Remember When You Didn’t Have to Swerve Around People on Bicycles?

I was coming home from the gym and hoping I didn’t get pulled over for driving while wheezing.  As I was coming around a bend and searching with one blind hand for my “coming home triumphant” mix compact disc, there on the right side of the road, yellow shirt aglow in the late summer twilight, was a man on a bicycle.  This guy had the whole get-up.  The helmet.  The shirt.  The shorts.  The shoes with the metal cleats.  The little dentist’s mirror shooting out the left side of his helmet.  The water bottle lashed against the powerful crossbar of the bicycle’s finely tuned structure.

I’ve always prided myself on being a friend to cyclists everywhere.  So it was not a problem for me to drive 15 miles per hour behind the cyclist for the next few legs of our journey to give him plenty of road to enjoy his ride.  I didn’t care about the line of cars behind me.  Sharing the road means making sacrifices.

After a few miles I noticed through the honking that the cyclist was waving his hand at me in a circular motion, almost as if he wanted me to pass him.  I thought he was just commending my respect for his bike riding, and I went on thinking this until the cyclist side-armed his water bottle at my car, and turned off into the adjacent wood.  While I was in the body shop getting an estimate on the damage caused by the impact of a hurtling polyethylene projectile holding 24 oz. of water, I meditated upon the natural end of the war of the roads.     

The cyclists, with their pro-environment image and greater amounts of sweat, will gain a greater and greater portion of the road.  Eventually they will win their own stage of the traffic light-changing.  At four-way intersections, the traffic signals will go through a whole cycle of green/yellow/red for the cyclists, while the cars must all stay at a complete stop, their operators presumably spending the time wisely by searching around for something in their cars.

The car owners, relegated to a smaller and smaller portion of the road, will become agitated and allow the interiors of their cars to become even more cluttered.  The car owners organize, and begin a series of attacks on the well-being of cyclists.  They publish reports of favorable biking weather when the report is really for a hurricane.  They go to sporting goods stores and mix up all the water bottles, so that bottles without BPA intermingle with bottles that have questionable amounts of BPA.  They follow cyclists at a slow pace when there is plenty of passing room.

The cyclists do not take this treatment sitting down.  They organize as well, and begin attacking the well-being of the car owners.  They start giving misleading hand signals.  They start wearing more biking accessories.  They start riding really slowly on narrow roads.

At some point the tension boils over and the two groups meet at a battlefield, like Gettysburg, or the Somme, or the parking lot at Best Buy.  The cyclists and car owners line up at opposite ends of the field, and their leaders meet in the middle.  The leaders of the cyclists cycle up, take a sip of water from their polyethylene bottles, and remove their helmets.  The leaders of the car owners drive up, do a few three-point turns so that they’re all parked at the same angle, and stare ahead at the leaders of the cyclists, while a blind hand goes looking around for things inside their cars.

The leaders agree that it is in everyone’s best interest to resolve the dispute peacefully.  The solution is the carcycle.  The carcycle has the body of a car but instead of an engine, there are pedals connected to the axles.  So you drive the carcycle just by pedaling.  The jokes about the Flintstones go away after a few months, and both cyclists and car owners adopt the carcycle as the preferred mode of travel.  

 And there is peace throughout the land, until the people who ride on those stand-up scooters start clamoring for their share of the road.

Remember the Olympics?

I want to thank the people at WordPress who were responsible for promoting my post, “Remember When There Was Only One Kind of Post-It Note,” to the Freshly Pressed page on July 25–26.  It was great being able to connect with so many new readers.

Two Sundays ago I was watching diving.  I had seen 70 or 80 dives that day—quite a bit above average for me—and I was being lulled by the narration of the newscasters.

“There she goes,” the sportscaster says in a whisper.  “A triple somersault.  Toes pointed.  Oh—look at that line of sight.  Splendid.  Just splendid.”

After a few weeks of Olympics and Olympic-themed Google doodles,  I find it hard to just return to normal civilian life where hundredths of a second do not count unless you are trying to get a seat on the Long Island Rail Road.  Just this morning, as I greeted the large bear-like cat that comes to my stoop every day looking for chicken, I found that I could not snap out of Olympic-style sportscasting.

“Look at Mr. Jay-Jay,” I say in a whisper.  “Look at that fluffy neck.  He’s going to take the gold and…yes, the Judges have signaled that this is a new world record for fluffiness in the neck category.  Splendid.  Just splendid.”

I started seeing life through multicolored glasses of five interlocking rings.  The convenience store became a triathlon where the athletes competed in coffee pouring, doughnut selection, and scratch-off purchase.

“Grey suit has an edge over Yankees hat in getting the coffee top on, but Yankees hat is known to make up time in the doughnut category.  Of course, we all remember when he won the world championship by taking the unorthodox move of grabbing an apple fritter that was further away but better-wrapped than the closer cheese danish.  Absolutely magnificent.”

At the diner, I did a play-by-play for the proprietor spearing the checks through the metal spike.

“Her hand pivots gracefully, elbow down, careful approach…and…SHE NAILS IT!  Beautiful execution!  And the medal count continues.”

Even at home, my life-casting continued apace.  I was competing in my own event, the 400 meter setting the dinner table, and had no trouble narrating my own performance.

“He has always excelled at setting the table.  But last year some bone fragments were removed from his elbow and the recovery has added seconds to his time.”

“You know,” my wife says, “you really have to stop that.”

“You know, Greg, it is astonishing how these Olympic athletes are able to train amidst the many domestic responsibilities.  Family members have to make sacrifices as well.”

“Why do you keep talking like that?  You didn’t even watch the Olympics.”

And I realize that she is right, that I had just watched the diving that one day and pretended like that entitled me to bask in the Olympic-spirit with everyone else who had watched far more commercials and heart-warming stories than I had.  So with that I stopped my whispered narration, and started looking ahead to Sochi, Russia, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held under the motto, “Gateway to the future.”