Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Where have I been?!?!?

When I was five, an age my father considered to be the fabled "Age of Reason", it was decided unanimously by my family and myself that I should learn to ride a bike. It was decided randomly by my father that I should learn to ride a bike without the benefit of training wheels. Ever.

There is a perfectly rational explanation for my father, and it is this: he considers himself and his clan to be specimens of unparalleled bravery and fortitude. He writes a blog which is centered around the theme of, as he calls it, "Not being a pussy". He makes chain mail with pliers and his bare hands. He built a forge in the backyard that reduces metal to quivering liquid heaps, and then when he tripped and plunged his flesh-and-blood hand into it by accident, came away with only a blister. He does not even have a scar from it. 

But that guy is not my father. They just happen to share a few hobbies.

So when my father proposed that I learn "just like he did", I knew I was in for some shit.

On my maiden voyage my father pointed out to me the pedals, brakes, and handlebars. He sat me on the seat and pushed me forward, and he instructed me to ride the bike forward until I got to my mother. She was waiting at the end of my course, holding out her arms like a welcoming angel who had no extreme delusions about my bike-riding abilities. And things seemed fine and dandy for like two seconds until I spontaneously forgot how to steer or brake and could only follow this racing mechanical beast to my doom. The ride culminated in my crashing the bike straight into my mother's stomach. I got training wheels after that.

Five years later, living in Pennsylvania with a go-getter ten-year-old attitude, I attempted bike-riding again. I wrote off my previous failure as the inevitable outcome of placing too much responsibility on the head of a pussy five-year-old, much to the delight of my father. He led me across the street to an abandoned parking lot that sported a jaunty near-vertical slope not found anywhere in our previous environment of swampy Mississippi. I came to hate that parking lot with all my tiny beating heart.

I rode in laps around the lot over and over for hours and weeks at a time most of the summer, and it became apparent that I still had a problem with braking. Of course, the problem wasn't exactly mine, as it is undesirable to brake suddenly at any point on the incline of a steep hill. If I stopped while being murderously dragged down the hill by gravity, my previous speed would cause me to fly over the handlebars, and if I stopped while slowly pedaling my way to the top, I was likely to fall off of the hill backwards because that motherfucker was so steep it could have been Mt. Everest's great granddaddy.

My strategy eventually became to wait until I was at the lowest part of the hill and just jump the fuck off. Rather than spend another minute on that hellish contraption of a bike, I abandoned ship before the Krakens could get me. This worked pretty well until one day, the bike went so fast down the hill that it half threw me at my jumping-off point and I took a full-frontal skid across the flatter half of the parking lot. Bike-riding was discontinued after this incident.

After my experiences with riding a bike, I decided at the tender age of ten that I would never drive a car. I decided that I was just not cut out for personal vehicles and that if I ever dared to plop my little ass down into the driver's seat of a car it would be the end of me. I held this firm belief staunchly until very recently.

I enrolled in a driver's education class taught by a man who seems to have witnessed every car accident that has ever occurred, be it the cause of cats, flat tires, pretty girls, alcohol, meth, or just not paying attention. He has a story for every topic that catches one's attention in exactly the way that a brick doesn't, and every one of these stories ends with the driver being decapitated or paralyzed for life. I assume that this is just a manifestation of the very progressive and forward-thinking scare-tactics method of teaching young people that has grown so popular lately. One would think that after my experiences with bikes, roller skates, and things that go, I would not be cheered by the thought of decapitation. However, I have a very finely-tuned contempt for authority that allowed me to disregard this man and his heralded tidings of headlessness.

I sat through the four-day acephalic scare-fest and then took a driver's permit test. I just barely passed the test and was awarded a shiny plastic card with a picture of my face on it. Then after the test, my father took me to a deserted mall parking lot, and taught me how to cut donuts.

It was a whole fuckin' lot better than a bike.

That's where I've been the last week.

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