Spitting, Stalking and Muttering: A Biker’s Journey

6 Aug

Things I learned today:

  1. Biking recklessly near old people will get you spit on.
  2. Stalking British bike tour groups while singing a mash-up of Coldplay and The Clash is not socially acceptable.
  3. Muttering to yourself, while you try to break into your uncle’s bike lock, will attract attention and make you look like a psycho thief.

Now, before I begin the long-winded explanation I’ve prepared that will make all of the above lessons seem like totally normal takeaways from a morning spent biking, let me give you some context: my eleven person family and I are currently on vacation in Nantucket. Why are you blogging while on Nantucket? Do you really think we care that much about your life? No. I don’t. But saying “I’m writing a blog post! Inspiration is ricocheting off of my brain and might give me a hemorrhage if I don’t let it out!!!” is the only way my mom will let me take her work laptop out on the deck to check Facebook and to update my Yahoo Mail avatar (which was still wearing Santa Claus pajamas and walking her dog in front of a palm tree background since the last time I updated it…ah, juxtaposition). So, I figured I’d kill three birds with two gentle tranquilizers (stones are just so inhumane) and write about my day.

It all started when my aunt and uncle and dad asked me if I “wanted to bike to town and back.” I was lying out on the deck arguing with my mom over whether or not Miley Cyrus’ new haircut “sends the right message” when they came and asked me to bike.

Have you ever disrupted a girl who is mid-sentence about celebrity hairstyles and asked her to leave the comfort of her wooden lounge chair to join a bunch of “active people” on a sweltering bike path? No? Well, it’s akin to asking a girl who is about to bite into a large bowl of Mini Wheats to leave the comfort of her pajamas and join a bunch of “active people” on a sweltering bike path. Never done that either? You are very wise, my friends. Very wise.

Before I seem completely lazy and trivial, let me just tell you that the distance to town and back is 14 MILES in total. Oh, you’re a cyclist who owns your own pair of ass-padded shorts and who bikes 50 miles for charity every other weekend? First of all, can I have your shorts? My ass is killing me. And second of all, I’m sorry if I offended you with my “ugh, 14 MILES” complaint. Society appreciates all that you do.  Please keep reading.

Anyway, you can imagine I was not thrilled by the idea of biking to town because I knew it would be sweaty and hot; but, part of me also knew that the line at the ice cream shop in town is shortest between the hours of 10am and noon, which was perfect because it was 11am when they asked me to join. Still, I just wasn’t feeling up to it. So I told them to go on their merry way.

I stayed put for about fifteen minutes before jumping up in a panic and yelling “I need to go, s*&t nuggets, I need to go! Where the *eff* is my helmet?”

**I wish I could say this was an a-typical, very over-the-top reaction to the seemingly simple decision to go on a bike ride, but it’s not. I often make last-minute decisions and then create a big fuss… not because I’m a drama queen, but because it takes me SO long to make decisions in the sieve-that- is- my- brain that I just want to hoot and holler when the decision making process is FINALLY over. Hence the very literal hooting and hollering( and swearing).**

Anyway, once I decided that I, too, wanted to bike to town, I spent the next 15 minutes frantically searching around the car for my helmet. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it ANYWHERE. Because I NEVER go biking without my helmet, I felt very unsettled as I began my bike ride…like I’d left behind my child but was too far along in my journey to go back and rescue it. Yes, I am afraid for the future of my children, as well.

(I later found out that my dad had put all of the helmets in the secret compartment of our car’s trunk. In a way, I have to thank him because riding helmetless was the wildest, most freeing experience of my life, er, summer).

The bike ride was wonderful. It was sunny, but there was a nice breeze and the scenery was beautiful. Plus, my helmetless head could breathe freely, which meant I avoided the buckets of sweat that usually sting my eyes and blind me.

But then, things took a turn as I approached an older gentleman on a bike. Apparently, a dry, clear-eyed bike ride is just WAY too much to ask for…

Seeing how I’ve never really been good at the whole “bike etiquette” thing, I wasn’t really sure what to do when it became abundantly clear that this guy wouldn’t reach town before my 21st birthday. But passing someone on a bike is just so awkward. I mean, do you yell “on your left!” as you pass, cause the other person to fall into a mess of poison ivy, and then get stuck paying their medical bills? My summer job pays well, but not that well…

Or, do you gently ring a little bell every time you need to pass someone? If this is the answer, then I’m shit outta luck because I don’t have a dainty little biking bell. (Attention all ass-padded bikers: could I also get a dainty bell with those padded shorts we talked about? Many thanks).

For those of you who have never tried the “silent approach” when trying to pass an unsuspecting biker, let me tell you how it goes: as you silently attempt to pass the person in front of you, he/she will conveniently decide to swerve to the left, causing you to slam on the brakes and nearly catapult into him/her. If the person in front of you is of the older variety, he/she will most likely not hear you, or your slamming brakes. This is the best-case scenario because then you can attempt the second stage of your “silent passage.”

The second stage requires decisive action. You, biker #2, will aggressively pedal until you are SURE you can pass biker #1. Then, you will go for the gold! If biker #1 is a reasonable human, he/she will simply shrug and think, ah, kids these days.

WARNING: if biker #1 is at all fed up with that “crap they play on the radio these days,” then you WILL get spit on and yelled at. So I’d recommend wearing some sort of waterproof shell while attempting the “silent passage.”

I’ve only ever been spit on – by complete strangers – two other times in my life. Actually, one of them wasn’t a stranger. It was just Herman, the aggressively friendly alley dweller who lives on Newbury Street and whom I pass on my daily run (and whom I decided just “looked like a Herman.” I should probably ask him how he feels about that name). Herman must have been having a bad day the time he spit on me because when he saw me run by, he just decided to spit on me and yell something about the state of humanity. Herman, I forgive you for this.

The other time I was spit on was in a marketplace in China. I was trying to get an older salesman to sell me a handmade, antique, silk rug for three American dollars. I was kind of being an asshole, so I guess I had it coming, that time…

Today’s spitting was also kind of expected; I was biking awkwardly, and the older man was, well, old. Naturally, spitting and yelling were his immediate reactions. Hence, Lesson Number One.

The second instance of difficulty occurred when I realized I had to leave the comfort of the smooth, straight bike path and continue on bumpy stone roads to get to town. If you think passing an old man on a bike path is difficult, then you should try passing a group of British tourists on a narrow, cobblestone street. Biking behind the tourists was helpful when I was crossing the main street because traffic stopped to let the “Brits” cross. (I tried to look really British so no one would question me as I sheepishly biked behind them). But after this, I started to get bored. The Brits were biking really slowly – the tea and crumpets were probably weighing them down – so I needed to find a way to entertain myself until I reached town. Coldplay and The Clash came to mind because they are two of my favorite British bands (isn’t it so cool and alternative that I like British bands?) Unfortunately, as soon as I started singing “Fix You,” the Brit in front of me turned around like, “Who the eff let this girl off her leash?” I slowed down and fell behind after that…Lesson Number Two.

When I finally got to town, I found my aunt’s and uncle’s and dad’s bikes all locked together in the bike rack. In a Harriet the Spy moment, I decided to attempt to pick my uncle’s bike lock. This proved to be an impossible task – probably because I kept trying the combination to my dad’s bike lock. Across the street, I could see an older man staring me down. What do I look like, some sort of thief, I thought, angrily.

 And that’s when I realized: the line between sweaty, tired bikers who are desperate for an ice cream and sweaty, tired meth addicts who are desperate for drugs is very, very thin. Hence, Lesson Number Three: A psycho thief is a psycho thief, no matter the motivations.

In case you’re wondering, I finally found my family and we enjoyed a pleasant bike ride back to our house. And an ice cream, of course.

But, in writing this incredibly long and rambling blog post, I’ve also realized two other lessons:

  1. Sophie and old people with over-active spitting reflexes don’t mix.
  2. Sophie should never, ever be left alone. Like, ever.

Who said every moment in life can’t be a teaching moment?


3 Responses to “Spitting, Stalking and Muttering: A Biker’s Journey”

  1. nobsj August 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    Cool, I think we were in Nantucket at the same time! However, there was no biking involved.

    • sophpearl August 25, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      Probably a wise choice! Where did you stay?

      • nobsj August 26, 2013 at 12:07 am #

        My friend’s family rented a house there…I don’t know the area well, but we were right by Low Beach

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