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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Too Late to Change Velocity

      The chosen syntax to roll off Colin's tongue, just as we descended Turnbull today, was for us to be careful around corners because some places were still wet and no one wanted to crash.  If this were merely fiction, that might be considered a foreshadow.  I'm just going to cling to the belief that irony's alarm clock rang and we were her first victim of the day.  We all agreed, geared up, and on we went.
     The best parts of any ride are the hair-raising, gravity-defying downhills. Except when it's rained the night before.  Mother Nature was kinder this morning, opposed to late afternoon yesterday when I experienced all four seasons of her in one hour (which will be a narrative of a muchier color for next time), and it was even sunny. That made climbing Colima a little easier because it's always nice when it's sunny there. I warmed up a bit, settled into a rhythm, and just pedaled. You could see patches of wet asphalt where the side of the hills blocked the heat of the sun to dry it off. But ascending those places doesn't have the same warning effect as it does when the world is rushing by at the veriest of mach speed. And one tends to forget that there might still be a hint of 'wet' around the next cusp.
I was behind Mike. John behind me. Colin led the peloton of four. Things were going swimmingly: brakes still grabbed, road cooperated, Mike had a little wobble around one bend but recovered just as I passed.
     The second that I realized I was going too fast, it was too late to change velocity and the next few seconds held so much action and reaction, it made Newton's laws cross their arms in narssicistic gloating fashion and on December 17, 2011-- that shit got real. Colin went down and I'm sure every creature in Turnbull Canyon felt the impact and heard his creative expletives of pain and anguish. I had already set my mind to accept the fact that I was going to be the carbon fiber fodder, but somehow I avoided the aftermath. Mike and John were there to help him in nothing flat. They were looking for broken bones. I was looking for broken spokes and a snapped chain. But aside from his bars sitting slightly askew and the clear coat on his rear derailleur a little grooved from being an object on a slip 'n' slide, his ivory Colnago survived much better than the layers of clothing and skin on various parts of Colin's lycra clad body.
      At first, the adrenaline from the collision absorbed the deeper pain and suffering and we decided to coast downhill to Whittier P.D. for some first-aid. We got as far as Painter and Beverly when it wore off and he started to feel it as though it were sound from a neighbor's garage band growing louder and louder, completely harshinig any of his mellow. He took off his glove to survey the hand that most likely suffered the most damage. Dripping with crimson, the skin between his thumb and forefinger looked as though it had been through a blade in a cheese grator.
      We decided to coast down to the police deptartment.  I'm sure it's what the clerks at the precinct experience every day, four cyclists gracing their front door on a cold Friday of them bleeding. I inquired as to whether they had a first-aid kit and the clerk, obviously a comedian on weekends, answered my inquiry with another inquiry as to whether someone was hurt. Reflecting back on it, I wish I had a snappy comeback, such as, 'No, we're on a scavenger hunt and just need a picture of it.'
      Perhaps it was my dumbfounded expression or maybe it was the blood dripping on the floor, but Sargent Clueless quickly saw that we were a serious bunch and while she was tending to the wounds on our comrade, we did what all cyclists do when another crashes...let our adrenaline surge with the reality of what COULD have happened had he not been wearing a helmet and how resilient some materials are to abrasions. Oh yeah, and took pictures. Let's just say that Colin's noggin will not be donned in the helmet he was wearing today. It was cracked in three places! His torn Velocity jacket and jersey will most likely be the clothing worn by a proud survivor on future club rides, but I can guarantee you it will not change HIS velocity. During the ride, he reached his goal of 600,000 ft. of climbing for the year!  That made the irony of the ride lose a little of its sting.

The Red Broom Chronicle

Who am I to place a lower value on something that belongs to someone else just because it doesn’t appear valuable to me?  And who am I to think it’s not unusual to see a Kindergartner who runs out of a classroom that she wasn't supposed to be in, clutching a bright red broom, screaming my name over the din of the playground, and seeming to collect classmates on her way to see me as though the broom were a magnet? 

Recess had begun relatively serenely.  Over the past few weeks, I’d had the pleasure of twin shadows at recess.  Seriously, twin five year olds that I had learned so much about in very few words and were as content to stand beside me as I was content to have them there.  Some afternoons, we never even exchanged syllables.  Amazing, the presence of other human beings—no matter their age-- and their effect on a bent psyche.  Anyway, my two little shadows had effloresced into four shadows just days before the incident.  Recess began, I ambled onto the asphalt, and they found me.  I always gave them their choice of a place to stand, sort of like a pitcher’s mound.  One of them wanted to face the monkey bars so we could applaud their friends who had made it from one end to the other without slipping into the bog of woodchips below.  The sun was bright and warm as we meandered over and sought refuge in the shade of a tree shedding its bright yellow blossoms on our heads like raindrops in the afternoon breeze. 

Usually, I have an apple and I’d learned to bring extra apple slices to share with my side-kicks.  Listening to their laughter and bits of conversation over the clamor of the other forty-four students, I felt whatever heaviness inside of me growing lighter.  It was simple to be five years old and yet they were discussing the complications of their lives.  Spongebob was no longer on when they wanted to see it, Kevin was too busy these days chasing other girls, and when one of them was little she remembered ‘when the days were really small’.   They nodded and chuckled.  Brought a smile to my face as I ate my apple and drank my Diet Coke that they were already having issues.  Should I have told them to wait until they’d reached second grade before thinking the sky was falling?  Nah, why spit in their cornflakes?  Life was good in the ten minutes that we’d been there: there were no tattling tongues, no complaints that someone wasn't sharing the swings, no time-outs given to ornery little hands throwing wood chips at each other like they were splashing in a swimming pool.  I should have asked myself what was wrong with this picture.  But I didn’t want my cornflakes spoiled either.

I had just eaten the last of my apple when Melanie approached with a red broom that she was holding like a jousting sword, pounding the grass of the playground with her Converse high-tops, drops of sweat trickling down her face, and trying to yell louder than the magnetic posse behind her.  Moments like that are always comical at first.  And then you find out--it’s real. 

Apparently, Christopher's necklace had escaped the confines of his neck, found itself in his hand, and had been lobbed innocently onto the roof.  When the attempts of his friends throwing their necklaces into the air to get it down had failed, they went into democratic mode and appointed Melanie as leader number one to run into the classroom and tell the teacher that she needed the red broom for something.  Step one accomplished.  Step two was to convince the teacher on the playground (that would be me) that what they needed was deserving of the Curious George like circus to commence in the next few minutes.  But they knew that I was the teacher who had already given several warnings in the weeks prior when similar incidents of throwing precious belongings into the air had occurred.  Hoping maybe said teacher wouldn’t bring out the stone tablet where she had etched the many other playground rules and their consequences, this one falling under the category of if precious belongings land innocently on the roof, the victim and perpetrator were shit out of luck.

So, I calmly retorted that if his necklace was on the roof, it would stay on the roof.  Like one of those movie moments where you hear a needle skim across the grooves of a record and all grows quiet before hell breaks loose. Yeah, that's when things got ugly.  Christopher's chin started to tremble.  He gave me a cross-eyed glare over the blue rim of his steamed-up glasses.  Then he announced through a bit of a stammer that basically my answer wasn't acceptable, and he'd just go find someone cooler than me.  That was when I knew why Melanie had been appointed the leader: she added that her teacher had said to tell me to get it down, and she pushed the broom handle into my hand.

Now, had I glanced over to see Isaac escaping the rioting crowd to run to the office without asking, I wouldn't have rolled my eyes and hidden a grin to ask where exactly this necklace was.  Maybe I misunderstood and it was dangling over the ledge waiting for the helpful grasp of a red broom handle to ease it back into its owner's hand and around his little neck where it should have stayed to begin with.  Just as I ambled over with Melanie's posse all explaining at once in which direction to go, Isaac ran into the crowd and announced not to worry and that all was well because he had told the manager and she was bringing her ladder.

Okay, wait.  The manager?  Of a school?  There wasn't enough time to consider that he had left the safety of the playground without my permission, and by doing so had gone to the office with his rescue plan and convinced the office staff to get on their walkie-talkies to alert the custodian of this emergent necklace plight.  I blinked several times while I let his syllables process in my once-relaxed brain before realizing what he was saying.  Surely the custodian would think it commodious to bring her heavy ladder before coming to evaluate the situation first, right?  When he pointed behind me and yelled out that she was there, my stomach suddenly wanted to reject that apple from earlier and I begged my brain not to show me a long orange ladder over her shoulder.  I turned around to see, not just the school custodian, but another adult to help her carry—yep, the very ladder I didn't want to see.  I directed the cheering lollypop guild crowd to stay put while I spoke to her.

The power of words is curious.  Survival of the fittest.  Even at five years old if you can band together to connive, I mean convince several working adults to pay attention to what’s important to you by merely using your vocal chords, there’s nothing in life that’s going to hold you back.  It wasn’t a house on fire, a capsized cruise ship, or a flat tire on the Mars Rover; it was a trinket on a red string.  The cause wasn’t Mother Nature or drug or alcohol related, nor was it because even on a distant planet far far away, there is evidently still foreign object debris that can bring down a gazillion dollar machine roaming on the surface.  Nope, this was a simple, ‘mybad’.

It has a way of knocking you upside the head to think that adults have gone to school for a minimum of thirteen years and yet some of us still don’t know how to use our words to get something done.  Maybe we need to go back to Kindergarten.  Irony is cruel.