It’s been months since I’ve ridden my bicycle. And I get scared whenever I start up again. I guess it makes no sense, but I have a history.
“How old were you, Bruce, when you learned to ride a bike?”
I was afraid of lots of things when I was a kid. I knew I didn’t have the balance or confidence to ride. My parents never asked me if I wanted a bicycle and I never pursued the matter. Strangely, even though I guess all my friends had bikes, it never was an issue among us. When I was around, we just walked everywhere.
My first job was flipping hamburgers at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island. I was 17. One day, my boss took me to the back of the snack bar, pointed to a bicycle, and told me to take a box of frozen patties to the stand on Centre Island, a few miles away. And then he was gone. It was just the offending bike and me, staring at each other. Had I been wearing a heart rate monitor, it no doubt would have read 225 beats per minute.
I’d never even been astride a bike. But now I was, with one arm wrapped around the frozen food. Seems to me that there wasn’t a carrier to put the box in. My feet found the pedals. My right hand found the handlebar, and I set off. Within a second or two, my body found the ground. I remember lying there, thinking that I was the slimiest human being on the planet. Oh teenage angst … how I know thee well.
I got up, glanced around to find that I was alone, and ran the bike towards some bushes. In it went, nicely covered by the foliage. And then … I ran to Centre. That’s where the memories stop. I have no idea how much humiliation I swallowed from my peers. Maybe that’s a blessing.
Fast forward a few decades. Jody knows about my bike trauma. She’s taken me at night to a subdivision under construction in Lethbridge, Alberta. Street lights, asphalt and bare lots. She pushed, she ran beside, I pedalled. And I stayed up for a hundred yards or so. Was I exhilarated? No. I was terrified. At the end of my trip, Jody rushed up to me, saying “You did it! You rode a bike.” My response? “No, I didn’t.” To this day, I don’t know what that was about. How skewed is my brain when drowning in fear and embarrassment.
A few YEARS later, I finally agreed. I could ride a bike. Did I mention the 47?