April 2011, outside the Radcliffe Camera, Oxford
Danny: “What’s with all the bikes?”
Me: “It’s the only way to really get around the city when you live and study here.”
Danny: “What do you do when it rains?”
Me: “Ride in it.”
Danny: “What about grocery shopping?”
Me: “Learn to balance gallons of milk hanging from your handlebars.”
Danny: “What about when it was really cold out?”
Me: “Wear lots of clothes.”
Danny: “Is that why you decided to move back to America?”
Clearly my 7 year-old knows his mother pretty well. I think back to the mornings of cycling during rush-hour, in the rain, holding myself upright on the sides of buses as they threatened to squeeze me against the curb. But it really wasn’t all that bad: as long as you remembered your plastic bag to keep your saddle dry when you were in the library (or the pub), and didn’t forget your bike lock de-icing spray in January, cycling everywhere eventually became a completely tolerable way of life.
I do recall, however, the feeling of panic when I needed to deliver my completed master’s thesis to the Exam Schools on High Street. I lived in the north of the city and needed to get myself and my hundreds of pages to the Schools, a good distance away, by 4 p.m. That day, the usual Thames Valley monsoon had rolled in, making it necessary to wrap my thesis in about 600 plastic grocery bags before I strapped it inside my book bag.
I said a prayer at each stop light:
“Please god, don’t let me get hit by a bus today. At least not on the way there. Please don’t let me fall into a huge puddle and lie there, unconscious, while the water soaks through my bag. If I need to get hit by a bus, please make it happen on the way home.”
I – and my thesis – made it safely there. My chain didn’t fall off, my brakes didn’t fail, the 600 plastic grocery bags kept the rain off my carefully edited pages. I ran up the worn marble steps and did my best “Rocky” impression before heading inside to deliver my work. Bonus: no one stole my front wheel while I was inside. It was a good day, indeed.