It hurts me type this, not only because two of my fingers are lacerated, but because I promised myself and others that I would be in this situation. In chain-reaction fashion, I had made decisions that resulted in me lying face down on the pavement, bruised and bloodied, wondering about broken bones and shattered teeth.
“watashi-no kao wa?” (How’s my face?) I weakly asked one of two people who rushed to help. In a blurred instant I had gone from atop a bicycle to sorting out what might never be the same. “Your chin is bloodied,” one of my helpers said, grabbing one arm. The helper on my other arm seemed to look away as he helped me to my feet, making me wonder what they weren’t telling me…My lip did not feel right. Since I had landed facedown, I expected worse.
As I got up, I saw that the third and fourth fingers on my right hand long jagged tears and were bleeding. At this point, I didn’t care about the road rash on my other hand, the scarped on my forearm, or the multiple bruises on both legs. I thanked my helpers, slowly walked my bike to the nearest bench, got a towel out of my backpack and applied direct pressure to stop the flow of blood. It was only then, in the stable quiet of the bench, that I realized how much my equilibrium was off – I had been riding drunk.
Guilt and self-loathing settled heavily on my shoulders. Just an hour ago, I had been so happy at what seemed like the perfect summer party: great people, great barbeque, beautiful scenery, pleasant weather, ice-cold beer. The conversation was flowing in three languages and so was the tap. IN fact, one did not even have to speak. I help my insulated cup out to the server and he filled it half-full each time. Steak, German sausages, Japanese pickles, fried onions and shitake mushrooms circulated regularly on plates – I had my fill of these foods accompanied by the chilled beer. Over the space of three and a half hours, I believed that I was nursing my drink – having just enough to wash down the food, I was wrong. Actually, I was wrong several times.
- They said you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, yet I had brought a bike to a keg party. I never would have driven a car, but until my fall, I believed it was safe for me to have a couple beers and ride a bicycle.
- I did not stop at one or two beers as is my practice. I usually find it unpleasant to have more than two drinks at a sitting. However, this particular day, fine chilled beer, warm weather, good food, the mood – something enticed me to drink more. (I wish it had been tea).
- I could have easily walked my bike to the nearby train station, but I didn’t. In my party buzz I felt great; so, I was riding a mountain bike on a narrow road from Haijima to Ome City. As I rode through Fussa, a car swerved around me to pass. I thought the driver would cut me off, so I veered left, suddenly catching handlebar on a fence. My bike stopped instantly, but I didn’t until I hit the pavement. A tough was to end a beautiful day.
The Japanese have a long tradition of drinking and partying, yet they advise to not have a single drink before operating any moving vehicle. I now believe they are not being overly cautious, but applying lessons learned from a history of experiences just like mine. I both regret not heeding this advice and apologize for not obeying it sooner.
While I believe there are often a series of poor decisions that lead to disasters, it is harder to make correct decision once a person has started drinking. Planning for a “perfect party experience” should include preplanning a safe way home that won’t require first-aid.
-Submitted anonymously by a retired Airman