In early spring I was crossing the street on my bike at a spot that wasn’t a crosswalk. I’m happy to wait for an actual dead spot in the traffic. It was 5:00 pm, so there’s bound to be fewer dead spots in the traffic. Which I’m fine with. I can wait.
But there’s usually a good samaritan in the mix who sees a guy waiting on his bike at the edge of the road and thinks, “I’m going to make this idiot’s day.” Drivers think of grown men on bikes as idiots.
So the good samaritan slows down. But this creates a complicated social situation, because he’s given something to me. Now I owe him. I decide that my gift will be “getting across the road quickly.” There’s a tractor beam of social requirement on me now, and that feeling works on me.
Also, it’s at this point that I realize that I left the bike in a higher gear than I should have. I have to stand up to get the bike moving. I lock eyes with the good samaritan, and he sighs. And now a car in the far lane of traffic has stopped, and now cars are lining up.
It’s not taking me that long to get things going on my bike. But I’m wishing that I’d thought to downshift before I came to a stop. There’s nothing I can do about it now.
Except that I could make it worse. Because I’m fidgety in this moment of stress, I adjust my scarf. In doing this, my hand catches the cord of my earpods, and they pop out of my ears. I slow down in order to handle this new development. Cars are waiting on me and I slow down.
The earpods are still attached to my phone, and the ear pieces are hanging over my handlebars, and I’m concerned about where I am in the podcast. I have that thought, even though I’m trying to cross the street in front of these cars, holding them up.
I’m trying to keep up my momentum on the bike, but I’m also fumbling with the earpods. I want to recover the earpods and not miss anything on the podcast. My grabbing at the earpods causes them to drop them down so that they’re they’re dangling directly over the tire. I snatch at them again. This makes them descend further, and they’re caught in the spokes of my front tire.
I have been courting disaster, and now we’re getting married. I am marrying disaster. These cars are the witnesses. Thank you cars. Every driver in every car is thinking the word “idiot.” You could collect and quantify the data to prove that.
Of course, of course, of course, the earpods wind around the wheel, the wheel seizes, and I go down hard. I’ve skinned my knee. I am a grown man with children, and I’ve skinned my knee, torn a hole in my jeans in front of strangers.
I scramble to my feet. I grab my bike. I’m limping as I pick up my bike and start to walk it across the street. I’m forcing the bike across the street, not immediately comprehending that the front tire isn’t working. I’m confused by this. I stop. I’m in the middle of the road, holding up traffic, and I stop to examine the tire.
My earpods are wound around the spokes and have bound it up. I force the tire. It’s not giving. I’m trying to make the bike work. I should just pick the bike up and walk the rest of the way across the street. Instead I roll the bike hard, trying to free up the wheel. The wheel gives. The earpod cord jerks and I feel my phone leave my pocket.
My phone whips through the air and lands to my right, 5 feet in front of the car that initially stopped for me, the good samaritan. The good samaritan looks sad.
The wheel is still frozen. I drag the bike over to retrieve my phone. I hold the bike awkwardly as I lean down to pick the phone up. The glass of my phone’s screen is completely destroyed. I put it in my pocket and limp the rest of the way across the road. I force the bike tire as I go. It gives again. It pulls my earpods into pieces, shreds them to bits. They drop on to the pavement. I continue to the other side.
I’m alive. I’ve destroyed one pair of ear buds, a pair of jeans, and a phone. But I’m alive. And I’ve given a gift to the good samaritan. In fact, I’ve given a gift to two lanes of cars, probably a total of twelve cars. I’ve given them the catharsis of seeing someone who is not them do something as badly as a person can. No matter what their day has been up to this point, they now feel the thrill of success.
As for me, it’s 5:01 PM on a Monday and I have successfully crossed the street.