I exited a campus building and jumped on my bike, more excited than I probably should have been. As I made the short trek across campus my excitement only increased. The sun’s rays were beaming their warmth solely upon me. Trees wavered in the cool summer breeze, whispering sweet nothings into my ear. And a squirrel, who was typically rather spirited, almost certainly gave me a thumbs up. I was in a good, and admittedly weird spot.
I had just finished a day of summer classes and was heading to my favorite little eatery. I wasn’t taking summer class because I was doing poorly, necessarily, but because I was playing on the University’s soccer team and we practiced throughout the summer. So it only made sense to knock out a class or two in the meantime.
The combination made for a busy, but manageable couple of months. Not I’m trying to make a grilled cheese while texting my buddy a link to a 3-minute ping pong video that I watched in its entirety manageable, and more I’m trying to make grilled salmon for the first time while teaching myself Arabic on the kindle manageable—but still, manageable. Some days were good, and some were less so. As such, I would try to find little ways to reward myself when things were going well. Chiefly among those things was a trip to my favorite little eatery on the corner of campus.
The day in question was a particularly good day—practice was finished, class too, and as far as I knew my grades were in reasonable order. More than enough reason to spend a few bucks on something tasty. Now, to be fair, I never needed much of a reason to eat there. Waking up and putting on pants successfully would have been reason enough. But that day I had earned it.
I wheeled into the parking lot and locked my bike up, before making my way inside. There, I was greeted by a few friendly employees. One of them who may or may not have known me by name. Not because we were friends or shared a class, but because I was something of a regular. That’s not to say we wouldn’t have been friends, though. She seemed like a cool gal and we probably could have had a pretty decent time sharing a snow cone or giggling together, we just never did.
I placed my order to go, and received the food an appropriate amount of time later. With the food now in my possession, my excitement grew tenfold. I could all but taste it now. After all, it was a short ride home from here. Maybe a mile or so. Which meant, accounting for the one intersection I had to cross, I would be home in no more than five minutes, enjoying what was sure to be my best meal of the week. It was like the final moments before opening presents on Christmas morning, if your Christmas morning consisted of a steamy bag of food under the tree.
I left the eatery, unlocked my bike, and took off toward home with the bag of food firmly in my right hand. Not long later, I approached the lone intersection. Like a lot of intersections, this one was rife with traffic. Similar to a bee hive, actually, but with birds instead, and often in the form of a finger. Anyway, you could quite easily spend a couple of minutes waiting on lights.
With the distance between the intersection and I ever decreasing, I could see the light was green—but not for long. Moments later, the pedestrian signal turned from a walking icon to a red, blinking hand. Which is a scenario that’s typically pretty straightforward. If you’re close to the street at this point, you continue on. If you’re not, you don’t. However, I was somewhere in between. So I did what any hungry man would do: pedal as fast as I could.
My speed grew rapidly. Like really rapidly. I’m not saying I should have been fast tracked for the Tour de France, but I am quite confident in saying that I would have knocked over a good stack of coke cans, if the angle was right. I kept at it. Head down, pedaling as hard as I could. The intersection was mere yards away now, and closing fast. 15 yards. 10 yards. 5 yards. And then, with the intersection within touching distance, I realized something: I wasn’t going to make it.
I slammed on the brakes, halting my bikes forward progress. I, on the other hand, did not stop. I was instead launched over the handlebars. Quite successfully, too.
You see, in all the excitement I had forgotten one key piece of information: the bag of food was in my right hand. That meant I was left to use my left hand to brake, which was the hand that occupied the front brake. Pair that with my newfound speed and it was like my bike had hit an invisible wall, and as a result I had become a high flying, yet wildly uncoordinated gymnast.
My momentum had carried me into the intersection. My bike was on its side, wheels spinning, and the bag of food a few feet from that (from what I could tell, the food was still intact—a minor miracle). I scampered to my feet almost as quickly as I had fallen. I didn’t waste a moment to look for cars, or to see if I had any bruises or cuts. Heck, Tom Brady could have tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to play a casual pickup game of football in the quad, where he of course would have let me play quarterback and provided me with water and wiped my brow when it perspired—but it wouldn’t have mattered. I was too embarrassed. I hastily grabbed the food and my bike, and made my way back to the safety of the sidewalk. Where I was greeted with hysterical laughter.
Teenagers. Nine or ten of them. Maybe eleven. I don’t know. More than I would have liked to see me fall off my bike carrying take out. It was apparent they had seen the whole thing. I hadn’t noticed the laughter before—the shock of the crash must have dulled my senses—but now, as I stood on the sidewalk, my body and ego battered and bruised, I became painfully aware of it. This wasn’t your average standing around the water cooler at work listening to Ted and his joke about broken pencils being pointless laughter, either. This was bending at the waist hands on knees laughter; rolling on the floor maybe vomiting a little laughter. There was finger pointing involved. Sneering. One kid may have thrown a shoe. It was brutal. And to make matters worse, the light had only just turned red.
I endured their laughter for the duration of the red light, which seemed to grow stronger with each passing second. Finally, though, the light changed from red to green and I jumped on my bike and began to pedal—an act that was met with very little resistance. And by that I mean my chain had fallen off in the crash and pedaling could not have been more useless. I was going nowhere.
Seeing no other option, and not wanting to go back to those
hyenas teenagers, I stepped off my bike and walked it across the rest of the intersection. Which was like pouring gasoline on an already successful fire. The teenagers’ laughter increased, and one kid, keen to point out the recent development, shouted, “Look, he’s walking now!” All the while I pushed on, my head forward, not looking back once.
The rest of the trip back was perfectly uneventful. After safely crossing the intersection I continued on a good ways, distancing myself from the teenagers, before fixing my chain and biking home the little distance that remained.
Upon arriving I was greeted by my roommate, who was already eating. I sat down and joined him, removing my food from the sack. As I had initially gathered it was in surprisingly good condition. In fact, it really wasn’t damaged at all. If I didn’t know any better, I would have looked at the food and thought the bike ride back was perfectly normal. But I did know better, because I was the one who was thrown off his bike and laughed at by a bunch of teenagers only minutes ago. Something I didn’t tell anyone for week’s to come.