Happy Saturday! I hope you’re having a great weekend so far.
Last weekend, my parents decided to drive to the arboretum and go for a bike ride there. Because I’m low-man-on-the-totem-pole, I got the choice spot of riding in the back with the three bikes. We were four peas in a pod made for three. Literally.
Once we arrived, I spent another 15 minutes in the car being jostled and poked by the bony appendages of my fellow peas. At last my path was cleared and I jumped out of the van and scrambled to join my already ready and waiting parents (I told you I was low-man-on-the-totem-pole), when my father discovered he had a flat tire. Fail #1.
My mother and I decided to go anyway while my father ran, and we’d meet up at a specified time. About 5 minutes into our ride, my mother exclaimed puzzledly , “How do you change the gears on this thing?” Five seconds later, the chain was off her bike. Fail #2.
We were dropping like flies, and I feared I was the next to go. As my mother walked her bike back, I rode around a bit more, having ample time to observe the humanity around me. Unfortunately, I am not adept at wielding a camera and riding a bike, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of pictures.
1. If you are riding a bike, you are invisible to everyone else in your way.
As I was riding along the path, a man was walking next to his son and talking on the phone. After we made direct eye contact, he continued to walk towards me, obviously unconcerned about the impending danger, which forced me off the path. I suddenly got all excited that I had ridden through a puddle of toxic waste and had now become invisible, a la The Secret World of Alex Mac (anyone remember this?).
2. The limit of how many times you can pass someone and greet/smile at them before it gets terribly awkward.
As I was just riding along, pleasantly enjoying the breeze, I’d occasionally pass an older woman walking, and we would smile at each other. Through the amazing laws of physics, a person riding a bike in a circle will complete that circle in less time than a person walking, making the person riding the bike have to deal with the awkwardness that will ensue.
(Quick: if I’m riding a bike at 20 mph and I’m San Francisco, in how many hours and at what city will I meet someone who’s walking at 3.5 mph and left from Boston 3 hrs, 15 min, and 34 seconds ago?)
And the limit of exchanging pleasantries before the awkwardness? Approximately two times. After the second time we passed each other, I either pretended I was A) fascinated with my handlebars, B), yawning, or C) oblivious to the fact that I was in close proximity to another human being. This tends to work well to quell the social awkwardness.
And if none of my suggestions work for you, you can always try these:
3. Unlike your apparent invisibility to pedestrians, you are very visible to people in cars. Very. Visible.
In fact, this gives birth to more awkward moment, such as the awkward moment when you know there’s a car behind you and you’re coming up to a stop sign. Do you slow down? Stop pedaling? Both stop at the stop sign at the same time and make awkward eye contact until the car waves you on first? Wonder why you’re the only one that thinks of this?
In fact, sometimes I wonder if I’m as conspicuous as the people riding their motorbikes in Vietnam: Exhibit A:
Crazy, right? But conspicuous, and that’s what we’re going for.
4. More is not always better. Especially with cologne.
If I can smell your cologne emanating from your car and you’re not even in it, there is a problem.
Apparently, this man is not alone:
5. Even when you’ve no idea where you are, you can still make it back to the car on time.
Maybe it’s my innate sense of punctuality, but right at 12:15, I was by the car. I would chalk it up to a superior sense of direction, but alas, I lack one of those. I am like a pigeon without a homing device. Now that’s awkward.
What lessons have you learned this week?