It was nearly 11:00 pm by the time I turned out the last light and headed away from school after our final performance of the Fall Play. I had to walk home, since I was long past the time they shut the gates for the parking lot, barring me from my bike. Not a problem, I thought, since I was still trippin' from the emotional high of a successful show, my home's maybe less than 25 minutes away, and I had recently charged my iPod.
I have to pass by many a, let's say, "quaint" shop on the way. One of them is a ramen restaurant-- the kind that is really only a counter and can barely fit six people elbow to elbow. During the day, it's boarded up at the front and often has large boxes or kegs in front, making it seem like the back entrance instead. This time, however, a little old lady in an apron was craning her neck from the open entrance, obviously interested but not-too-interested in the man down the street from both us.
This man must have just left her ramen place and was headed away, but it was clear that he had several beers along with his order of noodles. He had unsteadily mounted his well-worn, daily-use bike, the kind we call "mamachari." That's short for "mamma chariot" because of it's large basket in the front, space for tying boxes on the back, and industrial-sized frame. His knees sticking out at odd angles, the man was unsteady, to say the least. The ramen-lady looked on, her face and posture unreadable. Was she concerned? Would she help him? Or was her job done and she was just waiting to see what would happen next, like a detached scientist whose mad experiment was nonetheless lurching off into the night?
My thought? "Great..." Our paces were too matched. I would soon come upon him and have to walk behind the unsteady drunken ojii-san, "uncle." The Dr. Ramen-Lady watched me as I walked behind him, and we both watched as the man couldn't stop himself from running straight into a curb and then tumble into a random neighbor's flowers and pots along the narrow space that makes up what Tokyo-ites call their driveway.
Sigh. After 12 hours of high-strung theater students and higher-strung theater coaches, this wasn't on my agenda. I'm sure any other Tokyo-ite would just walk on by and never acknowledge seeing the guy. But I offered him my hand, asking if he was daijoubu, "okay," and helped the bicycle off of him. He was still unsteady, and I filled the uncomfortable silence as best I could, English mostly. He seemed okay to walk with the bike, and even started to ask questions. But even two years in Tokyo isn't enough to translate Drunk-Old-Guy-Japanese, and I couldn't even be sure if he was yelling at me or if he was just thinking you have to talk loudly to foreigners.
Thankfully, my corner was coming up, and I said a quick ki o tsukette! ("take care/be careful!") and rounded the turn. The Dr. Ramen-lady was still in the street, making mental notes as I slipped out of sight.