i’ve got one more silver dollar

It’s fun biking in this town. For one, it’s mostly me and guys who had their driver’s licenses suspended or can’t afford auto upkeep, with gaunt cheeks and shaggy hair over their neck that flies out the backside of dirty baseball caps as they lean forward and pedal intently to their next errand or social call. These men are almost always riding BMX-style bikes, often the bikes too small for them, in a half-cocked sitting up squat. This is such a typical scene in the area for years I thought these men existed everywhere, and I guess to a lesser extent that, besides small children, those were the people who rode bikes.

So anyway, it’s them and then me. Yesterday was my first trip to and from Sophie’s school (Ralph had accompanied her on her first day in the truck). Since I am riding the bike until weather permits (and if I get rain and safety gear before rain season – doubtful I can afford it – throughout the year) I was hoping for an auspicious start. The weather was lovely, we were about two minutes late in leaving, and the iPod favored me with the Allman Brother’s “Midnight Rider” which was just my speed.

Less than two minutes later I directed my Sophie to her playground (so many children!) and exchanged her place for my friend’s daughter E. who immediately accepted the giant pink helmet and stuck her thumb in her mouth, smiling around the thumb. Kids love the bike trailer. Adults gawk (which usually looks hostile, even if it’s not meant to be) and I fear some judge the “Bonerhead Bike” (ask my brother about that), but children look wistfully or downright ask for rides – then ask their parents to procure a trailer of their own. After buckling in E. I ran the children on errands: to my parents’ to steal some stamps, to the post office, and then along a main route to find an espresso stand and buy the children chocolate milk (E. after hearing my beverage plan proceeded to ask incessantly, “Where’s the chocolate milk?” over and over, I mean even during intersections as if the next gear change would produce a cold cup of the stuff). I was later told by E.’s father he happened to look out the window at his workplace when we rode by. I think it tickled him a bit; happening on the sight of my children when they’re out with someone else always gives me a tiny, warm, yearning glow.

The pickup scene at Sophie’s school is intense. E.’s mom calls it “The Circle of Terror”: a leanly managed and designed but intensely operated traffic flowthrough that my bike does not immediately make sense of. Yesterday I scuttled as far out of foot- and car-traffic as I could and waited for my daughter. As I waited More and more parents started to surge in from all sides, drifting from the parking lot in a steady trickle and making me more and more claustrophobic. At 2:48 children started trickling out of the front door, and to the point, not my child. I talked to the grandparent of the boy Sophie had an insane crush on last year at preschool. Finally my daughter emerged, carefully extending the handle on her ladybug backback to roll it towards us like the world’s tiniest stewardess – composed and professional. I buckled her in and was out of the traffic circle and home faster than any car. In town, indeed, the bike is faster.

Another day without heckling or driver intimidation. Fresh air and happy kids. Life is good.

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