Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Bicycle Paati

Film-kaatti ponnu paakalaama?
பைக்கு ஒட்டி ஆத்துக்கு வந்தாளா (Bike-otti aathukku vandhala)? Take it easy, policy.
பக்கத சீட்டுல பாட்டி ஒக்காந்த (Pakkatha seattula paatti okkandha)! Take it easy, policy.

— “Urvasi” from Kadhalan (with a minor change)

My last bike trip was just over a week ago, a 30-mile trek from Fog City to the Bubble within a Bubble within a Bubble. I had my bike tuned before the journey, but the trek took its toll, and after futzing with the gears, I know my bike needs to get another tune up. Still, it’s a sunny day, and I don’t want to revise this paper at home, so I bike to Arlequin in Hayes Valley, a cafe where WW and I worked on our theses once. By now, I’ve discovered the most efficient route, and I’m there within fifteen minutes.

I head to the courtyard in the back, only to find that the shade and wind have made it too chilly to be productive. I promptly return indoors and productivity for the afternoon. I even manage to create a couple new figures and consider heading home before it gets dark, but that’s when I get an e-mail from MB. He’s in the area for Maker Faire, which KQED’s Forum describes as Burning Man for Science Geeks. He asks if I want to meet up for dinner, and it’s enough to keep me working another couple hours, by which time I have sent a complete— albeit typo-ridden— draft to my advisors.

MB and I get dinner at Terra Bakery and Cafe, and he shows some of the photos he’s taken of do-it-yourself 3D printers, homemade R2D2s, and an automated spirograph machine that I confuse for a robotic insect. I tell him a bit about my day, and afterwards, we take a walk around the neighborhood only to realize how windy it’s become. After a few unsuccessful attempts to find indoor warmth, we take our bikes and head in opposite directions: him to Caltrain, and me to Home.

I try searching in the dark for The Wiggle but after two failed attempts start biking up a relatively steep hill. It’s followed by a slightly steeper one. I am panting as I turn right, and realize I’ve made it onto The Wiggle. There are a couple bikers in front of me and at least one behind. I’m still biking, but I turn onto Fell, and head to the next red light. I can sense the biker behind me, which makes me a little self-conscious because of my panting.

We come to a light, and I turn around. “Hello,” her voice quavers. I respond with a “Hi” followed by panting, and then I get a look at her from the streetlight. It’s Bicycle Paati, with her circular spectacles, gray locks, and a few wrinkles showing on her face. Bicycle Paati remains seated next to me, but when the light turns green, she overtakes me immediately as we head into The Panhandle. Despite her initial dart ahead, my breath steadies, and soon, the gap between us has stabilized.

That’s when I notice the sprinklers ahead. I feel like we’re in some RealLife™ version of the old Nintendo Paperboy game minus papers to throw. I don’t see a way to avoid the water, but Bicycle Paati weaves her way through. I follow her pattern and manage to stay miraculously dry. Another round of sprinklers comes by, and this time I know we’re going to get wet. I follow her lead, and the miracle repeats itself. She can bike on water! I am a believer.

We reach a point where I normally head straight, but I notice Bicycle Paati turning left. Should I follow her? I’m not far from home, and I know the detour will still get me home, so I follow her lead. Within a minute, the new road puts me on a shortcut to Home. It cuts my journey by another four minutes. Dry, warm, and with my breath back, I head up to my apartment.

(Thanks to Mom for correcting my atrocious grammar.)

One response

  1. Pingback: Beer de Tahoe: Training « Dirty Hands

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