Friday, 1 February 2008

Ben's Secret Sorrow

Well here comes another of my bi-annual blog updates! I felt that I should repeat for everyone’s edification something that Ben was fussing about last night.

To set the context, he has to ride his bike into town for classes and libraries and things fairly often . . . and when he does so he is in the company of thousands of other people who are, like him, sick of trying to find a parking place. It’s quite the little pedaling swarm of scholars, some of them sporting reflector vests and reflector Velcro strips that clench their pant legs tightly to their ankles in an attempt to keep them from tangling up in the chain and hurtling into the path of the ever-present oncoming bus . . . but the rest of them chuck caution to the wind and pedal around in their scholar’s robe, holding three bags of groceries, and with a cello strapped to their back. Ben falls more in to the first category than the second. He always wears his helmet in a very safety conscious manner, and truth be told, he even owns a set of the ankle thingies. (You wouldn’t catch him in a reflector vest though.)

But be that as it may, reflector vest or no, Ben makes the trek in to town frequently on his bike. He’s also a very reasonably fit man in the prime of life who rows for Christ Church College in his spare time. What is there to fuss about you’re asking yourself? Well it is this. He claims (fussily) that while on his bike he is perpetually having stout old women on bicycles blow right past him, leaving him completely in the dust. According to him, it’s happening all the time. He’s pedaling along, head down, man with a mission, got to get to the library and translate some random German theological article, when suddenly a chunky little old lady in a dress and sensible shoes will come wheeling past him on a rackety old bicycle from the forties. The bike is always tricked out with a whicker basket on the front that usually contains the complete OED, her skirt is flapping in the breeze, no sign of a helmet, and she’s sitting bolt upright and singing at the top of her voice a snatch from “La Traviata” and signaling left by holding both her arm and her umbrella straight out to the side. (A very risky thing to do in this land where you fold in your rear view mirrors when you park your car.) He’s quite put out about the whole thing. He feels, rightly or wrongly, that chubby little old ladies on bikes ought to take longer than he does to get up the Headington Hill. But then again, I bet that they could translate the German theological article faster than he could too!

So Ben would like to ask for prayer that he would get one of the following:

a.) Get into biking shape

b.) Get the grace to not throw elbows when he’s passed by elderly opera aficionados

c.) Get a bus pass

10 comments:

Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

Thanks for the chuckle!

info said...

That's hilarious! Thanks for the OED visual...

When I use to run races (before I spent the last two years being pregnant) I always found that singing while running is the best way to demoralize your closest competitors. You can't keep it up for long but just need to sing as long as they are in earshot which usually isn't long once they realize that you are on mile 11 too but still able to belt it out.

Anyway, comfort Ben that rowing shape and biking shape are two very different things.

Daniel Foucachon said...

Very true, "info," biking shape is different. Having grown up in France, biking would come more naturally to me than, say, jogging.

My great-grandmother who died fairly recently at 100 years old, told us she used to bike from Lyon to Grenoble (a little over 100 km)!

Daniel Foucachon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Foucachon said...

And please tell Mr. Merkle that his pick-up truck is very romantic! (www.foucachon.com

Nick Jesch said...

I too can attest that crew and cycling are quite different forms of exercise...but that one can, with persistance, engage in both in the same season to quite good effect. Freshman year of college I rowed crew....was in the fastest non-versity shell. With some men two years my senior. That year, at spring break, I also cycled the California coast from the San Francisco Bay area south to southern California. 450 miles in three days. I slept for 24 hours straight (seriously --didn't stir an inch) but felt fine the second day. As to getting himself in shape, might I recommend simply riding...lots. And often. Learn to let your pedals spin free..use lower gears (if you have them). I'd wager those dowager operastas have been at it a trifle longer than has our hero. Now, as to prayer, sorry, the bus pass bit is a non-starter for my list. The other bits, though, certainly. Oh, it helps a LOT to have the cycle fitting decently but that's a topic for another discussion. When you're putting on a hundred miles in a weeks time on a regular basis, well then I'd say you're getting there. And never mind the ladies, bolt upright, cycling madly past whilst belting out La Traviata in top cog....using their brollies as trafficators. Now THAT would be a clip for a fine film........

Taylor and Beth Crawford said...

This is hilarious--thanks! Hi to all Merkles from all Crawfords (BTW, there's a new one!).

Claire said...

So, Peter wants to know, has Ben looked for the little assist motor on the back of the operatic ladies' bikes? This is apparently not a facetious question.

The Merkle Gang: said...

Peter,
I'll keep an eye out for the motors. Maybe that's why they sing, to cover the noise of the weed-eater engine. But, I would like to report that today on the Headington Hill, a small Japanese man tried to pass me. But I poured it on and held him off for the length of the hill. Then someone else tried to pass me at the top of the hill. I was all out of gas and couldn't speed up, so I held him off with a lot of dangerous swerving. Anyhow, I walked into the house today with my head held high.
Ben

Desmond Jones said...

Maybe you need an older bike and a basket.