…how lucky we are?
So I’m riding into work this afternoon fighting a wicked headwind thinking about how unlucky I am to be going into work on a beautiful Friday afternoon and how terrible it is that my family Medical costs are so high this year and wondering if I’ll be able to retire next year or will I have to stay with this crumby shift-work beyond my 60th birthday, blah, blah, blah. You get the picture? I’m genuinely feeling sorry for my poor little old self.
I got drawn from my private little whine fest by a feminine shout of “Hey, come here. Come here. Hey, come here.”
About 50 yards to my left, I had just crossed a busy street, was a woman with her old beat up bike on the sidewalk. The bike was upside-down and the rear wheel was off.
Now let me explain about the neighborhood we were in, Dewey-Stone, for those familiar with this area. The crime rate has been on the increase around here for several years now and has just recently become front page news. Armed robberies, drugs, burglaries, the whole nine yards have become the norm. I’m always a little concerned when I travel through this part of town and I have had a few problems here in the past.
So I was a bit hesitant about rushing to her aid as I closely scanned the area for an ambush. I then slowly rode towards her on my Volae explaining that I’m on my way to work and I don’t have any tools with me. She responded with “I just want to see how your bike goes.”. Well let me tell you, that about turned me around and sent me 'heading for the hills' right then and there. Then I noticed that her rear derailleur was in her hand and realized she just wanted to see how my chain line was routed around the DR cogs so she could put things back together and be on her way. It turns out that she had few options as she has no cell phone. She had to fix it or walk it!!
The bike was a beater, an old Royce Union 10 or 12 speed (I didn’t bother to count the gears) and probably the only transportation that she owned. The derailleur was the type that hung from the axle and on her bike the wheel was secured with a quick release skewer. The derailleur had pulled out from the axle and she was desperately trying to make sense of the whole mess.
Now here’s the cool part. Aware that I was strapped for time, she jumped into action. First she opted to put the wheel back on and then stand her bike next to mine so she could use my chain line as a guide. Now up to this point I have yet to even touch her bike. She’s got the wheel on, and now I can see why the derailleur came off…she doesn’t know the proper way to secure the QR. She wheeled her bike alongside mine, which I still haven’t let go of, and starts putting the derailleur back in its place. I was holding her bike upright by the loose saddle while she worked the chain back into place. With a little coaching from yours truly she had it all back together. It took about five minutes. All the while I’m looking around in case this isn’t what it appears to be but I need not have worried for I noticed many area residents inside their homes were watching also. (Vigilance stemming from the public neighborhood meeting with the Police Chief last week I imagine).
Well without the use of any tools she managed to get it together well enough to get her on her way. This woman was not helpless or lacking intelligence. She was just poor. She mentioned that she wished she were a man so mechanical things would be easier. I assured her that gender has nothing to do with mechanical aptitude and reminded her that my hands never touched her drive train. All I did was hold her bike and tighten her quick release. I did show her the correct way to secure the QR. She smiled, apparently pleased with herself.
She headed South and I headed West. It occurred to me that the wind didn’t seem so bad any more. I looked down at ‘Little Blue Bike’ and thought how I’ve really been taking my good fortune for granted lately. I’ve got so many nice bikes. I’ve got a cell phone to bail me out of trouble and a darling bride to come and fetch me and my bike with our nice shiny truck. I guess the bills and all that other stuff really isn’t such a big deal after all.
I hope that lady made it home alright. I feel a bit guilty about my distrust. Mostly though, I feel very thankful for my good fortune.