When I was young I would say with a naïve innocence that my first car would be a black Mercedes Benz with the most expensive chrome rims. I had no idea what chrome rims were (actually, I am still not entirely sure what they are) but all my friends wanted them, so of course my car must and had to have chrome rims.
Flash forward about twenty years later, my main mode of transportation for the last 5 years has been a second-hand bicycle with a half broken basket and terrible brakes. Don’t get my started on the bell that should ring. Yet somehow I revel in the fact that I do not have a car, and never have.
There are a few reasons for this, of course. There is a proudness that comes with knowing that my carbon footprint is indeed rather small. There all the books I would have never read if I hadn’t taken a train or boat. The spectacular landscapes that can only be seen from cycling through narrow alleys or, walking under secluded bridges. But truth be told, the main reason why I am happy I don’t have a car is all the little stories that would have been forgotten if I had driven.
On Sunday, Toyama’s sky was a melancholy grey but that was negated by my gaudishly colourful ensemble coupled with an extravagantly bright orange umbrella. Yes, even the rain couldn’t rain on my parade. Gosh, I am a sucker for silly clichés!
I was on my way to meet my friends in Nyuzen, a tiny town in eastern Toyama famous for watermelons. In fact so famous for watermelons, the city’s mascot is, well, a watermelon. I should add, a happy watermelon.
On this day, however, my trip would focus on flowers, not fruits. Nyuzen was having its annual Tulip Flower Road festival and I had cleared my schedule, weeks in advance, to ensure that I was free on this particular Sunday. Okay, I fibbed. I am usually free on most weekends. I digressed.
At 10:30am I hopped on the train, left my town, Namerikawa, famous for fire fly quids to venture into the land of the watermelons.
I stared out of the foggy window, occasionally wiping it to get a better view of the changing scenery. As the landscape from one sleepy town to another changed so did my music playlist. I began humming along to Dionne Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over” when I looked up and noticed, in the next cart, a young man holding on tightly to one of the railings. I kept staring at him wanting to know why he was holding on so tightly to it. I was almost willing him to give me an answer. Ironically, when Dionne Warwick sang the line “…just love me with all my flaws” he turned to reveal his disfigured face. It was clear he was blind.
The rain beating outside now washed a deep sadness over me. I felt sorry for him. There he was alone, on the train, holding on tightly to the metal railing unable to see all the beauty that unfolded. I couldn’t imagine such loneliness, such isolation. The mere thought pained me. Then my playlist changed to Sade’s “By Your Side” and the train conductor announced we will soon be stopping at Nyuzen.
The train came to a halt, and Sade was singing:
When you’re lost and you’re alone and you cant get back again
I will find you and I will bring you home
And if you want to cry
I am here to dry your eyes
And in no time, you’ll be fine
The doors automatically opened. The blind young man carefully stepped out of the train, and there waiting on the other side of the door was his grandfather who happily embraced his grandson.
Jenson recommends: Take a trip, not using a car, and be humbled by the stories you witness.