I gave myself permission to buy a bike.
In itself remarkable, as my choice of ultra frugal living these days, a bike is not a necessity. Yet I need exercise. Walking? Naah, too slow.
Yes, there are bikes for sale online. I know nothing about bikes. A friend tells me about a bike shop nearby. When I arrive, I find they don’t sell used ones. Low end new ones are $350. Then of course I need a helmet, tire pump, repair kit, kickstand, plus sales tax, so we are talking close to $500. Nope, not happening.
As I am beginning the trip back home, I hear my phone ding. Of course, I pull over in order to check it, and see Lydia’s text, “I love being divorced.” Oh really? That merited an immediate call. In the course of our conversation, she asked if I’d gone to a local big ‘everything’ store in my bike search. “Why no!” I said, “what a great idea.”
I get in the store, find the bicycles, an employee tells me many of them are on sale. A young couple in their 30’s stroll up. The husband wants a three-wheeled bike with a basket so he can tote groceries and their toddler. While he cute-ifies us riding up and down the aisle, his wife and I examine bikes, their experiences, their opinions on good bikes; a friendly employee comes by and offers to get down the bike that seems the best bet (and it‘s purple!) Another staff member sees it takes four hands to retrieve the bike, and helps him get it down.
After a few minutes of picking out a helmet, seat cover, bike bag, and a tire pump, I take them over to the counter, and come back for the bike. As I roll it up, and look around for a clerk, a man looks at me from the aisle at the end of the glass counter, which is a handgun case, about ten feet from me.
“Are you going to buy that bike?”
With a big smile, I nod.
“May I tell you about that bike? I repair and rebuild bikes.”
He walks over to me, mid-thirties or so, curly dark hair, caucasian, slightly heavy-set, about eight inches taller than me. He points to the word typed on a clear sticker in black capital letters, FRONT. “See that? It’s because these bikes arrive mostly unassembled. Most of these bikes are pretty good bikes, yet the bikes, and barbecues, are assembled by guys who go from store to store doing that. They have ten minutes per unit. They are rarely bike mechanics. They are assemblers. See right here? This part is on backwards. Here, look at the calipers.”
He closes his hands into fists on the brake handles. “I am squeezing them full on. See, the calipers are not tight on the bike tire.”
“Are you my bike guardian angel?”
“Nope, bikes are how I make my living.”
Moving his hands off the handlebars, he steps back and nudges the derailleur, it wiggles. “This should not be moving like this, even though the unit is a good one. So, if you decide to buy this bike, you’ll need to take it into a bike shop and have it tuned up and some of it re-assembled correctly.”
Not only would I have bought this bike, I would have ridden it with these problems, having no idea that I was making them worse by riding it.
I introduce myself and ask his name.
People coming out of nowhere to help me: Lydia happy to be divorced, the young man at the bike shop, the young couple, the helpful staff. Then Paul. All moving me forward.
Amazing. When others act in our lives. Assuredly, people have moved in my life, and moved me, whether I wanted to or not. It has been in the last year where I actively recognized where my actions ripple in others’ lives. That is almost a “Duh!” moment as I was a counselor for decades. However, that was my job, which means that I saw some of my impact on others but did not see it on the personal level that I have now begun to.
A real estate deal I was working on last year: it did not pan out to my benefit. I did a ton of work for the owners of the house, nearly all of it they did not know to do (getting an easement which had been erroneously placed on the property removed, a wetland expert out to examine the property; believe me, the list goes on.) In part due to my work, they eventually sold the property for more than they expected, and in part as I stirred the waters to get interest in the property.
Giving a lady who stopped me in the parking lot directions to the highway last week, so she in turn arrived at her destination where people were waiting for her so they could go on with their plans. Leaving an extra copy of the local newspaper for my neighbor, who reads it, talks with a friend, who then takes some action. The dominoes falling once set in motion. And most of the effects, I wouldn’t be able to imagine, for they happen outside my vision and awareness. (As well they should, I have enough trouble getting to sleep as it is.)
So, after owning my new sapphire blue bike a couple weeks, I get on it, helmet securely fastened, and launch out of my driveway. On to a street! I had up to this point only ridden on the paved trail for bikers and walkers.
As I get maybe twenty feet down the street, my seat tips forwards. Stop. Readjust it. Try again. Now I can’t get my foot onto the pedal fast enough, and have to keep restarting. Okay, wobbling forward movement. Seat tips again. Sheesh. I stop and readjust it. Knowing I have to go into the bike shop the next day, I realize this is too dicey an arrangement to ride in the big show: moving cars, 4 x 4‘s, and mini-vans. Before I reach the stoplight, I turn around to head home. As I veer left to get up onto the sidewalk, unable to turn and use the handbrakes at the same time, I nearly slam into my neighbor’s fence, and have to stop with my feet.
Okay, that’s the last straw. I dismount and walk the remaining few feet to my driveway. In years past, I would have been embarrassed.
Instead, the best supervisor I ever had’s adage came back to me, “If you can’t do it right, at least be a lesson.”
Ah, those ripples.