Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Downside of Biking to Work

Wendy has been away all week on business. Weather problems caused her to arrive home at 5:00 am, and the boys promptly woke her up at 6:30. As we scrambled to eat breakfast, I was feeling anxious about making it on time to an important meeting at work. Wendy, bless her heart, decided that we had to make conditional plan right then in case something goes wrong with our original plan the following week. The details aren't important. Our discussion was interrupted dozens of times by the boys, who were excited by Wendy's being home, their upcoming birthday, Christmas, and everything else. It takes me an hour to ride to work, but the meeting was in 45 minutes. That's OK, I told myself. I'll ride fast. And I'll listen to music instead of Adam Bede, so I'll get that extra adrenaline rush.

I rode out of my garage/bat cave feeling angry at the unnecessary conversation and guilty for not finishing it. As I was flying down the hill, I noticed a car about to cross the intersection without stopping at the stop sign. My heart raced. The driver saw me and slammed on his brakes halfway into the intersection. We glared at each other. My look said, "You almost killed me!" His look said, "I stopped, so what's the problem?"

About five minutes later, something happened that feels worse than crashing into a car going 40 mph hour. A flat tire. When you crash into a car, it's exciting. It's momentous. Sirens! Flashing lights! When you get a flat tire, your heart sinks, and that's about it. You're left with a sunken heart. It starts when you feel the pebbles in the road a little too much, and you wonder if you have a flat. When you turn, the tire slides out, and you're sure you have a flat. You think, How bad is it? Can I inflate the tire and keep riding? 

That's what I tried doing, since I couldn't be late for the meeting. I pumped up the tire and kept riding. The tire was fine for five minutes, and then it lost too much air, so I stopped and pumped it up again. The next time it was noticeably flat a minute later and entirely flat three minutes later. Should I ride on rims? No, I needed to change the tire. 

At this point, I was angry at everyone. I shouted the shit word and pulled over. First and foremost, I was pissed at Wendy, who thought it was more important to make conditional plans than to let me leave on time. I was mad at myself for not just leaving when I needed to leave. I was mad at the person who called the meeting at 9 am. Who calls a meeting that early? An asshole, that's who. I was mad at the people who were walking by me and possibly thinking that I was inconveniencing them by changing the tire on the sidewalk. Inwardly, I dared someone to say something. Maybe this flat tire could turn out being momentous after all as I hurl someone onto the hood of a parked car. Sirens! Flashing lights!

I found the leak in the tube but couldn't find the corresponding foreign object in the tire. I did notice a couple of large tears, so I wanted to use the trick of inserting a one-dollar bill. I opened my wallet and found all twenties. I shouted the shit word again. I found a packet of cigarettes on the ground (have I mentioned how depressing cities are?), lined the inside of the tube with aluminum packaging, and and inserted the tube. Of course, I'm making it sound like it all went smoothly, but anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I had a difficult time keeping the aluminum in place. I struggled to get the tire back on the rim. I struggled getting the wheel in place. In fact, I rode the last six miles to work with my tire rubbing, with each scrape adding to my feelings of hatred for the world.

I called into the meeting fifteen minutes late. No big deal. Relax, dude.