There are some people who just have no business operating machinery. Whether it's the sense of balance that is missing, the naturalness that should come with sitting on a seat that was never intended to cover your undercarriage, or that ones particular foot and brain motion are not in-sync and never will be. There are just some people who were never meant to ride a bicycle. I am one of those people.
Now the first thing you must not do, please do not confuse my self-proclaimed admission that I should not ride a bicycle with the fact that I never owned one. I have in fact, owned several bicycles in my life time. Some of those bicycles I rode successfully, some not. I had regular bicycles, 3 speed bicycles, and the last one being a 10 speed bicycle. Crazily enough, I did just fine riding all the bicycles I owned. It was when I would venture out, experiment, or just borrow someone elses bicycle that the troubles would start.
To set the scene, the year is 1970. I am seven years old and I am bored out of my mind. My parents are having a business party at our apartment. Complete with wide lapel jackets, bell bottom jeans, big flowing blouses, beehive bouffant hairdo's plied with plenty of hairspray, thick mustaches and widespread sideburns. Cigarette smoke clouds the air and red Solo cups are in most every hand you pass.
We were new to town and my parents had the party to get to know all the new people that would be working for my Dad. We were living in those apartments until our home all the way across town was built upon completion. We had not lived there very long, but I too, had already met new friends. However on this particular Saturday night, all my friends were out of town. I had no one to play with. As I said, I was bored, so I set about finding me something to do.
One of the best things about these apartments is that part of them sat way high up on a hill. Ours did anyway. And one of the major past times was when new neighbors would move in, the kids would pull their moving boxes back out of the dumpsters, cut them up, make "sleds" out of them and slide like a bullet down our hill. We lived on the top of the hill, and way down on the other side of the "valley" was another set of apartments.
Anyway, no one was moving in, there were no boxes to be had. But...I did have a friend who said I could ride her bike while she was out of town. Now MY bike was just a regular two wheel bike with brakes at the feet on the pedals. Matter of fact, I had not even been riding a bike for any major length of time. But I had mastered mine pretty well. However, my bike was boring. Her's was bigger and cooler. So after it I went.
I drag it out of the cubby under the stairwell and roll it out back. I get at the top of the hill, ready for the speedy, fun ride down. I climb on, get my feet settled, or I try to, I'm not quite tall enough but I think once I get on, I can stretch my legs and it will work. I sling my leg over the bar, teetering as I try and balance on my tip toes, then jump up on the seat and push off.
Now I don't really know just how deep that hill was, because when you're young, everything is larger than life. It could have really been as big a drop as Niagara Falls, or it could have been a small sand hill. But in MY memory, it was a cliff, and I had just jumped off of it on a bike. That bike took off like it had an engine attached to it, down I went, all but free-falling on two wheels. I was trying to stretch my legs to get my feet to the pedals to brake, and I was mashing as hard as I could, but it wasn't stopping. Then I remembered. Those "extra" things on the handles, my friend did something with those when she would stop. I think.
Meanwhile it's summer time, and people are outside everywhere. Grilling, playing with their kids, sitting in lawn chairs, visiting and talking. And I'm still flying at super sonic speed. Down that hill. Headed straight for all those people. The ones grilling and sitting chairs. I can't mash the metal clamps on the handles hard enough to get them to do anything. I'm still flying. My long hair flying, my skinny legs flailing around because finding the pedals that don't work has been forgotten. The scene before me is startling. And to clarify, for those of you who are reading that one sentence, over and over again, yes, I had skinny legs. I was seven for gosh sakes...
Lawn chairs are flying, people are running, grills are being snatched up and rolled out of the way, strollers are being pushed fast and hard and I can hear a lady in the background, screaming, "She's not going to stop, oh my gosh, I don't think she's going to stop!".
Oh I stopped alright. Me and the bike. The bricks on the side of that apartment building took care of all that. I slammed face first straight into the side of that building. I'm lying on the ground, people are standing all around me, looking down at me. I hear talk of a bloody nose and lip, who does she belong to, where does she live? I must not have been unconscious. I must have been able to tell them. Because I find myself being escorted back up the hill to our apartment. The nice strangers knock on our sliding glass door, my Daddy answers, and it's on. All he sees is the blood, the mangled bike, strange people all talking at once about his little girl who crashed into the wall, and our living room full of people whose party has come to a complete standstill.
I didn't ride a bike for a long time after that. Matter of fact, I was about 11 years old. I was staying with my babysitter at her house. I wrecked it too. Again, it wasn't my bike. And now I have a very large kidney shaped scar on my left knee to prove it. I just have no business on a bicycle. Never have. Never will. I just imagine I'm the type of gal who will always require four wheels instead of just two. For my safety, for your safety, and for the sake of anyone else who is around, safety.Why they waited until I was grown to create those great little helmets I will never know. Granted one of those helmets wouldn't have helped my nose, lip or knee, but a full frontal face mask would have been too scary.