Check Yourself Before You (Bicycle) Wreck Yourself
I hate the phrase "it's as easy as riding a bicycle." Why? Because as I learned a few weeks ago in Chicago, riding a bicycle is not freaking easy.
I was in the Windy City (apparently named as such because of the hot air spouted by the city’s politicians and not the weather) doing a few shows and visiting my friend Elizabeth. She suggested we take bikes out and ride around the city.
"It's really the easiest way to see the city," she explained.
"I don't know. The last time I rode a bike it was pink and purple with streamers on the handlebars," I said, feeling hesitant.
"Oh, Emily, you'll be fine," Elizabeth said, as she presented me with my yellow Schwinn. And I was excited. We could ride around the lake and get some exercise so I could enjoy the city’s delicacies, without too much guilt, to my heart’s content. That was until I attempted to throw myself over the high bar in the middle of the bike.
"Ah, how do you start this thing?" I asked, attempting to jump onto the pedals without causing the bike to fall over.
Elizabeth watched me for a while in disbelief.
"Wow. You really don't know how to ride a bike," Elizabeth said, looking at me as if she'd just witnessed something rarely found in nature, like a blue-footed boobie or a classy Chippendale dancer (not that I know from experience, of course).
"Apparently not," I said, as I started to sweat.
"Well, let's just see. I can teach you and we'll just take it slow," Elizabeth explained.
"Or I can walk," I said, quickly getting frustrated, as I have about as much patience as a three-year-old.
And so Elizabeth proceeded to teach me what my father had apparently failed to pass along. (Though I could have sworn there was an incident with training wheels in my youth.)
As I was learning to kick off and not swerve into a tree, an older foreign gentleman appeared out of nowhere. Like an oracle, he observed me before pontificating, "Do not look at the ground, or that is where you will land. Look ahead."
I tried it, and it worked.
"Now sit on the seat!" the stranger said, nodding happily.
"I can't," I screamed. "The seat is too high!"
"No excuses! Sit on the seat," he yelled.
"Seriously, don't yell at me, strange foreign guy, we have to get the seat adjusted," I screamed back.
"Oh," he said. And he was gone.
We stopped for a seat adjustment at the bike shop (although my ass already felt like it had been in a prison shower at this point). Soon we were zipping along with me feeling only slightly like an idiot. And then I collided with a little kid who was on his bicycle. (Seriously, it was his fault. He saw me and didn’t slow down.) And it took everything I had not to curse him to the high heavens. After all, I was in the Midwest and people are nicer there.
I dusted myself off and continued along. Elizabeth decided I needed to practice my braking. (Apparently you need to raise your butt off the seat when stopping. So much multi-tasking!) We choose a quiet street and I managed to ease to a stop without falling off.
That’s when I noticed yet another older random foreign guy watching me with a grin.
“You remind me of my daughter,” he said.
“Really? How old is she,” I asked, bracing myself.
“Seven,” he replied.