Friday, October 3, 2008

Near-Disasters in Biking—Mere Humiliation

It was spring, and after my brush with death/disaster the preceding fall (see previous installment, “Near-Disasters in Biking—No Brakes!”) I’d gotten back on my bike and resumed my daily commutes to dental school. As we all know, April and May can be unpredictable in Minnesota, but the dictum “Just dress for the weather and you’ll be OK” still applies as usual.

It was May 1st, and I’d been too distracted during breakfast that day to pay attention to the weather report when I gulped my coffee and saddled up to ride to school. A look out the window showed trees full of tender green buds about to expand Ka-boom into leaves anytime, and I figured it had to be a nice day. As always, I kept my rain jacket and pants tucked in a corner of my pack.

I had an uneventful, if chilly ride to school. Inside school, I had a really bad day. I somehow forgot to bring the wax crown patterns I’d carved at home the night before, meaning they wouldn’t get cast in time for a patient that drove 100 miles for their appointments. Also, I was convinced that I bombed my Neurology midterm that morning—a course I detested.

But worst of all, my girlfriend had dumped me during a mutually tearful lunch. “I’m sorry, but this just isn’t working”, was all she could say. She was a young woman I thought I loved, even though I knew that I really didn’t like her. How is it that we can consciously make these kinds of mistakes in relationships—wanting someone whom we know is definitely not right for us? The Fates could have told me “Wake up, Todd! She’s yet another Oedipal re-enactment, get it?” but as usual they weren’t talking. We may be stupid or crazy to want the wrong person, but this doesn’t make it hurt any less.

When I saw that it had started sleeting rain and freezing flakes outside at the end of the afternoon, I thought that the sky was either sympathizing with me—or else mocking me, I couldn’t decide which. All those bright green optimistic and vulnerable buds out there getting sleet and ice dumped on them. You didn’t need to be a Freud or Jung to get the metaphor for how I felt. Down and out, I got into my rain jacket and pants for the ride home and shouldered my backpack. After a few blocks it was clear that riding my bike was going to be more trouble than walking it.

After nearly two miles of walking, completely absorbed in feeling sorry for myself, I reach a stoplight and when it turns green I begin to cross. There’s a couple of inches of snow on the ground by now, and walking just then seemed to be getting harder. A car honks at me, and then another. “OK, well so what, it’s snowing and I rode my bike today. Big deal!” Another car honks. I think, “Well f*ck you all anyway! So what!? You think this is funny?! My life is totally f*cked—go honk someplace else!!”

At that moment, I feel like something is grabbing at my ankles. I look down, and my rain pants have fallen down around my ankles; the waist cord had broken. It doesn’t matter that I have jeans on underneath. I was a biker crossing the street with his pants fallen down around his ankles, and clueless—until that moment—of his condition.

If I weren’t so sad about my now former girlfriend and at the same time pissed off at everybody honking at me, I could have spent a lot more energy at that moment feeling humiliated, as most of us would tend to feel discovering that our pants have fallen down in the middle of the street in rush hour traffic, with drivers laughing and honking at us.

I’ve had better days.

1 comment:

Jocelyn said...

Oh, but didn't the jeans save you? In my world, there would not only have been no jeans but, em, NOTHING to save me from humiliation, save my ability for denial.

The details of your job are quite interesting to me--the wax crown carving, for instance. And Neurology? EEEEEK. I thought my linguistics courses in grad school were a nightmare, but at least I stood a fighting chance.

And I didn't have to mold anything out of wax.