As an example to go with my last post, today we happened to be driving, we had to go way across town, and the bus routes are really inconvenient. At one point, we were approaching an intersection. We had a stop sign, and we stopped and waited because a woman and a young girl were coming up the cross-street from our right on bikes. A car full of young boys pulled up behind us, started honking at us, and then floored it around us into the intersection as we were trying to yell at them that there were people coming. They came within about a foot of nailing the woman, with the girl who was probably her daughter right behind her. They then accelerated and went around her, leaving both her and the girl frightened, stopped in the middle of the street, stunned.
This is not abnormal. This happens daily. Not only young boys do this. Grown men do this. Old women do this. Much of the population is willing to risk the lives of other people to shave a few seconds off of their travel time, and this is seen as rational, acceptable behavior by many people.
It's hard to explain the stress of riding a bicycle in America. The danger is often measured simply in number of deaths of people riding bicycles, and it is assumed that if that number is low, that it is safe, and that people riding bicycles are therefore well-accommodated. But the actual stress of riding a bicycle for transportation in America is much more complicated.
In thinking about this, I'm reminded of a story I heard about Billy Corgan, the lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins. When he was growing up, he lived with his father and step-mom. His step-mom was violently abusive of him, sometimes. Other times she was fine. He made the comment that the real emotional trauma for him didn't come from the abuse itself, which was infrequent, but from never knowing when it was going to come. The constant tension and uncertainty.
That is what it's like to ride a bicycle for transportation in America.
You constantly know that:
- All it takes for you to die or be seriously injured is for one person to not be paying attention for 5 seconds.
- The majority of the population believes that they are in complete control while driving well beyond their ability (often doing multiple other things at the same time), and that of course nothing like killing or seriously injuring someone could ever happen to them.
- The majority of the population sees you as an inconvenience, to be passed by whatever means necessary, including breaking the law dangerously. This happens to me almost daily, being passed illegally. Not infrequently, the person in the car passing me illegally nearly collides with other cars, people crossing the street ahead of us, etc, who are all following the law.
- The infrastructure (roads, intersections, parking, signage, etc) often creates conflicts between people driving and people riding bicycles or walking. For instance, bike lanes which, by law, a person on a bicycle has to use, that end on the near side of an intersection, and force people riding bikes to merge illegally in the intersection with traffic going potentially 20mph faster than them. Or on-street car parking that blocks the view of everyone on the road or sidewalk at an intersection, and makes it frightening to even pull or walk out into a road at times, since you don't know what's coming, and it makes it a surprise for people in the road when you do pull or walk out into traffic, because they couldn't see you sitting there waiting.
- The law is lenient towards people driving, as long as they are not drunk, and as long as they don't hit-and-run. If they are sober and stay at the scene, they are not likely to be cited with much, even if they seriously wound or kill someone. This means that 1.) people only associate irresponsibility with drinking. If you're sober, you feel you're being responsible regardless of how you're driving, and 2.) people have no motivation to be careful, because they know if they cooperate, they probably won't be held responsible for much. It is, for the most part, the responsibility of the person walking or riding a bicycle to make sure they just stay out of the way.
That's simply how it is. It may not be objectively very dangerous, but it is stressful, and mentally and emotionally taxing.
Karuta is a Japanese card game, often played by children for educational purposes, but also played by teens and adults competitively.
The most common form played competitively uses 100 poems by 100 different poets. Each of these poems are split into two parts. The second parts of each poem are written on 100 different small cards, making up a deck.
The match is between two people, and one deck of cards is used. Each player lays out 25 cards randomly, so a total of 50 cards are laid out in the playing field. There is a reader, who reads each poem (all 100), both the first and second half, with a pause between each half.
The players must listen carefully to the poem from the first half, and as soon as enough of the second half has been read to uniquely identify the poem, each player must try to hit the card with the second half of the poem written on it before the other player does.
Because Japanese is a very syllabic language, the cards are referred to as one, two, three, etc syllable cards, meaning they are uniquely identifiable after one, two, three or more syllables. This classification may change depending on which cards are on the playing field, and which cards have already been read, since eliminating all cards but one that start with a particular syllable then makes the remaining one a one syllable card, when before it may have been a two syllable card.
The goal is to eliminate all the cards on your own side of the playing field first. If a player takes a card from the opponent's side, they then pass them one of their cards. If a player hits the wrong card, they are penalized by having to take a card from their opponent.
After the 50 cards have been laid out on the playing field, the players are given time to memorize the positions of the cards. Because all 100 cards are read during the match, the players must be very aware of which cards are actually laid out in the playing field, and which cards have already been read by the reader, because if the reader reads a card that is not on the playing field and they hit the wrong card, they are penalized. It is also important for speed's sake, to have an idea of what area the possible cards are in as soon as possible, so having a mental map of the playing field is important.
The players are allowed to lay out their own cards on the playing field in basically any order, and there is strategy based on their own handed-ness, the opponent's handed-ness and their own strengths and weaknesses in defending and attacking cards. There are also the nuances of the voice of the reader and their rhythm that the players must adapt to, as well as the physical strain of having to sit on your knees for something like an hour at a time (and in tournaments, sometimes for 5-6 matches in one day) while slightly bent over and making swipes and lunges with your arm.
Here's a little video showing pieces of a match.