Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spoiler Alert!

Yeah - I wish someone had told me that. Allow me to explain via the tale of one of the more painful episodes from my childhood.

I had two bikes before the flyin’ Murray stunt bike from the previous story; this story involves my first bike - an orange Kent street bike that I’d tried (cosmetically, at least) to beef up a little. It originally came with a big, long banana seat, gorilla handlebars & a teeny, tiny sprocket that made racing a test in endurance; it looked like something off “The Brady Bunch.” It was a Christmas gift when I was about seven or eight. I remember being excited about it (I hadn’t even asked for a bike that year); the bloom soon faded, though, as it took me forever to learn how to ride the two-wheeler (I’m honestly surprised that anyone from my generation has been able to procreate, as the center tube on the frame – the “Nutcracker” – was brutal; by all rights, the human race should’ve ended with anyone born in the 70’s). I don’t know when it happened, but, eventually, I mastered it, racing anything that posed a challenge &jumping anything that got in my way.

I learned to love my bike.

At any rate, given that the Kent wasn’t meant for racing & jumping (oh man, could she powerslide, though!), she developed a few characteristic rattles & noises. One, in particular, was a click emanating from the rear wheel. I chalked it up to a loose spoke, but could never find the offending piece. For years, I was plagued by an incessant clickclickclickclick coming from the back of my bike.

One day, as I was coming down the street (fast, as usual), the sound became almost unbearable. Doing what any 11 or 12 year old would do in this situation, I turned around to see if I could find the exact location of the clicking. Again, I was going at a fair rate of speed. Riding while looking over my shoulder, I determined that I could not, in fact triangulate where the sound was coming from.

This is where I really could’ve used a ‘SPOILER ALERT!’ Much to my surprise, I turned around just in time to see the rear end of my friend’s parent’s 1970-something Ford Pinto station wagon – complete with a rear spoiler mounted on top. It was then that I got a harsh introduction into the word of physics; namely, that an object in motion will remain in motion, with the object in question being my face. My bike, upon making contact with the car’s rear bumper with its front tire, endo’d me into the spoiler, face first. Then, because the Universe was feeling particularly vindictive that day, I got my next lesson in physics; in this case that for every action, there is an equal & opposite reaction. I learned this as, after I collided with the spoiler, I was then thrown backward, off my bike & flat on my back onto the street.

I then learned another universal constant: asphalt is really hard.

Sure that my nose had been shoved into my brain & I’d die any at any minute, I lay there, gasping for air like an asthmatic in a Beijing marathon, wishing; hoping; praying for a quick death to make my face stop hurting. My friend’s dad had apparently seen the whole thing & came running out to my aid. Amazingly, after all that, I hadn’t broken anything; I didn’t even have the distinction of a bloody nose. He helped me up & checked to see if I was alright (&, probably, making sure I hadn’t left an impression in the spoiler). After ascertaining that I wasn’t going to die, I picked up what dignity I’d just splattered all over the back of the car & onto the street & rode, slowly, facing forward this time, back home, where I called it a day.

I never did figure out where that stupid noise was coming from…