When I was the "designated bike watcher" at Canterbury Cathedral in southern England, three Japanese tourists stopped and one asked, excitedly, "Take picture? Take picture?" I smiled, and he raised his camera to focus, and I turned away for a moment to put my tape recorder in the saddlebag.
"No!" He motioned for me to get the device in my hand just as he had first seen me, recording.
That was in 1970 on the first of three Christian College bicycle tours, and the seven students were in the cathedral; that was the way we protected our eight colorful Peugeot bicycles and black saddlebags containing all of our clothing for the 45-day tour. While watching the bags, I was recording a trip diary to transcribe for the girls later. After the young tourist took the picture, he came to shake my hand and to introduce me to the middle-age couple waiting and smiling politely. I put the tape recorder back in my saddlebag and buckled it shut. Then I turned and was introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Ibuka. We bowed a little, smiled a lot, and the interpreter said, in practiced English, "Mr. Ibuka is the president of the Sony Corp.!"
No wonder he wanted a picture of an American woman using a Sony recorder while guarding eight loaded bikes and with the beautiful cathedral in the background! There was nothing the Ibukas and I could say to each other except through the interpreter, so it was a short encounter. We bowed and smiled "goodbye."
We cycled south along the Loire River in France, staying at youth hostels, visiting historical spots, taking a night bus ride to see illuminated castles. Then we biked down into Spain. We spent several days in San Sebastian where summer festivities were in full swing. We enjoyed one of the world’s most significant fireworks displays over the bay. We were undecided about the gory bull fighting but finally decided to go enjoy the pageantry and leave early.
Our seats were in the noisy, packed crowd and in front of an enthusiastic brass band; this made conversation impossible most of the time. When the mule team drug off the third lifeless bull, the consensus was, "When you’ve seen one you’ve seen ’em all," and we headed back to our relatively quiet apartment. On the way down a long flight of concrete steps, my Sony recorder slipped from my hand and splattered down those steps; the case popped open and broke, the batteries and tape fell out, and the girls gathered up the pieces. I strapped the recorder case together with duct tape and everything worked fine.
The next summer my 10 cyclists were in the Salisbury Cathedral, so I went to a large Sony dealership to have the recorder’s case replaced. While I waited the owner/manager asked many questions about our trip, and I told him about meeting the Ibukas the previous year. He told me that Mr. Ibuka was one of the two young inventors who made the original Sony equipment. "I’ll be going out to the Sony headquarters in Japan in August," he said, "and I’ll also meet Mr. Ibuka."
"Say ‘hello’ for me," I said, jokingly. The man said, seriously, "I certainly shall say ‘hello’ from you." He took my name and address. "You can identify me as the woman with a Sony and eight bicycles at Canterbury." There was no charge for the new recorder case.
Three months later I received a cordial letter from Mr. Ibuka beginning, "I most certainly do remember you."
Those were nice encounters of an unusual kind.