Thursday, July 10, 2014

A day of karmic injury and repair

I am riding my bike along a favorite path, my first ride of the summer on what I think of as the "long route" (as opposed to the "short route"-- yes, a lot of creativity goes into my bike routes and their identification). I know that I am approaching a popular entrance onto the bike path so I should be on the lookout for the occasional clueless rider who isn't paying attention to oncoming traffic as he/she wobbles tentatively on to the path. And indeed, here they come, one, two, three young riders following a 20-something summer-campy-leader/guide-looking type guy. And the kids keep coming until there are about 10 of them strung out all across the path, occupying both lanes of the bike path, as well as the pedestrian portion, leaving me no way around them. And I know, since they are kids, they don't mean to be a-holes about their bike path etiquette, they just aren't familiar with this situation. However, 20-something, summer-campy-leader dude has probably been here before but he is not providing any guidance so I (kindly) call out "scoot, scoot guys! Don't take up the whole path!" Because that is what I would say, as a mom, to my child if she were the one being clueless. It's like a friendly little nudge. But the kids remain oblivious, as is campy-leader dude. I slow way down but still hope to navigate a path around them as they are now slowly making forward progress. Then some speedy kid decides no way Jose does he want to end up at the back of the pack. He will take this most inopportune moment to veer to the left and pedal up to his campy-leader friend. I unleash a wee tiny fraction of my pent-up bitterness and say, "You can't take up the whole path! People are trying to pass you!" And then I add an involuntary gutteral snort of disapproval and mutter "Jeez!" as I clear the bunch of youngsters and pedal off to greater freedom.

In repsonse, campy-leader dude hollers, "You're not the only one on the path, you know! Have a nice day!"

And I can tell, he doesn't really mean it. I don't think that he wants me to have a nice day at all. His insincerity was palpable.

As I shrug it off and get on with my ride, I see in my head the earnest little faces of the children I just verbally abused. I could tell the stragglers at the back were truly concentrating on not getting in my way but they just weren't sure where to go. And I replay my remarks, wincing at the bitchy, condescending tone of voice. I say to myself (defensively), "But they need to be aware of the people around them! If you're a car, you can't just pull out into the middle of an intersection and sit there! You have to watch for traffic!" Campy-leader dude should have planned and executed that whole thing better. Shame on him. Loser.

A mile later I admit to myself that my behavior was lame. I was too bitchy, my reaction was too much, I was venting crabbiness and frustration that was packed too tightly in my head that belongs elsewhere, not unleashed on the biking summer campers. I say to myself, "I'm sorry kids, that was too much. I didn't need to be that cranky. You were doing your best and it's not really your fault and I sincerely apologize. I really do." I recall the myriad times when I have issued this exact same apology to Martha after I explode over some minor infraction. And I repeat my apologies, hoping that if I mentally toss them out into the cosmos it will make up for my poor performance earlier. I am way too crabby. I need to work on that. I rededicate myself to the task of being kind. And lastly, I chuckle quietly as I think, "ha, ha, wouldn't it be funny if I have an accident on this rid?" Payback... Huh. Loser.

Fast forward a few miles to the road along the Mississipi River and the sign that says, plain as day, BIKE PATH CLOSED AHEAD. There has been a lot of flooding around Minnesota this summer and I have heard that a portion of this road has been closed. But I feel like it has been fairly dry of late, perhaps the path isn't really flooded anymore. I'll just ride off the curb and go right through that narrow opening in the road block.

I am not savvy on my bike. It may be that my lack of savviness explains, in part, why I am a little on edge when a big group of riders wanders out in front of me. I cannot steer my bike through the narrow opening and I will have to stop. And then it comes, the moment of exquisite anguish as I realize I can't unclip my feet from my pedals in time to stop and there is no way out. I am going down. It's not really so bad falling over and crashing into the street, but it's not my favorite thing. Still, I feel like it's justified in this instance. The blood running down my leg affirms my suspicion that I needed to repent for my rude display earlier. I think I am almost happy that I just fell over.

Eventually, I realize I should turn around and go back the way I came. I am not surprised when, a few miles later, I see the group of young riders lead by their leader dude and, once again, I am happy. I slow down and call out to them, "I just want to apologize for yelling at you when you got on the path! I'm really sorry!" But snarky leader dude replies, "Ok. Have a nice day!" And then I look right at one of the boys and point at my leg and say, "Look! I fell off my bike as payback!" I think he smiled. A lone girl in the group calls out, "Do you need a band-aid?" I tell her, "No, I'm okay! But thank you!" And that little question just made my day. I feel it is the forgiveness I need.

Once again, I feel certain that the dude did not really mean it when he said "Have a nice day!" But I don't care. I think I am having a nice day anyway.


  1. Nice little story. I agree with you about the leader. He probably didn't mean for you to have a nice day AND, he should have prepared the little menaces about riding in the company of others. We just learned that all children in the Netherlands are required to pass a biking test around the age of nine. I bet they'd know how to ride on a path!

    But I have two more things to say - 1. Community paths are not good places for a serious bike ride, for reasons you describe and 2. A lot of bike riders are jerks. It always surprises me a little, because I think, hey, we're on bikes, isn't this great? But this morning on our way to work, some a-hole buzzed by Amy and me while we were riding along normally, minding our own business. I jumped on the pedals, caught him, and said "Hey, how 'bout a little love for your fellow bikers?" He responded like the a-hole that he was, and, well, it wasn't all that satisfactory, but at least I tried to be somewhat civil about it. I fear, however, that he might have thought that I didn't really mean it when I ended our conversation with "Have a nice day."

    1. Thanks T and A! (Or just T) I love comments!
      These kids (the menaces) would surely not survive in the Netherlands. That is awesome.

      Yes, community paths are not ideal, although some of them are more crowded that others. I hate to ride my bike on a weekend. Too many yahoos. But I certainly can't ride on a street with the automobiles. I would be dead in no time. I need more back country roads.

      It's true, a lot of bike riders are jerks. I like to think bike = superior human being, but it is not so. It's hard not to loathe humanity. I, for one, would have shown you and Amy a little love!