The sound I least wanted to hear

Finally, I had a real urge to ride my bike. I’ve only used it a couple of times since I fixed the flat I got last fall. It’s pleasantly downhill more or less all the way to Montlake, where I catch the eastbound bus to Redmond. The bike route follows a series of side streets and passes a wooded ravine. I was tempted several times to stop and inspect someone’s garden. A lot of people are working on their yards now that spring is here, and I like to see people’s new arrangements. But I was late already, having flagrantly ignored my alarm clock and slept in until 7:25.

The day was one of those where, as my dad would say, somebody’s playing with the dimmer switch. Dramatic shifts of light from cloudy and wet to sunny and sparkly. I looked forward to my ride home. But from the westbound bus in the afternoon, I saw black clouds looming. It didn’t seem likely that I’d make it home without getting wet. And it seemed colder than the morning. That’s okay, I’d warm up quickly when I started up the long, relentless hill.

After I’d gone about five blocks along silent and narrow little streets, and was beginning to get warm, I heard BANG! Ssssssssh. Had I been shot? No. I had run over a tiny, lethal piece of glass, and would now have to walk the bike to the bus stop. I have to get some new tires. I think these must be crummy ones; I’ve had more flats on this bike than on any other I’ve owned.

When the bus came, one bike was in its rack already. I told the bus driver I was going to try to put my bike on the inside slot. It’s harder to use that slot because you have to reach around the bike on the outside. I had no problem lifting my bike into the rack and I climbed into the bus.

Driver: So, you get your bike out of the garage, and you’re finally going to get some exercise on that nice, shiny bike. And what do you do? You put the bike on the bus to go up the hill.

Me: Actually, I had a very loud flat tire. Scared me to death.

Driver: Oh, but surely you have a spare inner tube? Don’t you carry a tube?

Me: Are you this critical of your family members too, or only of strangers? [Wait, actually I only wantedto say that.]

Me: Last time I used the bike, somebody stole my pump off of it.

I sat down. As other people got on and off, he had comments for some of them as well, and I figured out that he was just trying to kid around. A teenager got on and declared that he had no money and no transfer. The bus driver teased him lightly and let him ride for free. Did I criticize? Did I say, what, are you afraid of that little ankle-biter? No. I only wanted to.

Meanwhile, it started pouring, raining rain that that wasn’t merely falling but seemed driven by an accelerant. Then it was mixed with my favorite Seattle precip: ICE PELLETS! Look out! Then it was back to sheets of rain.

When I got off, the driver had one more thing to say to me: Did you hear on the news about the girl who was walking her bike in a rainstorm, and she was vaporized by a bolt of lightning?

Nice. I flipped my hood up and walked the bike home in a light rain.