Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Patron Saint of Bicyclists

I arrived on the West Coast a demoralized ex-bicyclist.  A year later my friendship with the Contraption Captain had blossomed and he suggested we bike to work together.  I rode an old Specialized mountain bike a friend had given him and he had repaired.  It was a ~9 mile trip but I made it pretty easily.  The next day we rode together again.  After that it was easy to bicycle to and from work and it was not until some months later that the Contraption Captain looked up and said, "hey, you never went back to driving your car, did you."  I had not.  I had found something better.

The other area mothers paid a kind of lip service of approval with responses to my bicycling that looked like this:

1.  Now I know how you stay so thin!  (not true really, I've always been relatively thin)
2.  I think that's wonderful.  Really wonderful.  But, aren't you afraid?  Of, you know, being killed?
3.  I'd love to bicycle but [ my knees are no good | my SUV would be lonely | I don't want to die]
4.  I love to bicycle but I have a friend who was badly hurt.
5.  I'm too busy to bicycle.
6.  I knew someone who bicycled a lot.  He got hit by a car.  He still bicycles!  Of course, since the head injury he can't remember much...

There was one notable exception to this rule.  The woman who I refer to as The Patron Saint of Bicyclists aka Ms. H.

Ms. H pays the bills with a job as a gym teacher at the school my kids attend.  She's not the gym teacher you remember though.  There is no "let's pick teams because it's always fun to see who gets selected last" and there is no "let's watch the overweight kid try and run a mile" and there is no "let's bean the nerds during dodge ball."  Ms. H's manner can only be described as...saint-like.  She is endlessly patient.  She is cheerfully positive.  She knows everyone's name and she has told me, without sarcasm, that she has the best job in the world.  Show up to volunteer for her class and you have your four year old in tow?  Not only is it not a problem but actually, it's full of WIN.  She's relieved you brought your four year old because now things will be even better.

...and Ms. H is a bicyclist.  She bikes to work and bikes home again.  Every year she rides from SF to LA for the annual ride to support research into a cure for AIDS.  When she signs your kid's yearbook she tells your kid to have a wonderful summer and "always wear your bicycle helmet!"  She's bicycled with people who are blind, towing their bicycles while they pedal.

Ms. H is love.  Ms. H makes me want to be a nicer person and a better bicyclist.  In fact, careful readers will notice that this is a rare posting with no bad language.

Back to the story.  So there I was, bicycling to work amidst the weak hand fluttering of the few mothers who I knew on a first name basis.  One morning I was pedaling in, feeling the wind lift my hair and getting up some decent speed on my mutant bicycle.  I saw a green light ahead.  I started working hard, determined to make it.  And Ms. H was at the intersection as I cleared that green and she yelled at me "You GO, Rapunzel's MOM!!"

Thank-you, Ms. H.

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