Yesterday, when I got home from work in the early evening, I decided to do something outside of my normal Thursday routine which consisted of me watching Pardon The Interruption, followed by SportsCenter before I headed over to dine in at Buffalo Wild Wings for Boneless Thursday. The weather was nice for that time of day so I decided to grill a few chicken tenders on my George Foreman grill and sit out on the balcony of my apartment. From my vantage on the top floor, I have fantastic views of the pool, the gym, the parking area, and even the housing community under development a couple of blocks away. So while I’m out on the balcony watching SportsCenter via the WatchESPN app on my Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro and checking out the babes showing off their “summer bodies” at the pool, I see a mother and her young son in the parking area. She was teaching him how to ride a bike…had the training wheels and everything. The moment comes when she lets go and he starts peddling himself. The kids screams out “I got it mommy” and no sooner than he did that, he crashed to the ground. I instantly smiled because I was reminded on perhaps the last time I fell off a bicycle. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the day I became a “pro” at Showa Park.
How I first came across this moment? It was August 9, 2008. I was living in Fussa, Tokyo at the time. The night before, me and 2 of my closest friends had attended the Fussa Tanabata Festival. While we were taking in all of the festivities, one of my friends suggested we all go to Showa Kinen Park the next day and that we bring along the pastor’s kids. I was all game for it as was my other friend. So the next day, we picked up the pastor’s kids and 2 other people and headed down to Showa Park…8 of us in the pastor’s van. We ended up renting bikes at the Nishi-Tachikawa gate to ride around the entire park. At the time, I had a Jeep Cherokee full suspension mountain bike…as American as they come. On that day, however, I was riding a mamachari—a Japanese bicycle equipped with a basket, a simple lock, a kickstand, and a single gear AKA the mom’s bicycle. During my many adventures around Fussa and into Downtown Tokyo, I saw these bikes in abundance. I also saw the way in which the locals rode them and I was amazed. I saw women riding these bikes wearing high heels. I saw people riding these bikes at steady speeds while holding umbrellas. I saw people riding these bikes while having conversations on their cell phones without hands-free devices. The most impressive thing I saw the locals do on these bikes was the way they got on and off them. Basically, to get on a bike Japanese style, you do all of the following:
- Stand on the left side of the bicycle
- Place right foot on left peddle
- Walk bicycle to get a roll and place left foot on left peddle next to right foot
- Let bicycle roll about 5-10 feet
- Maneuver right foot and right side of body so that you can use both peddles
It’s pretty much the reverse in getting off a bike, too. The only difference is you have to walk the bicycle to a stop. On this particular occasion at Showa Park, I got the getting on the bike part perfectly. It was the getting off part that provided an unforgettable moment. The moment happened in the bike parking area near Waterfowl Lake. We were all parking our bikes and I circled around in my attempt to get off like a local. With everybody looking on, I got to the penultimate step, which involved me rolling with both feet on one peddle, and yelled out “I’m a pro”. No sooner than I did that, I crashed into the bushes. Everybody laughed and that moment has since become one of the many things I’m known for in Japan.
What it meant to me then? It didn’t mean anything then. Yeah, I was the subject of some teasing for a day or two but it was just all good-natured laughter. There was that one time where the pastor mentioned the event during a sermon. His exact lines were “We all can’t be pros at this like Juan”.
What it means to me now? I redeemed myself of the event 2 years later but whenever I’m around my crew from Japan and we start talking about everybody’s “moments”, the Showa Park incident undoubtedly always comes up. I can promise you today, however, that I can get off a bicycle like a Japanese person without a hitch. I guess you can say I’m a “pro” at it now.