Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ice Queen

On account of running late and being sleep-deprived, as usual, I made a series of wrong choices this morning.
First, the skirt I wore was not one I'd cycled in before. This was a minor nuisance as it cut into my mobility a little. Still, being stubborn and not having time to really change into anything better in less than two minutes, I worked through this. The bag I brought was also not the greatest to hold onto while riding, but again, I was mostly thinking about what would be convenient for the longest amount of time during the day. This purse has lots of zippered pockets including one that's large enough to hold my camera. I was aiming for something that would keep my keys, debit card, and bus ticket secure all day long. The worst choice was simply forgetting the grab my gloves. By the time this was apparently a problem, I did not have time to turn around. I ended up stopping twice on my 8-10 minute ride so that I could attempt to revive my fingers.

See, while it is less expensive for me to travel to New York than to the other side of Hartford, the Megabus waits for no one. The drivers are not vile, obnoxious people who routinely force cyclists into unsafe situations. If I tried to cut off one of them, they'd no doubt stop and check on my safety...but like hell would they let me on the bus after the scheduled departure time has arrived. It's frustrating, sure, but I admire it.

My admiration was a bit fuzzy, though, as I attempted to lock up my bike as quickly as possible. It's hard to do this with fingers that are alternately numb and painful. I must've looked like a dope fumbling with my helmet, unable to get it to release because I could not feel where the release-thingie was. A group of college-aged boys stared at me during all this, and not in the "hey, check out that awesome babe" kind of way. It was more like "Gawd, I hope she doesn't sit anywhere near us." Don't worry boys. I'm old enough to be your mother and that cougar thing is played out.

Meanwhile, my fingers are still not coming back to life and I'm feeling nauseous, which is to say, status quo these days (except for the fingers). The thought occurs that I should just cut my losses and go to the doctor instead of New York City. My lack of health insurance and possible frostbitten brain convinced me instead to go to New York anyway. If nothing else, I'd experience a different type of hospital. I also convinced myself that my grandfather must've gotten frostbite when he'd go hunting. Oh, were you looking for logic in there? My grandfather died a decade ago, he was a boxer and had been shot, and was basically way more hardcore than me. Not the best point for comparison.

So, I'm sitting on the bus while it loads, looking like a maniac probably because I kept pinching and wiggling my fingertips. Some blonde woman who sounded like she'd done a few lines of coke with her breakfast asked to sit next to me. And then, mind you, at not-quite-6:30-in-the-morning, continued to keep talking. She finally got the hint (6:30 is for sleeping on the bus) and moved away. The rest of the trip down was uneventful unless you count the emergency stop in the median and then the person directly in front of me violently and loudly puking into a plastic bag for about an hour and fifteen minutes. I so wish that I was exaggerating.

As the bus made its way through Harlem I began noticing the many remnants of stolen bikes. A u-locked wheel here. A frame there. It did not seem unreasonable that when I returned to Hartford I would find my own bike in some stage of being stripped down. After all, I used only one lock -- a combo one -- and given my delirium/numbness, it was possible that I had not even bothered to do that right.

While I wandered around searching high (Bergdorf Goodman) and low (H&M) for a damn pair of gloves or mittens, I noticed two things. First, even though it was chilly and still winter, I was expecting to see far more cyclists in Manhattan. It's NY, for chrissakes! You all are supposed to be tough as spit and mean as nails. Sure, by Hartford standards, there were multitudes of cyclists...in Central Park. But I did not come close to being run over or even grazed by a cyclist once, and trust, after the craptastic way my day began, if it could've happened, it would've. And two, I ended up buying the most bootleg (and overpriced for what they are) pair of glove-mittens from a street vendor because even though it's still cold enough to wear gloves, it's not cold enough to continue selling them in most stores, even in the ones that find it reasonable to charge $650 for a pair of ballet flats.

After a long bit of being creepy and taking pictures of strangers riding bikes or making wardrobe adjustments, I decided to move on out of Central Park, even if it did provide the most diverse group of people for that aforementioned people-watching. Unlike my excursion last year around this time, I was not as envious of those with wheels. Maybe my still-frozen fingertips had something to do with this, or maybe I was just wearing more comfortable footwear that did not make me instantly long to sit down. Since I don't have a folding bike, I might not get to know the joy of riding through Central Park. It seems silly to rent a bike, particularly after viewing what was available -- rides sized really wrong in some cases.

What the rental bikes have that my own Starry Bike does not is a basket. In most cases, that's fine. I've got panniers, but again, this morning was not the time to search for my other lock and figure out how to secure the pannier to the bike all day long. This would have helped immensely for my ride home, which involved not just the awkward purse, but a bag full of stuff and things acquired during the day. The awkwardness was the least of my problems when I got back to Hartford. The bike was still there and it appears that everything that should be on it is. The trouble was that after being on a bus for three hours and in various states of consciousness, I, of course, ran into a friend who rides surprisingly fast as hell. Since he mocks the law by not using lights at night, I felt obligated to keep up and light the way. My fingers were much warmer on the ride home, thanks to the gloves (that with my luck are probably infested with bed bugs).

Lessons Learned Today

  • wear gloves
  • don't try out different fashion choices before sunrise
  • if someone is clutching a plastic bag on the bus, do not sit near her
  • bring that ugly nylon backpack thing for trips that may involve shopping. It'll make the lugging of stuff home later easier, and it never needs to come out of the purse until you're back on the bus anyway.
  • do not allow solo travelers to strike up conversation with you. They are all crazy and will tell you things about their families you do not need to know. Talk to the homeless guys instead.
  • you're not supposed to grab the bread rolls in fancy restaurants. You point, and then the waiter tongs them for you. The $12 glass of wine should tip you off to this type of protocol.
  • locate locks, ugly helmet that you won't cry about if it gets stolen, and lights at NOT quarter to six in the morning

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