Thursday, September 16, 2021

Pedal pushers


I have a snazzy new bike, which runs on photons (it's electric "pedal assist" and we are solar powered at home, and I'm ultimately solar powered, too, all those plants soaking up photons to power their metabolism). I've commuted by bike when I can since my grad school days. On a mango ten-speed, uphill to the science building at UCI, eventually on a blue internal hub bike, uphill both ways (I have to cross a saddle point) to Bryn Mawr. Now with a supercharged ebike. Those uphills are a bit easier!

I'm a bike commuter going short distances and so I'm not interested in have to change in and out of bike gear for each trip. So a chain guard is key to my use of the bike. But "real" bikes aren't supposed to have them and unlike the last one, my new ride does not. 

Yesterday my (argh, new) pants got caught in the drive belt (no chain on this bike, actually), then wrapped themselves so tightly around the pedal mechanism I couldn't free myself or get my foot on the pedal or down to the ground. There I was, balanced like a stork on the side of the road, my foot slowly turning blue.  A passing dog walker and his energetic Doberman puppy stopped to help. We couldn't get me untangled. I called Math Man to bring me a pair of scissors to cut me free. In the meantime a woman from across the street came out to see if she could help. She brought scissors. Not sharp enough to cut the durable black linen, she went back for another pair.  This pair did the trick. "Now these are pedal pushers," she said, and we laughed. The dog walker was perplexed, we explained that in the 60s, pedal pushers were a style of pants. Ones that wouldn't get caught in your pedals.

I am so grateful for the calm help of these strangers. The world can be a good place.

Math Man appeared a couple of minutes later, bringing scissors and the ever helpful bike garters. And off I pedaled to work, no time yesterday to go home and change. I taught and met with colleagues and students in my torn pants. 

I've ordered gaiters to gather up my pants and queried the bike company about a guard, and ordered new pants, grateful that I'm uninjured (aside from my pride) and that none of this is a financial strain. When I was finishing my PhD I rode my bike down the ramp at the back  of the building after a rain storm. As I turned out into the parking lot, my bike slipped in an oil slick. I went down, slid across the pavement and ruined a brand new pair of soft pale yellow corduroy pants. And scraped up arm and knee pretty majorly. There was nothing in the budget to replace them with.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Young widows

9/11/2001. It was  such a beautiful day. Those clear, blue skies that cried autumn, with its new beginnings, an unimpeded line into the future. And suddenly, in the blink of an eye, there were so many young widows. 

In those first days after Tom died,  I remember my mother lamenting her inability to give me any advice to help with what I was going through. (I note my mother was steadfast and wonderful through it all.) She and her friends were still too young, none of them had lost spouses, let alone had children who had. I remember, too, her thought that in other eras, I might have been less alone in such grief. She grew up in the shadow of WW II, which rent young families in so many ways.

I remember walking near John Wayne airport that afternoon — I was stranded in California on a business trip — seeing the planes parked across the runways to block them, and thought of all the times I’d driven past there with Tom when we were at UCI. And thought of the shock that had overturned my life 14 years before. How I could not wrap my mind around what the cardiologist on call was trying to tell me, how desperate I was to have one more chance to tell Tom how much I loved him. How excruciating the wait to know for certain what was coming next. And the avalanche of decisions that would descend. And I thought of all those living rooms and kitchens and offices where this scene was playing again, not in the privacy of a dark hallway in a local hospital, but under the unrelenting glare of a national tragedy. And I prayed for them all.