Open Letters To People Who Are Unlikely To Respond (or: another gimmick i blatantly stole from McSweeneys).
this was triggered by one of the comments to a post below, which alluded to my problem with bike riding
Boston, MA 02215
Dear Mr. Crazy Homeless Man,
You probably don't remember me, but I owe you a long lost apology, and a gracious thank you. The year was 1999, and I was still in college. I believe you were enrolled in “The School of Hard Knocks” at the time (maybe you have tenure there by now?). As usual, I had more work to do than there were hours in the day to do it, and I hadn’t yet figured out that I could just stand by the printers in the computer center and my homework would shoot out, done for me (by someone else. Who would then chase me down the hall. But I digress.) It was late, and I had to return to campus for an all-nighter of programming, debugging, cursing Java, my professors, God above, and most of all my stupidity. Introduction to Programming for Engineers my ass. That wasn't no introduction and I’m no engineer. But anyway. The point is, I was going to rollerblade across the windy bridge, but my roommate thought a better idea was for me to borrow her bike: safer, faster, easier. Or so she thought.
I don't know if in your craze-haze you know adages (or maybe that's all you know?) but the one about the Not Forgetting and the How to Ride a Bicycle? Let me tell you: less an adage and more of a complete untruth. Granted, I could blame coming of bike-riding-age in NYC, but that would be a crutch, and a bad one at that. I definitely once knew how to ride a bike, and come 1999, I still wasn't disabused of the notion that once you knew how, you're set for life. So I accepted my roommate’s generous offer and haltingly pedaled into the night.
The ride over to campus was tough. I was swerving all over the sidewalk, swerving like I had stolen your beloved 40oz and shotgunned it. The fact that we were in the middle of lacrosse season and I was in shape didn't seem to make the huffing-puffing yet FLAT ride any easier. I couldn't seem to figure out how to break, as my thumbs weren't even reaching the break on the handlebars. I had to resort to jamming my feet into the sidewalk. At the time, I just thought, "Damn! Bike riding's not all it's cracked up to be!" and with advanced cognitive leaps like that, it's no wonder it took me all night and into next morning to finish my problem set. At which point, I groggily got on the bike to pedal back home, to my bed. The return journey was no easier, in fact, it was worse, way worse. In my fatigue I swerved even more violently, I still couldn’t break, and at one point mid-bridge my pant leg caught on the gear and ripped. I was then *very* close to tears borne of frustration and lack of sleep (I do not deal well sans shut-eye). I just wanted to be home, lying down, in my bed. I continued pumping away covering twice the ground because of the serpentining (Serpentine!) back and forth and back and forth. Finally, I get over the bridge, pant leg flapping in the early morning wind, my arms contorted in an attempt to get my hands underneath to use the breaks, my thighs bumping into the handle bar with every pedal.
Just then, I swerved right, under the overpass, and past your park. My brownstone was in sight; the journey had almost come to its long awaited end. Just then, you rose from your stupor and sat up, wiping the sleep from your eyes, and the pigeon poop from your natty beard. I hardly noticed you at first, you’re pretty much an institution and we had grown used to your presence. All of a sudden, echoing off the overpass I heard your gravely voice, except instead of the usual barrage of obscenities, you yelled, "IT'D BE SO MUCH EASIER IF YOU TURNED THE HANDLE BARS AROUND THE RIGHT WAY!"
And that, Mr. Crazy Homeless Man, is when I died a little inside. Right at the exact moment you had your one witness-able moment of lucidity. Your lack of insanity triggered something inside me - one of us had to be crazy for equilibrium to be maintained - and I had to accept that role by default. So in response I yelled "NO IT WOULDN'T!" (I left off your trademark “COCKSUCKER!” because I didn’t want to pay you royalties) as a jerked away. I definitely didn't fix the handlebar situation; the only salvageable sliver of dignity I had left wouldn’t let me capitulate. I had come that far, I wasn't going to do it the "conventional way" now. So Mr. Crazy Homeless man, Thank You. Thank you for clearing the cobwebs for that brief moment. I was too embarrassed at the time to adequately show my appreciation, and for that, I apologize. I would like you to know, Mr. CHM, that you have affected my life: I have only been on a non-stationary bike once since, and under duress (for a bike tour in Munich. It involved beer AND parks, I’m sure you would have liked it!). Hopefully you’re still living in Crazy Park (named after you, an honor) and this letter finds you well and as nutty as ever. Say hi to your friend who had Tourettes for me, and remember, try not to urinate while people are walking by, it’s uncomfortable for everyone involved.