In this post, you’ll read words of limited impact on the world, such as “cyclist” and “tube”, but in your own mind please replace such linguistic bores with “humanity” and “rescue” for example.
It was last Friday, and this Friday was significant for 3 reasons.
1) I had a rare day off from the office to enjoy an early ride and catch up on some long overdue errands before setting off on a clichéd drive down to the country for a weekend with the Mrs.
2) It was hot, very hot! Fuck me it was hot! About 30°C which for London, in September was pretty remarkable.
3) I was accepted by the gods of cycling and/or actual heaven itself.
I’m not a bad person, in fact I would go so far to say I’m quite a well rounded individual of the modern world. I feed the little fox outside with the gimpy leg and am going out with an Iranian, so that’s gotta keep me sweet with at least two groups right? But I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’ve already got a named parking space just outside the pearly gates, wishful thinking I reckon. Until last Friday.
Last Friday I was tested by the gods of cycling and all of humanity. And I passed, not only did I pass, but I passed with distinction! I caused shock, even to myself. Which is why I’m sitting here wasting words trying to build up a situation which may not be very remarkable to you. But for me, it was a revelation.
I was driving up my road to run a few errands in town when walking towards me was an ‘older’ gentleman with his front wheel in one hand and in the other - the bars attached to an oldish looking road/hybrid sort of bike. He had a flat. If I was 17 again, I would have thought “bummer, wonder how far he’s got to walk” and not had a second thought for this poor guy. But not now, oh no. I’m a grown up, I’ve got the lines to prove it.
I pulled over just in front of him looking at him eagerly to initiate a conversation, and the following commenced:
“You ok?” - me
“Nah, I’ve gawn and got a flat, just up there at the end of the road” - him
“You not got a kit then?”
“Nah I don’t carry them araand wiff me, I’ve not had a flat for years, waste of time”
“Well, I’m inclined to disagree with you on that one”
“[he chuckles] I think you’re right squire”
I’d like to point out at this stage that this gentleman was a battle hardened cockney, no jellied eels or pie and mash to authenticate his origins, just his wonderful East London tones. In addition, I don’t think he called me squire, but I wish he did!
“Wait there, I ride bikes, I’ve got a repair kit.”
I got back in my car and reversed the 300 yards it was back to my house and went inside to grab what I needed, repair kit, pump, bottle of water and donut (for him, not me). As I was heading out the front door, I stopped, walked back into the dining room, put down the repair kit and picked up a spare tube. This time walking up the road, I met him half way as he’d carried on his journey, bike in one hand, wheel in the other.
There was some idle chit chat again about the state of the roads and how he once used tires made of old socks or something (paying little attention at this point as I’m trying to get the tire off the rim). I fitted the new tire, put some air in and got it back on the bike. I offered him the donut and the water which I think he accepted out of politeness, but demolished pretty quickly. Up to this point, I pretty much did what any self respecting human being would do, not exactly remarkable. But the next minute is what changed my final destination from “tbc” to “Heaven, front row, next to James Dean!”
This is what followed:
“So what number d’you live at, I’ll stick a fiva through the door next time I pass” - him
[I’d like to point out that the fucking tube cost more than a £5, but that’s not the point]
“No don’t worry about it, it’s fine” - me
“Well tell me where you live and I’ll replace the tube for you”
“No seriously, it’s fine, don’t worry about it”
“But you’ve been so kind, I need to repay you somehow”
And here is comes, the revelation. It was as if the usual part of my brain that controls speech (which usually spouts something clever and sarcastic) had been switched off for a second, leaving another part of my brain to pick up the conversation, and this is the magic it came out with:
“I tell you what, next time you pass by a bike shop, go in and buy a spare tube. Keep it on you and the next time you see someone else with a flat, just do what I did today!”
He didn’t say anything to me after that, I could see he sincerely accepted my request. He got back on his bike and pedalled on. I never got his name, never asked where he was headed or where he’d come from. Didn’t ask if it was his usual route or whether he’d taken a chance just to see what was at the end of my road.
I hope one day I might see him again pootling down my road, maybe I could join him. He could pull me for a few kilometres, maybe he owes me that!?