Tuesdays I am very busy. In the morning I have my Japanese class, and in the early afternoon a business meeting in town. Usually, I buy an obento lunch box somewhere and don’t bother going home in between, the day is tiring enough as it is. Last week, at the end of the day, I had yet another meeting with somebody, not too far from meeting #2. Because it was an okay day and I am fast enough on my bicycle, I left only 30 minutes between those meetings, which is plenty.

Usually, that is. Last week however, meeting #2 took a bit longer (for the first time ever!) and I couldn’t really say “okay, I’m off now”, so I was quite pressed for time. On my way, I had to go through a part of inner city that at that late hour is always rather busy, and I had to cycle fast but still carefully to avoid all the people on the streets (one way streets without pavements but lots of shops). I was happy when I found a less busy street and I pedalled on a bit faster, still watching the clock – and, at one point, an interesting building on the other side of the street.

And then I looked ahead again. And there she was: Coming out of nowhere, there was an elderly lady walking in the middle of the bicycle path. I swear the street was empty just seconds before, so I came after her with full speed. There was nothing I could do: swerving left would have had me grazing the wall of the building, swerving right would have put me right into the path of the car five metres behind me… So, I did the only thing left: I continued straight on and pulled the brakes as hard as I could.

And of course, I slammed fully into her. In a sense, I was lucky that my front wheel went between her legs, that I have a basket before the handle bar and that my brakes are in good condition. This is to say, I did give the old lady a rough shove in the back, but she just made a few fast steps forward and did not fall, thankfully.

I was mortified: She turned around with the Japanese equivalent of “what the hell”, I jumped off my bike. And then I apologised and asked if she was okay and if there was something I could do or if she wanted to go to hospital or… She seemed okay, but I was still deeply shocked.

And what did she do: She did not utter a single word! Through all my words of apology and whatnot, she just looked at me accusingly, but did not say anything. Nothing at all. When I finally stopped yapping and waited for her to speak, she just threw me a final disapproving look and then she walked on – still on the middle of the bicycle path, by the way.

Pole saying "I'm sorry" in JapaneseThis was the single most embarrassing thing that I have done in all my time in Japan! I mean, I have my share of “stupid stuff foreigners do”, but almost running down that old lady is on a completely different level. And the fact that she did not say anything, did not accept or even acknowledge my apology, makes it even worse. I did not sleep well that night, and I can only hope that she was indeed as unharmed as it seemed to me. And that I’ll never bump into her again. I’m sorry…