I was riding my bike tonight—at the top of a long hill, huffing and puffing, watching the full moon rise—when suddenly a car passed, and someone inside yelled, “You rock!” The youth then stuck his hand out the passenger-side window and waved it up and down, and continued waving it until I waved back, as though he wanted to be sure I’d heard him.
And it took me surprise.
No, no. It’s not that I’m not used to being yelled at while I’m riding. I get yelled at all the time. “F- you!” people say. Or, sometimes, “You idiot!” Sometimes they honk their horn and scream “Ahhhhh!” just to scare me.
And, unfortunately, it works.
See, most of the time when I ride—unless I’m in a place where I need to be directly mindful of cars (I’m a good rider!)—I am a million miles away. Riding and running are my escape. They are my chance to think about . . . everything. And because cyclists ride with traffic instead of against it, if someone thinks it’s funny to see a cyclist jump out of his skin, all they have to do is surprise him as they come up behind him.
It’s a cruel joke, honestly. I’ve nearly swerved into traffic or into a curb before when someone has decided to have a laugh at my expense. It also leaves my heart pounding and my mind in a tizzy: all I hear are those unkind words; suddenly, each new car produces a wince. Will this one yell at me? Will this one? Will this one?
When I lived in Sanjhih, a tiny town at the northern tip of Taiwan, I went running every morning before work. I ran down a hill and onto a scooter path through rice fields where locals, too, would exercise before the sun came up. Even at that early hour the humidity was stifling, but that didn’t stop elderly Taiwanese men and women from doing tai chi or speed-walking to traditional Chinese music crooning from portable radios strapped to their hips. I was the only blonde, of course, and one of only a handful of foreigners who lived in the town. This meant I was used to being stared at, or sometimes people just acted uncomfortable and looked the other way.
Except for one middle-aged man. He was one of the few runners I saw on the path, and every time we passed one another, he’d give me a thumbs up and say, “加油!” (pronounced, “jyih-yo”), which means “add oil.” It’s the Chinese way of saying, “Go, go!”
And every time he did, it made me smile. I’d give him a thumbs up in return, and he’d smile, and we’d go our separate, sweaty ways. But even after we parted, my smile stayed put. Hours later, when I recalled the man’s kindness, my heart would smile; somehow, that seemingly small act made it easier to go about my hectic day.
I was still smiling when I got home from my ride tonight.
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- 8 Traditional Sounds in Chinese Music (china.answers.com)