Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Whoever said "It's like riding a bike" was an idiot.

I rode bikes a lot as a child. I rode my purple Schwinn to school every day. I rode to the movies, gas stations, all sorts of places. I have no idea how. Now that I'm an adult, I'm terrified of traffic and of breaking bones, particularly bones in my legs or skull, not the mention the humiliation that would come with injury.

I own two bicycles, for really no reason. The first one I acquired when a friend of mine moved to a nearby city and asked if I could store her bike for her until she found a larger place. We lost touch for various reasons, and next thing I knew, I heard that the girl was living in Japan. I later heard that she was living in New Zealand. She's back in the country now, and we talk from time to time, but she's never mentioned the bicycle, and I've had it for almost eight years. I feel safe calling it "mine."

I acquired the second bike under similar circumstances. I had a roommate for a couple of years, and it was a very strange experience. She didn't have a lot of things, she mostly used my stuff. I knew she was planning to move out in June of that year, so I became a bit concerned when the time was getting near and she hadn't even begun to pack. Her father was in town, and was going to help her move her things across the country in a U-Haul. She had a large trunk her grandmother had given her, and she wanted to leave it in the apartment with me. Her father was very concerned about her leaving the trunk. He asked me several times if I was absolutely sure that leaving the trunk wasn't a problem. The trunk was fine, it fit in the corner, it wasn't in my way at all. I went to work early on the day she was supposed to move, and it was only then that she started packing. I figured she didn't have much stuff, so maybe she and her dad could throw it all together and get out. When I returned home from work that evening, everything this girl owned was still in the apartment except for her clothes. She left everything, including her rickety old bike. I was not pleased, as I had to mail her all of her things (on her dime, of course).

Both of the bikes eventually got flat tires. I didn't have a pump, nor do I have any avid bicycling friends, so no one I knew had one, either. I've been poor for years and have never been able to justify the expense. I know they're only $10-$15, but that can be a lot of money when you're poor, and when you want to spend money on fun things, bike pumps aren't exactly a priority.

I'm living on credit cards these days, and I figured I'd just be frivolous and I bought a pump. I filled the tires of the nicer of the two bikes (the first one) and I took it outside. Before I even mounted the bike, I noticed that the brakes don't work. Neither set. At all. I took the bike back home and took the rickety one out for a ride.

I'm short (5'1", tops), and this bike was clearly designed for a larger (or at least taller) person. I have the seat down as low as it goes, and it's still too high for the likes of me. Add to that its wonky pedals; the pedal straps have been replaced with awkward (and garish) rubber things that are a bit awkward to put one's feet into. The brakes worked, though, so I thought I'd take it for a spin, anyway.

That wasn't really the best idea. As it's not the right height, it wasn't particularly comfortable, and I feel that my center of gravity is in the wrong place for such things. I tried to slow down and turn, and then I decided to stop, and as I braked, I leaned over so I could touch my foot to the ground. Well, my foot didn't touch the ground and I toppled right over. Oy vey. I may very well get the brakes on the good bike fixed, but judging by how long it took me to buy a bicycle pump, that won't be any time this century. We'll see. Next humiliating adventure: learning to roller skate.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Faith in humanity.

I have two pet rats, and one of them is rather sickly. I've been very poor since I walked off of my horrible job a few weeks ago, especially since I was poor before I walked off. I found out that my student loan money will be coming in next week, so I took my two boys to the vet.

I quite like taking my rats to the vet, mainly because I meet very interesting people and animals in the waiting room. The first time I went, I met a lady with a duffel bag full of rats. I've met two different people with chickens. I met a parrot who called me "baby" and winked -- at least she appeared to be winking.

Today there was a man there with his two children, a boy and a girl. They were just stopping by to get food for their bird, and the boy wanted to talk to the vet to ask him a question. The vet came forward and started talking to the boy. The little boy asked the vet if he knew of any good organizations that helped hamsters. The vet gave him the name of a local animal shelter that frequently takes in rodents and other exotic pets. The boy said that he was having a birthday party soon, and instead of presents, he wanted to ask his friends to donate money to a charity or shelter that would help hamsters. How f'n cute is that?!

I am single and I am not a parent, but I have a small home and a lot of clutter. I have often thought how awful it would be around Christmas and birthdays for families with children just because of the sheer volume of toys and other items that just take up a lot of space and are a waste of money. There are garage sales everywhere, overflowing thrift stores, yet somehow we always find ways to buy, buy, buy more stuff. I hate our consumerist society, though I'm just as guilty as anyone else -- in some cases, more so.

This boy has given me a little more faith in humanity, though. He was probably nine or ten and understood the value of helping those in need...even if they're hamsters! I'm sure to some extent he was coached by his parents, but I think they're doing a good job. Of course kids should get presents, but there is far too much value placed on material nonsense.

I was a wealthy child and am a poor adult, and it's funny how I've learned so much more out of life from my "failures" than I would have had I achieved "success."