Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ode To Big Red

I had a 7a lecture this morning. After a fun dinner party with Big Daddy and the Kitty Kats that got a little late last night, it was hard to drag myself out of bed to make it on time this morning. So, I was running a few minutes behind. I had almost made it to the Institution on my bike when I had to stop for a red light. As I began pedaling again, I heard a snap and realized that all the pedaling I was doing wasn't getting me anywhere. I looked down and saw my bicycle chain broken on the pavement. Since I was already late, an expletive or two escaped my lips as I scooped up the chain and walked my bike the rest of the way. I arrived at lecture 10 minutes late and took a seat. Since I was so tired, I had made an entire thermos of nice strong Swedish coffee to keep me awake for the three hour lecture. Imagine my surprise when lecture was over at 7:45. Hmph! I dragged myself out of bed, pedaled like a maniac to make it on time and had my bike break - all for a 45 minute lecture. Grrr. Oh well. Nothing to do but to walk my bike home again. Thankfully, it was a beautiful, bright, sunny fall morning. As I was walking and enjoying the sunshine and the tunes on my iShuffle, I started thinking of all the times my big red beast and I have shared together. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Hence, I would like to dedicate today's posting to my faithful friend, Big Red.

Big Red entered my life randomly one day as a cheap $70 impulse deal at Target. A heavy mountain bike of questionable quality, he squeeled loudly every time I would break. He was also not quite suitable for my height and we frequently did not feel like we fit well together. But, we got along ok. At first, we lived a quiet suburban life together where our outings mainly consisted of exercise or nature seeing, but were never utilitarian. We would get together and ride the paths in the forest preserve, count deer and bunnies together. One beautiful summer evening at sunset, we saw 10 deer grazing. It was one of those moments when life stands still and you stop to take it all in.

As we got to know each other better and spent more time together, things began to break. At first, it was the water bottle holder. The plastic snapped and created a sharp edge that would frequently catch my pants. Then the bike lock I had bought broke and I had to acquire a new lock. The lock holder had some screws that stuck out in an odd place and tore my pants. There were little annoyances like this, but we did not let it deter us from our togetherness. Then, we moved together to the big city. At first, I thought we would just continue our leisurely relationship of riding together for exercise and enjoyment. But soon I came to realize the utilitarian value of Big Red in the city. Quickly, we grew closer.

But, I have to admit that our enhanced togetherness was also inspired by the guy I was dating at the time, who was an avid bicyclist. Riding Big Red was a great way to get to know my new neighborhood better and to get around without any parking challenges. We went near and far. Once, on a Saturday night, I had plans to go out to a party and got all dressed up, made up, then straddled Big Red and pedaled him across town in my high heels. The guy I was dating was impressed when we met up later that night that I had biked all that distance, all dressed up for a night out. However, as we were heading home, he wasn't quite up for riding back, so we found a cab willing to take Big Red home in the trunk while we rode in the back seat.

However, as our relationship began to crumble, so did Big Red. One rainy day as I was heading home from school, I hopped on Big Red to ride home in the rain when I discovered that the rear tire was flat. We walked home in the rain that day, getting soaked and enduring all kinds of highly intelligent remarks from pedestrians we encountered along the way: "Do you realize that your bike has a flat?" No, duh, why else would I be walking my bike home in the rain? Dumbass. Or, how's this one: "You're getting wet, aren't you?" Well, no shit, Sherlock. It's raining outside and I'm walking in the rain. According to the laws of physics that would naturally make me wet.

Shortly thereafter, the guy moved away and completely broke my heart. I struggled to stay afloat emotionally. Big Red would keep me company. We would ride around the neighborhood and reminisce while taking in the scenery and listening to music or podcasts. This was when we bonded the most. Like a true friend, he was there during the darkest of times, always leaving me feeling better afterward. However, it was a period of darkness that also put Big Red and my relationship to the test. With my heart broken, all of a sudden everything broke in my life. My car was side swiped and the side mirror was taken off. One of my shelves at home fell off the wall and all the glasses and china on it crashed to the floor, leaving shards of glass and china strewn all over. Then Big Red broke.

At this point, I felt really overwhelmed by all the heart break and was not sure how much more I could endure. But, thankfully, Big Red was quickly fixed and back in my life again with renewed strength. We became faithful daily companions, riding together to work in the morning and home together in the afternoon. He was always there, come rain or shine. Straddling Big Red for a ride to or from work was, and still is, the best part of my work day. He gives me such an unbridled sense of freedom and independence, invincibility and empowerment.

Since starting residency, which has been one of the most challenging periods in my life, Big Red has been the one to keep me sane. When I need peace and quiet from all the craziness, he provides that sense of peace and tranquility. When I need to furiously work off some angry energy, he is always up to the challenge. And, when there is a beautiful sunrise at 5:30 in the morning, with a fiery red sky as a backdrop to the skyline, he is always there to savor the moment with me.

Big Red is excessively heavy, his seat height has had to be adjusted multiple times, the brakes and the wheels make all kinds of odd, age related noises, he's rusty, his gears don't shift reliably, he's had numerous flats, he's been fixed a number of times, he's cost me more money to fix than it does to operate my car, and he's got the look of a true ghetto bike, but I love him. He is my faithful companion and I hope today's injury can be fixed too so we may enjoy many more rides together. To Big Red. I love you.

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