I did not die today

You never forget how?

So remember how my new thing is trying new things (like employment)? Now that I’m living just under a mile from work, I have gotten it into my head that I should be a bicycle commuter. Up until this point, I have been walking to work–huffing and puffing up a couple hills and two giant staircases. Yes, I work on a mountaintop. During one of these hikes, as I was sweating through my nice work shirt, I had a vision of myself cruising effortlessly to campus. Gliding on a snazzy bike, messenger bag slung jauntily across my chest, I would halve my walk time and swagger into the office looking cool. “What’s that? Oh, it’s just my bike helmet. I bike to work you know,” I would say to admiring coworkers. Look how socially responsible she is! They would think. She’s also a virtuous person who exercises virtuously, they would say to each other. There was just one flaw in my plan. I do not know how to ride a bike. I had not ridden a bike since I was 12 years old. But was I going to let that stop me? *Of course not!*

Partner and I had contemplated getting me a bike once before when we were living in a European city where everyone rode bikes, no one wore helmets, and a grand time was had by all. I didn’t get one then because I was too scared to ride in big city traffic. I am now scared to ride in small town traffic, but am determined to be a person who rides a bike places. So last weekend we trucked out to the antique mall. I tried out a road bike first and promptly fell over (don’t worry–I caught myself). Then I spied a fixie that very much reminded me of the bike I had as a 9 year old, back when my center of gravity was more solid seeming. Back when my bones were more flexible. It felt good! Partner could not stop laughing. I’m pretty sure it was a kid’s bike, and since I have spent much of my adult life trying not to be mistaken for a little kid despite my petite stature, I couldn’t do it. Then I saw the kind of bike I had seen all over our European home and bought an old used bike vintage women’s cruiser. 3-speed. Two more speeds than I understand what to do with. This bike is solid. I felt less wobbly. It probably also weighs more than I do, but whatever. I was on my way. One tune-up and a stop at the bike shop for a helmet later and I was ready.

Now some of you might never have stopped riding a bicycle. It probably feels very natural, like the pedals are simply bionic extensions of your calves. Some of you might have quit at some point during your adolescence. If either of these positions describe you, you might not understand what it feels like to ride a bike for the first time in 20-odd years, so I will tell you. IT FEELS LIKE YOU MIGHT DIE AT ANY SECOND!

That’s right. You know how people like to say that certain things are like riding a bike–you never forget how? THOSE PEOPLE ARE LIARS! I forgot how. And not forgot for like 10 minutes. Forgot in the sense that I am re-learning this thing that used to be really easy. *Sigh* At any rate, I knew I would need some practice, so we did some laps around a park yesterday. So far, so good. Then today I decided to practice the trip to work and back because there’s not much traffic on Sundays. This was my inner monologue during that trip:

While climbing up the small hills Mountain: THIS IS REALLY HARD WORK, I AM GOING TO DIE. AND ALSO I AM REALLY SWEATY AND GROSS.

While descending back down the hill Mountain: TOO FAST!! I AM GOING TOO FAST!! I AM GOING TO DIE!! NOOOOOO!!!

Every time I heard a car approaching behind me: OMG, I REALLY AM GOING TO DIE NOW!!! I AM GOING TO FALL IN FRONT OF THIS CAR AND BE SQUISHED LIKE A BUG. A BIG DEAD BUG.

I am happy to report that I made it home without dying, thankfully. I have not given up on my bike commuter dreams, but now I know that those probably won’t be happening until I get a little more practice and the temperature drops a little. Look out, September–you are mine!

On a different note, I just learned that a dear grad school friend, whom I shall refer to as Dr. R, is leaving a tenure-track job to pursue another passion. We here at Literary Emergency like to encourage that sort of thing, so a hearty congratulations to Dr. R, Professor, Artist, Professional Dream Follower, and an inspiration to us all, or, at least, to me.

That’s it for now. Back next week with a promised post about how I transitioned from a person who wore the same pair of jeans everyday for like a month, to someone who irons all her clothing for the week on Sunday (True Story! That just happened tonight, people!).

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7 Comments on “I did not die today”

  1. shit so in order to have ironed clothes you have to buy a freaking iron?

    keep on keepin on with the bike riding, maybe ‘it’ will come back?

  2. Jet says:

    Like you, I was contemplating getting a bike last year so that i could cycle to my new short-term research contract job that was based in the city centre where we live and close by. Of course, not having parking available and not wanting to face bus journeys everyday also prompted this. I hadn’t ridden for ages but felt a bit more confident than you. But I live in a very hilly city here. You just can’t avoid major hill challenges everywhere – although my fitness level is okay – I’d say average to good for my age (49), I imagined I’d be walking the bike up the hills most of the time. Attractive solution – a nice little bike shop in the centre that specialises in electric bikes! I rationalised the higher cost and was sold by its long-term benefits. You can work as hard or as little as you like – it gets you up those impossible climbs and you can arrive to your short journey workplace without being drenched in sweat. I don’t regret it at all. Thieves don’t go for them either because you need a key to operate and they’re much heavier than regular bikes so not an easy ride without the battery juice helping you. You’ve prompted me to out a post up now in my blog with some pics of it!

    • I have heard of these magic electric bicycles. Maybe I’ll invest down the road, but at the moment a second (third? fourth?) hand bike was all I was willing to shell out for. I might have to wait until I only feel like I’m going to die 67% of the time.

  3. robina says:

    This is so funny. I definitely harbor such dreams too — in my case to bike to school come Fall. I JUST learned however (at 32! and blogged about it, despite my extreme embarrassment) so I will have to practice for a while before I build up to that commute.

  4. Anthea says:

    You mean you DON’T DIE when you ride bikes after centuries? I haven’t ridden a bike since I was 13 and a half. I was absolutely crap at it and kept falling off. The whole thing scared the living daylights out of me, I got fed up with being crap on a bike so I decided on being less crap off the bike. I’ve thought about getting one now, but it will definitely kill me this time. We also have a huge mountain too, I’ll never get up that. Never mind those men in skintight lycra. Of course, I could push the bike up the mountain, but I might as well get the bus then…. Maybe a trike would work instead and only on the flat bits. I could have a basket on the handle bars then… But then I need a trailer for the dog so we can go to the dog park… Dilemmas dilemmas.


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