Riding Out the Storm

“Did you ride your bike today?”

A casual and innocent question posed by my grill cook1, and I wonder where she’s going with this.  She had to know damn well I rode it here, she had to walk past it when she walked in the back door to the kitchen. Just a few minutes ago discussed the fact that she had just seen me riding my bike on my way in to town. She even teased me about wearing a helmet. “Why did you need a ride home?” I answer her suspiciously.

“No, I’m cut early tonight anyway,” she says, “I was just wondering because it’s supposed to rain.”

Not being much of a gambler, I am pretty much on top of the weather when I plan out my day. Today as always I checked right before I got on the bike and though rain was likely, I would be home by then. Given a margin for error  I pack extra clothes to keep off what ever light sprinkle might happen on the way. Confident in my preparations I strode to the back of the kitchen, kicked open the back door stepped out side and then, arms stretched out I spun around a few times, looking up at the sky.

There wasn’t a cloud to be seen.

I took this gift as an opportunity to ridicule my coworker for not riding her bike like she usually does because she was afraid of a little rain. Rain, what rain? Was she going to melt? After years of hanging out with her after work when I was still a hopeless drunk2, I know for a fact she was not made of sugar. Soon the dinner rush started and I was too busy pushing out plates to keep beating that particular horse.

After things settled down Jennie was free to clock out. While she was having a parting smoke with all the rest of the ne’er do wells out back I poked my head out of the door and taunted her some more. We exchanged a few sarcastic and caustic remarks before she went on her way.

You Call This Rain?

A fine mist covered everything as I left the kitchen that night. Nothing to worry about, it was mostly just a fog with a bit more vertical activity. I put in my ear buds, clicked on the tracking app, buckled my chin strap, turned on my lights and pedaled out of the back alley and into traffic.

Ten minutes into my ride I’m halfway home, the rain such as it is, begins to pick up as I pass the Walgreen’s that marks my last opportunity to take any kind of shelter until I get to the house. I pull off the road onto the sidewalk just long enough to transfer my phone from my front pocket to my shoulder bag and pressed on.

Two minutes later I begin a descent down the first of the many steep hills on my route when there is this bright flash and crack of thunder as the sky just opens up on me. Huge drops bounce of my helmet, as if someone upended a bag of Skittles on my head as I coast downward picking up speed, just ahead the traffic signal that some stupid, sadistic son of a bitch decided to install at the bottom of the hill turns red. Naturally at this point I attempt to brake.

Attempt is an accurate description because what really happened when I squeezed the lever and my brake pads managed to grab the rain slicked tires, is that said tires then skidded on the wet pavement turning me sideways. Careening at high speeds lengthwise down a hill towards an intersection in nearly blinding rain, while marginally preferred to a total wipe out, is a fairly scary proposition. I was barely maintaining balance, and could feel the bike trying to fall over forward down the hill, even if I dropped it there was little chance I could get clear of the damned thing,  I’d probably be dragged down the pavement several feet. I had my helmet on but that wouldn’t help my legs and ribs much either way.

Before I fell into a total panic I chanced dropping my foot off the pedal, the sole of my sneaker was just dry enough to make traction and I managed to right myself and stop, my front tire barely over the stop line as the light turned green again.

 I unclenched my sphincter, and took a deep breath. To hell with it, I thought, I’ve got this far I’m already wet, I’m riding this bastard home. I steadied my nerves pushed off on the left, and got my bike going again.

Up and down the hills I rode, the rain getting heavier. The harder it fell the more it sounded like someone laughing at me. I was thoroughly sodden and pushing my pedals with bleak resolve I trudged onward. Not being able to stop and remove them my ear buds became a new source of aggravation as my phone began to ring through them, this was obviously my wife calling me to tell me not to get hit by lightning3. Unable to get it out of the shoulder bag without getting it wet I was forced to let it ring through to voice mail. Adding to my irritation was the immediate text alert I received after I failed to pick up the phone.

Finally home my wife was waiting on the front porch to bring me a towel, and to admonish me for not stopping somewhere to wait out the storm. Pealing off my outer layer I manage to get in and change with minimal drippage. I empty my bag, which turned out to be considerably waterproof. I retrieve my phone and see that the text was not from my wife but from Jennie, my grill cook.


Clearly the moral of this tale is,

I am a sarcastic ass that deserved to get rained on for making fun of my friend. Hopefully now I have learned that Karma is a bitch.

Except, I think that is utter nonsense because:

It takes me on average a little over twenty minutes to ride home.

That evening the floor manager lost his wine key. This particular wine opener isn’t one of these cheap convenience store items most people have banging around in the kitchen drawer. His wife bought this for him, it was expensive, he’d be in trouble if she found out he had mislaid it; so I spent about fifteen minutes helping him look for it.

The downpour started ten minutes into the ride, meaning that I should have been home almost a full five minutes before the storm had I not stayed and helped him.

And therefore it is really,

No good deed goes unpunished.

  1. Seldom is there a casual or innocent question in a kitchen. 
  2. I tried being a hopeful drunk for a while but I just wound up annoying myself.4 
  3. True story, she once called me during a storm to tell me not to get struck by lightning on the way home. Obviously I listened to her. 
  4.  Now I don’t bother with the drunk bit at all anymore and I just annoy everyone else. 

Accident at Second and Union

I was holding my daughter’s hand, waiting for the traffic lights to cycle, at the corner of Second Avenue and Union Street, downtown. It was a clear and all to sunny day, the reflecting light from the store windows making me squint and wish I was enough of a jerk to not have given my sunglasses to the little darling when she asked for them; still sacrifice is the cornerstone of good parenting, so I’m led to believe, and she looks more adorable than me in them. Accepting my fate I lifted my free hand to my forehead to shield my vision as I impatiently scanned east and west along  Union. There was a break in the traffic and I was debating to myself whether or not to continue being a good example or just cross the damned street, walk signal be damned. The rest seemed happen all at once.

A bicycle, complete with helmeted rider jumped the stop light and flew into the section. From my blind spot I heard the sharp blaring horn and I snapped around, instinctively and most likely futilely attempting to yank my child away from the side of the road as I did so. A pick up, wheels screaming through the intersection the burning of it’s brake pads filling the streets with the aroma of death, or something close to it. It was a dualie, an F350 extend cab, Wedgwood blue; covered with dents and scratches, like hash marks, tallying up its previous victims automotive and pedestrian alike. Today it was out for blood and claimed one more. My sunglasses clattered onto the sidewalk as I pulled her face into my stomach, trying to prevent her from seeing his inevitable doom.

A dull thunk, barely audible over the behemoth’s horn and skidding tires, was almost anticlimactic; or would have been if the cyclist, his red and black jersey pegging him as a deliver of sandwiches, had not flown up off the seat of his fixie and rotated ninety degrees; then, as if in a tribute to Gregg Louganis, folded in half, spun backwards before hitting his head on the hood of the truck before sliding sideways to bounce from the bumper to the pavement. With the last of his momentum his body rolled onto his back, moaning, his helmet cracked and scratched the plastic falling away along the rear right side  where he made impact with both vehicle and street, exposing the gray foam padding beneath.

The F350 veered left, skidded and came to a halt, and by some small miracle managed to avoid crushing the prone cyclist; thought I have doubts as to the fate of his bike, or the sandwiches. The door of the truck creaked open and a large woman with the type of build you get from dealing with livestock on a daily basis, half fell out of the driver seat. She was hanging onto the steering wheel with one hand to steady herself while the other clutched the cellphone, from its speaker could be heard another woman’s panicked voice, “Louise? Louise, y’all alright? Answer me girl.” Louise was too dumbfounded to answer, she just stared at the glowing screen on the device and making a slightly inquisitive whimpering noise. Her temple and the driver’s side window both had small smears of blood, the one on the side of her head getting slowly larger as the seconds ticked on.

It being middle of downtown, and lunch hour, there was no shortage of gawkers and rubberneckers gathering around for a good ogle at the carnage. A few of them, not clutching a six-year-old protectively while she tried to peek at what was happening, pulled out their phones; some of them even called 9-1-1 instead of instagraming the event. A few onlookers with quicker brains came to the apparent aid of the fallen bicyclist. “Don’t try to move man, don’t move.” chanted one dreadlocked African american youth, as he stood over the man. One budding paramedic was waving his hands in front of Louise’s face. “How many fingers am I holding up lady?” he kept asking of the stunned woman.

Soon the intersection was a tangle of emergency vehicles as, thankfully, the police arrived. Statements were taken, which confirmed the fact that none of the witnesses had seen the same accident happen and soon my daughter and I were on my way home. We walked a short distance to a bus stop where I sat down shakily. As I tried to steady myself to phone my wife and tell her what happened my daughter hugged me and asked, “Is the man dead?”

“No honey, they took the man to the hospital.”

“Is he going to die.”

“I don’t know Kate.” I replied still rattled

“He’s probably going to die.” She stated calmly, her eyes clear and innocent. She reached out and handed me my now extremely scratched sunglasses.

Sometimes kids are kind of creepy.

This fictional account was inspired by a Weekly Challenge.

The Red Menace


My legs are pumping hard and my wheels fly down the pavement. The good news comes over the ear buds, interrupting the scream of the industrial music setting today’s pace, in its halting, faux feminine voice to let me know that, after fifteen minutes of riding, I am still coming in under five minutes per mile. This didn’t start off being about speed, it’s supposed to be simply about getting to work, but now I am chasing that endorphin high and the elation I know I’ll feel when the app tells me I achieved a new personal record.

I push faster at the new motivation and make a sharp corner. Pounding the pedals I spot the enemy and, glancing over my shoulder I drift into the turn lane. A quick burst of speed as I cut through the parking lot of the thrift store and come back out on the cross street. This isn’t the first time today I’ve had to get creative to keep up the momentum. The enemy seems to be plauging me at every turn today pushing forward through the side streets of the neighborhoods I make my way back to my appointed course, dropping back out onto a major traffic artery. I round another corner, slip into the bike lane and immediately have to start squeezing the brakes. “Crap.” I think to myself as I come to a halt. The enemy has me, I managed to avoid it the whole ride but now I have no choice. I am stuck at a traffic light.

I sit there idle, inhaling the exhaust from the surrounding cars, mentally hearing the timer of my tracking app tick away the seconds. My foot rocks the pedal back and forth anxiously as I wait. The cross traffic finishes and now I have to wait an eternity for the left turn signal to cycle through. It’s agonizing to watch that light as I feel my averages slipping through my grasp.

Finally, the turn signal changes to amber and I crank the right pedal backwards placing it in the top of it’s arc. The light shines green,I push down hard on my right foot and kick off the pavement with my left. My left foot finds it seat on the cranks and I am moving again, free of the grip of the traffic signal. I slide over on the road and shoot left down an alley into the backstreets of midtown away from anymore lights. I snake my way around the old neighborhood to finish my commute.

I arrive at the alley behind my job and click off the timer. The now familiar, almost comfortingly awkward machine voice announces, “Aver, age, pace, four, minutes, fifty, two, seconds, per, mile.” Satisfied, I dismount and grab my canteen. A new record and more than a full minute under my goal.

I am definitely verging on obsession.

Image cropped from Red Bike by John Bell CC-BY-2.0