-torture, do it so you can prove to yourself and others that the bubbles can be pricked, and you might find a better mate.

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