It’s been a bit of an odd day. I was going to write about something quite different, but the way the day has turned out has got me feeling like writing about it.
About a month ago, I got a flat tyre on my bike. It had happened before, and DL helped me replace the inner tube, and it was all good for several rides before it went flat again. It was a bit unusual because I had cycled in to work with no problems. I locked my bike up in the allocated cage in the car park, and didn’t notice anything amiss. Yet, when I returned to my bike later that day, the front tyre was completely flat, and couldn’t be inflated.
Annoying, yes, but not a major problem. I caught the train home that day, and figured I could replace the inner tube again — perhaps there was a tiny rock or bit of glass lodged inside the rim, and it would be a simple fix. However, week-end after week-end passed, and it was either raining (I don’t have enough space in the garage to do work on the bike inside), or I was too busy/tired (or both). So I put it off, and ignored it, and thought about it, but didn’t do anything.
This week I resolved to get it fixed. I thought that since my bike is quite old, and I’d never had it serviced before, I should just take it in to the shop, and get a professional to look at it as well as give it a long overdue check up. So this morning, I booked in the service, and about an hour later, I dropped it off at the shop. The mechanic (? Technician? I’m not sure what to call him, or if there’s an official title) said my bike would probably be ready by the afternoon, and they’d give me a call when it was ready.
So I went home, and thought about how great it will be to be back on my bike again, and I went about my day. I did have this vague feeling of something similar to guilt, like I would be found out by this bike expert for severely neglecting my bike. But for the most part, I reassured myself that it was still good that it was finally getting the attention it needed.
All things considered, getting a bike serviced was so easy, I should’ve done it sooner. And, yes, as it turns out, I really should have done it sooner.
Less than an hour after I got home, I got a call from the bike place. The bike person who had taken my bike in told me that he had found a critical crack in the front frame under the handlebars. He explained that this sort of crack is not reparable, and poses a great danger for the rider because if the crack leads to a break, you’d come crashing down onto your face.
I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking or feeling as I heard this news, but after ascertaining that the bike couldn’t be salvaged, I asked if they could dispose of the bike or if I needed to collect it. He checked with his manager, and said they could take care of it, and that there would be no fee for the service as he had discovered the crack prior to starting any work on the bike.
I thanked him for his help, and mentioned that I’d had the bike for a very long time, so I felt like it had had a good run. In actuality, the crack probably happened many years ago, and it could be considered very lucky that I never had an accident on it. Who knows — maybe if he hadn’t noticed it, and just went through with the service, my very next ride could have been the fatal one (well, probably not actually fatal, but quite bad).
So, just like that, the bike that I’ve had for about eight years was gone, never to be seen again. After I hung up, I had a weird feeling almost like I’d just allowed a vet to euthanise my pet without asking to see it one last time. But that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? After all, a bike is an inanimate object.
I wonder if the people at the bike place thought it was weird that I didn’t want my bike back. Either he had never encountered such a critical fault in a bike before, or he’d never had anyone not want their irreparable bicycle back, because otherwise he wouldn’t have had to check with his manager if they can dispose of unsalvageable bikes.
My situation reminded me of the protagonist in The Outsider (or The Stranger, as I believe it is sometimes called). It’s a novel by Albert Camus about a man who is rather impassive and taciturn, and these qualities are called into question when he is put on trial for a crime. I’m very close to finishing this short novel, so I won’t write anything further about it now — there will be a future post on it.
In contrast to my experience of figuratively saying good-bye to my bike but not actually saying any sort of farewell to it, in the early afternoon today, I decided to do some gardening. Our bitter melon plant had been dying for a while now, and this morning when we looked at it, it was almost certainly completely dead. It’s just a seasonal thing, I’m sure, as it’s getting quite cold these days. I decided that since the weather was mild, and I had time, I would take it all down, and put it in the compost bin.
I’d originally thought that it would be a fairly quick task — just tear the whole thing off the trellis, and shove it into the bin — but I was outside for almost an hour, cutting parts off, untangling the vines and tendrils, and reducing the whole thing down to a little stump. As I cut and trimmed, I marvelled at how strong the little tendrils still were, even when they were dried out and appeared brittle. For the most part, it was easier to tear the vine from the little tendrils that held it to the trellis than it was to break the tendrils themselves. And unwinding each one was out of the question.
I thought back to how I had spent hours helping the bitter melon plant climb up and spread out through the trellis — how I had helped guide the tendrils and affix them to where they could not, even in death, let go. And now I’ve undone all of that hard work.
I wasn’t particularly emotional while I did this, but I was more saddened by this — a plant that I’d paid nothing for, had not intentionally grown, and had known for less than a year — than I was about the bicycle — something I had paid several hundreds of dollars for, and had owned for several years.
I suppose this tells me that it is not how much one has invested into something — be it time, money, effort or anything else — it is not these things that determine how much one will be saddened by the ending of the something in question.
At any length, the dying of the bitter melon is not a great catastrophe. We already reserved some seeds from a harvested bitter melon to plant once spring is near. It’s all merely a natural cycle of growth and decay.