Okay, so it kind of has nothing to do with the song (If you don’t know it, you must check it out – one of my favorites by the fabulous Enrique Iglesias (though I won’t vouch for the video, I can say the song is great)), but I liked that it reminded me of the song… because it has to do with bells… yeah. Anyway… on to the story!
Riding one’s bicycle in Japan is definitely an experience, especially when coming from Houston, Texas, as an educated and informed bicycle rider. People here kind of can’t decide on which side of the road to ride, whether to ride on the street or the sidewalk, and then on which side to pass oncoming bicycles or to overtake someone. But that’s all manageable for the most part.
However, what IS rather difficult is how people neither speak nor use their bells when on their bicycles (even though they almost all have bells, and they definitely all have voices). So, if someone is coming up behind you, it is quite possible that you’ll be shocked into knowing it by the sudden (and oftentimes frightening) appearance of a bike zooming past you only a few inches to your side. Boy are you glad you didn’t decide to readjust your jacket or stretch your arms! But seriously… it’s actually a thing here. Totally frightening at times.
That being said, you can somewhat understand how I get such varied responses when I use my bicycle bell. (Yes, when I ring my bell.) I have had people scowl quite angrily at me and ignore my kind greeting in Japanese as I pass. I have had others ignore me entirely, and sometimes even stay right in the middle of the biking/walking path, so that I can’t pass. Most often, though, people just show an expression of extreme shock. (While this could be misinterpreted for sure, as I am not Japanese in any sense of the identity, I imagine this is because people are not accustomed to hearing a bike bell being rung.)
Now, I have had these responses to varying degrees, and then many more responses – one lady even grabbed her husband to pull him out of the way when he was ignoring my bell. However, the response at which I experienced probably the most natural delight was just this morning, on my way to school.
When overtaking people, I usually give a warning ring while still a ways back, and then a second when I am about to pass. When I gave my first warning ring to a lady walking with her crossover dog this morning, her response nearly floored me with laughter. What precisely did she do when I rang? She looked right at me, and then turned and started running.
Heading down the path in the same direction I was going, it made no sense that she be attempting to escape me or my passing her, as she was going much slower than I was. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but feel like I were in some sort of movie, chasing down the bad guy or something – I was simply delighted at the ridiculousness of the situation, my ‘chasing down’ this middle-aged Japanese woman (even though I figured there Must be some reasonable explanation)… It was fabulous. 😀
Turns out she had a totally logical reason for running (of course). Her dog was a couple yards ahead of her, and she was not holding the leash. So the lady decided to run to catch up to her dog before my bike and I did. Quite simple explanation, I know, and rather unexciting. However, it in no way changes the delight I experienced when she looked up at me, and then sprinted in the opposite direction. That was really great. ;P