Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer
Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer
Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer

Bike Story and Who

I came home on the last day of the workshop. I felt buoyed by the writing and the learning, encouraged by the friendships, and hopeful. The sting of abandonment inside my gut was not as strong as it was four days ago when the first class ended. I wanted to get outside and ride my bicycle on the hills nearby. I wanted to get my cardio and my weight control fix. I wanted to burn off some of that adrenaline that was in my blood making my body antsy. Biking uphill sizzles all of that away.

I got my camelback water pack ready. This pack is a small backpack that has a tube connected to a water bladder. I can sip water as I am bicycling without doing any more than sucking on the tube that lies on my chest. I headed out the door.

When I opened the garage door, I noticed the rear tire of my bike had gone flat. Not just a little flat. Completely flat. I sighed. I also chuckled at life’s unpredictability. I like to do that these days. It keeps me from screaming too much, although I like to do that also.

I discovered that I love to scream. It is more like a loud bellow. One or two usually does the trick of blowing off the steam. Then I usually immediately laugh. At the silliness of how things are. At how everyday life is as full of interesting twists and turns as is a fiction book. And at how loud I can bellow.

I stood and pondered. It is the back tire. The one that has the gears, the sprockets. The chain is hooked onto the gears. I am a person with limited bike repair knowledge. This represents an added complication. I can’t detach the rear wheel as easily as the front wheel. The bike is difficult to fit into my Kia Soul. Not impossible, but difficult. What do I do?

I googled. Can I use fix a flat or do they make fix a flat for a bike tire? Wow, yes they do. And Dick’s sporting goods carries it. Now, I do have a time frame here. I have to leave the house for meditation at six thirty p.m., so I need to get going. It is three o’clock. I still want to get my ride done today.

I drive to Dick’s. They have one of the products, called “slime” but they don’t have the aerosol can stuff. Ok, I will try it. I also purchase a very good bike air pump. I am weary of using the battery-operated air pump from BJ’s which looks like a drill. Although it eventually works, the valve attachment is finicky and requires a large dose of patience. My patience is in short supply. My meditation teacher would say my impatience is arising. I would say it has arisen.

Now here is an interesting side story. On the way home, I see the car in front of me has a license plate that reads, three numbers followed by the three letters, WHO. I had a humorous imaginary conversation. As we were stopped at a light I imagined getting out of my car, approaching and knocking on their window.

“Hi. Excuse me for startling you. I couldn’t help noticing your license plate. As far back as I can remember, my mom always would say to me, ‘Who knows?’ My entire life I have wondered who this ‘Who’ person is, and if I ever meet her or him, I am going to ask them to share the knowledge with me. I mean, it never seemed fair to me that ‘Who’ knew. Why should she have all the knowledge? Why not spread it around a little. But, I don’t want to get into ‘Why,’ as that gets more complicated. I want to deal with ‘Who,’ because ‘Who’ knows. Besides, I really don’t know ‘Why’ very well. Although I would think I would have introduced myself by now, since I have said ‘I don’t know Why’ so many times. Then I would usually follow with a reference to Who by saying Who knows? You get the idea, right?”

The woman looked like she didn’t know what language I was speaking, but I didn’t let that stop me and I continued.

“So, I got all excited when I saw your license plate and thought you might know ‘Who’ or you might even be ‘Who’.”

The driver of the car, a thirties something mom with a child in the back in a car seat….

“What the hell are you talking about?” She obviously does not have as many useless graduate degrees as I do, and I understand her completely.

To which I replied, “I would prefer to keep ‘What’ out of this. I mean, ‘What’ matters, but ‘Who’ knows.”

And she said, “I still don’t understand.” I was thankful she did not carry any weapons.

“Let me see if I can explain,” I smiled my most friendly Mr. Rogers “welcome to the neighborhood” smile.

“I frequently use the expression, ‘Who knows’, when I don’t know why something is the way it is. My mom said it often since I was a baby. I am not sure Why. I will try to keep ‘Why’ out of this if I can. I figure if we can find the ‘Who’ family, we might just find out a lot of information, since ‘Who’ seems to be involved in just about everything in this world. And, I would like to be privy to this information. I saw your license and got such an adrenaline rush because I figured, either you are ‘Who’, or are closely related, or, you know ‘Who’.”

“Also,” I said, “Along with ‘Who knows’, not to confuse you anymore, I would also sometimes say, ‘whose nose?’, trying to figure out which nose out of several, or ‘Who’s nose’, talking about ‘Who’s nose itself, and as you can tell there is a subtle difference between the two. I like to play with words and sounds.”

The woman looked at me with a scrunched up, twisted face that was worthy of a picture and at least a paragraph of words. Still looking confused, the woman rolled first her eyes and then rolled up her window as I heard her say, “I think you’ve been playing too much with words. Maybe try people a little more.” I got back in my car with a satisfied grin on my face. The light changed green. I may have changed her life forever, I am not sure. I will ask “Who,” someday.

I wonder if they are the real McCoy’s or impostors. They could be fake and that’s why they didn’t understand. But if they were impostors, they should have played along. Maybe it wasn’t their car. Could have been stolen. Or borrowed. That’s possible. Hmmmm, this perplexes me. I will wait and put it on my list for “Who.”

I forgot to tell her one thing. When in a line waiting for something and the store person asks, “Who’s next?”, she should stay vigilant. Since she may discover who “Who” is. “Who” is always next. It is never “What” or “Why.” Okay, sometimes it is “What.” I get confused. Should I ever get asked the question who “Who” is, I at least know the answer. “Who” is next.

I continued home. The stuff in the can for the tires is green. I read the directions. The cap is a tool…use it to take out the pin in the valve. It even has “t o o l” printed on it. A black cap is on the end of a tube which is about six inches long. The directions say use the tool to take out the pin but don’t tell you to take the black cap offffffffffffffffffffff and the tool part is on the inside of the cap. It took me five minutes to figure that out. Trying to fit the tube, with the black cap attached, on the tire valve. Cursing the whole time at how do they expect me to fit this tube in between the spokes of the tire to get this thing on the valve. At least I did not break or bend anything out of shape trying. I finally got there, and laughed at them and me. But I am making progress. Okay, take out the pin in the tire valve. Good. Now what?

Now, connect the clear tube that is provided to the tube of “slime.” That’s the name of the product. Squeeze it all in. Replace the pin in the valve with the tool inside the cap. Now it is time to use my new pump and pump the tire with air. For the moment, the air in the tire is holding and the tire seems nice and firm.

The man in the store said it wasn’t meant for long term use. Meaning, get the tire fixed after using the “slime.” There won’t be anyone to perform bike repairs until tomorrow afternoon. My plan is to take the bike there either by car or ride it there. For now, I want to take my ride.

About half way through my ride I notice the back tire does not have as much air as it did when I started. Not a good sign. The inner conversations started. “I better not go my entire route, head back now.” “Oh, come on, do a little more.” A few more glances at the tire, and I stop to feel it. It still feels pretty good. I decide a few more minutes of riding and then I will head back.

On my way back, I want to clean up the debris on the bridge near my house. Garbage strewn on our planet, our corner of the earth, turns my stomach. Someone has dumped about a dozen or more small liquor bottles, along with empty cigarette packs, wrappers from a lunch sandwich, a large plastic coffee or soda cup, and a bunch of napkins and ketchup packages. I ask the angels to allow me to find a plastic bag so I have something to put all this crap in. And, just like that, I find a large old, dirty but not decomposed clear plastic bag. I use it for the garbage.

I parked my bike on the sidewalk and start collecting. A car comes out of the side street, and the man driving yells something at me. I couldn’t make out what he said but he sure didn’t look or sound friendly. I still can’t figure out why someone would be angry at me for picking up garbage. Maybe “Who” knows. I will have to ask her when I find her. I am baffled.

I ride the few blocks to my house. It is just after six. I grab a bite of food and head to meditation group at The Graduate Institute in Bethany.

I thought when I opened the garage door this morning (the next day after meditation) that the tire would be flat. It is not right, about the same as yesterday, but it is not flat. Like the earth. And, I was able to get in my ride at 6 a.m. without any problems.

I tried to pump more air into the tire, but it is not letting me do so. Maybe the slime had sealed up the air valve. “Who” knows. And maybe, one day, I will too.

Neal Harvey…good day.

P.S. Life is unpredictable. I am learning to stay just a little lighter on my feet so when I get knocked off balance, I might just stay upright. Maybe. “Who” knows “Why”. Fancy that. “Who” knew that they knew each other. Of course she did. She knows Everything. But, I better not get started on Everything. We’d be here for an eternity.

nmitchk@aol.com

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