Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Nerve

He motioned for her to remove her headphones as she approached her bike. Slightly annoyed at the interruption, she removed her ear pieces and looked up at him. He was the driver of one of the horse drawn carriages downtown. She had just finished running her errands in the beautiful sunshine, and was ready to head home. She wondered what he wanted; clearly he was not looking for directions. Now curious, she waited for him to speak. He asked if the bike she was about to unlock was hers. With maternal pride, she replied in the affirmative. Her bike was a pretty sad looking piece of equipment, but it ran well and meant the world to her. It gave her the freedom and independence she craved, and her bike was the one constant in her life. It had been with her through the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was her faithful companion. Sure, it looked like it had been through a recent battle, all rusty and beat up, yet it remained sturdy and strong.

When he spoke, the carriage driver asked her if that sad piece of crap belonged to her. Shocked at the insult he had just hurled at her bike so unexpectedly, she did not respond. She just looked at him in disbelief. He was a young guy, probably in his early 20s. Unabashedly, he continued to insult her bike, asking if she was really going to ride that thing, warning her that she should not because it would probably fall apart at any moment and leave her stranded. He told her that she should buy a new bike then he asked her if she had a good job that would allow her to pay for a new bike. He subsequently looked at the shopping bag slung over her shoulder and said: “Well, judging from that bag you’re carrying, I can assume you have a credit card, so why don’t you use it to buy a new bike?” She was stunned. She could not fathom that this total stranger, whom she had not bothered in the slightest, had the nerve to speak to her in such a rude manner.

She knew that her bike had seen better days and that it had never been of high grade quality in the first place, even as it was new from the factory. But, in a way that was what made her love it so much. She felt it embodied the beauty of urban decay, and she would fondly refer to it as her ‘ghetto bike’, but to have someone else disparage it in such a condescending way was unacceptable. Yet, still caught up in the element of surprise, she responded “Yeah, I know it looks like a ghetto bike, but it’s my bike, and it’s great. I love it.” Undeterred, he continued his tirade: “That’s not even the quality of a ghetto bike. If that were a ghetto bike, the rims would be shiny and not all rusty and dirty like yours”. Unbelievable! Not only was he insulting her bike, but he was clearly just judgmental and disrespectful all around.

Demonstratively, she turned her back toward him and proceeded to unlock her bike, at which point he asked where she lived. Automatically, she gave him the name of her neighborhood, but quickly regretted it when he made yet another disparaging remark “Ha, that means you’re going to have to ride up that hill. There is no way your bike will make it up that hill. I hope you don’t ride around in your neighborhood, because the bicyclists in your neighborhood will laugh at you. By the way, what’s your name? My name’s Ben.”

Seriously? Did he just ask her name? She could not believe this was his feeble and pathetic attempt to pick her up. She wanted to tell him that insulting someone’s most prized possession and faithful companion was not likely to be a very successful pick-up strategy, but she refrained from saying anything. Instead, she just hopped on her bike and rode home, her favorite tunes drowning out all of his insults. Soon, she found herself at one with the road again.

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