My husband usually deals with taking the bikes to the local repair fellow when there's a problem but he has more than enough on his plate on the weekends and far too much on the days when he's working with his 48 hour work week. I decided I'd just bite the bullet and walk the bike to the shop myself because I wanted to spare my husband the time and effort on his day off, particularly since he's already going to have to deal with some dai gomi (large trash) scheduling and sticker purchasing to get rid of our old oven and a huge shelf we're abandoning after 18 years of use.
When I set off on my little walk to the shop, I noticed that some other places along Ome Kaido had their metal shutters down and were closed. I considered for a moment that Thursday might be the day the shop just happened to be closed but thought that was unlikely as Wednesday and Monday are the big weekdays for places to close up. It didn't occur to me that this week is the first week of the O-bon summer holiday season in Japan and that the shop may be closed for that reason. In fact, the bike shop was closed as were a great many other shops on the local shopping streets. Part two of the equation was: the summer holiday season.
The problem at this point was that I've got a bike with a flat tire and a desperate need to get some shopping for food done. I also need to pay some bills that are due today or risk having my gas, electric, and water access cut-off. While it's unlikely they'd shut me down for being a little late (today is the actual due date), one doesn't want to take chances when people are dropping dead or being hospitalized all over Japan as the temperatures hover near or over 100 degrees.
Since I was somewhat closer to a few of the places I needed to shop at than I'd be if I just went back home, I decided to just push the dead bike along and walk to the shops. I knew that it'd take some time (in the end, from pumping the tires in the sun to getting home, it took about an hour and a half) but the bike isn't going to get fixed any time soon so I felt it was better to do it while I was already close than to walk home and think about how to deal with things later.
As I was walking to the first market, I passed by the local carpet and draperies place where we bought our new living room carpet. I need a carpet square to put under a metal shelf I plan to move into the kitchen so that it's spiky supports don't tunnel through the newish kitchen flooring and (eventually) through the floorboards. The finished carpet bits (which I guess are throw rugs) are in the picture above just behind the hanging "500 yen" sign. As I was pawing through them and checking out their sizes (my shelf is 40 cm x 60 cm and I wanted one that wasn't too big or small), the fellow who works there and delivered our carpet popped out and started helpfully educating me about the sizes of the bits I was looking at by saying things like, "that one is long." In the end, I found an acceptable one which was 45 cm x 65 cm (which he helpfully told me was "smaller" than the "long" one) and purchased it.
The man who works in the shop is really quite nice and well-meaning. I really don't know how he stays in business though since I rarely see anyone buying things there when I pass by (and I go by two or three times a week) and we shop there only once every 8 years or so. These shops that mysteriously linger on despite seeming to sell nearly nothing are all over Tokyo. Roy at Q-taro once made a post about such a place and I speculated that they're intentional failures as tax dodges for high value property but I really don't know how they manage.
As I was walking from the carpet shop to the market, my back started to bother me a bit so I took advantage of the useless bike I was pushing around and leaned a bit on it. By the time I got home, this "leaning" and the friction it caused on my thumb and palm actually resulted in a sizable blister. I didn't even notice what was going on until I scraped something against my thumb while putting away groceries and ripped off the thin skin cover the blister to expose the raw skin underneath. I can't tell you how much fun this was to clean off with rubbing alcohol but lets just say it was a new adventure in pain.
The cheapest local market, Utakaraya, with its fine selection of what I'm sure are semi-aged vegetables out in front.
Getting back to my little journey though... By the time I reached the market, the heat was starting to really bother me. I'm the type of person who has never known a suntan because I'm so fair-skinned that I make the journey from ghostly white to freckle to lobster in a very short time. There is no pit stop at "tan" between. I'm also exceptionally sensitive to heat and I don't mean that I'm one of those whiny people who says I can't tolerate heat because I get sweaty and uncomfortable. I mean that I get faint, nauseous, and feel like I'm going to pass out when I'm in the sun and heat for too long.
I was thinking at about this time that it'd be a good idea to get the shopping done and try to get home as quickly as possible but I'm hindered by old women who linger in front of the piles of carrots poking at and inspecting every package to make sure they get the very one which is absolutely the best for their 100 yen. I get tired of this and snatch my carrots from around the old bat who seems to be the official carrot inspector (I'm surprised she didn't whip out a magnifying glass and inspect them for blemishes) and make my way inside the store, grab a few avocados and the greenest bananas on the top of the pile (this time reaching around a middle-aged woman who needed to lift every single one of the bunches on top to see if any "better" ones were lurking underneath). I glanced at the wilted lettuce and moved on to the meat section. Six diet Cokes and a 4-pack of cream cheese and ham "panini" later, I'm fighting through check-out where a mother bemuses herself by allowing her 2 sons to each hold onto multi-packs of tiny blueberry yogurt containers separately so the check-out woman can't finish the job of ringing up the woman's purchase and so I can't get out of there.
It wasn't that getting out of there was such a great deal. At least Utakaraya is air conditioned to around 80 degrees whereas it's closing in on 100 outside. All I've got to look forward to is a walk in the heat while pushing my bike with the flat tire and now also carrying a heavy back-pack. The cheap housewife bikes most of us use for dealing with daily running around aren't all that heavy when you have inertia and you're riding them but they can be a chore to push around for a long time, especially when it's sweltering and when you have to push them up hills.
I decided to take the back way home because it's shorter but I overlooked the fact that it also has no shade. Ome Kaido has trees all over it but the back street is almost all cement walls and pavement being cooked in the sun. The sun is beating down on me and I literally feel like I'm stewing like a sausage in its skin. The third part of the equation is: 97 degree-heat and no shade.
By the time I was approaching home, my heart was really pounding even though I was not greatly exerting myself. I figured it'd be prudent to walk home slowly given how badly I'm reacting to the baking I'm taking but this just leaves me out in these horrible conditions longer. I'm starting to fear that the sum of the equation is going to me lying on the road suffering from heat stroke but I talked myself down from such notions and made my way back.
In the end, I was okay after a bit of a woozy spell while I slowly sipped water and let the air conditioner do its thing. The valuable lesson I've taken from this is that I need to live with my limits rather than try and tough it out, and that I should only shop after dark and allow my husband to fix the bike from now on.
Flat Tire + holiday season + baking heat with no shade = stay at home!