On the John
Originally completed on August 28, 2006
Sometimes—sometimes—a person comes to a point in life when they have to ask: “Have I just put myself into a position in which I will be forced to hurl my Gatorade to the ground in order to avoid smashing myself and my bike straight into a rising garage door?” Most of the time, the answer is a resounding “no.” You have, in fact, given yourself plenty of time and space to zoom safely underneath the door. Occasionally, however, the answer will be “yes,” and it is at this point when, Gatorade hurl or not, you will need to rethink a few things.
On the last stretch of my afternoon bike ride on Sunday, I decided to stop by Dominick’s on Green Bay Road to purchase a banana and a Gatorade. I chose a Blue Frost Gatorade and a large banana. I have only recently taken to Gatorade, as I am trying to trim caffeine from my diet. Blue Frost is my favorite. However, they did not have Blue Frost in the long, narrow squeeze bottle, the one that is best suited for bike riding. And so I chose the thicker, stouter eight ounce bottle. Outside, I ate about half or possibly three-fourths of the banana, discarding the rest in the trash. I took a few swigs of Gatorade, and then got on my way, holding the Gatorade in my right hand as I rode.
My parents live in a condo in Wilmette, with parking in a basement garage. There is a ramp off of the street that cuts down into the garage’s public parking portion. Drive straight from the ramp past the first three rows of spaces, and then turn left, and straight ahead is the garage door that divides the public parking from the private parking. It’s kind of like the tunnel that leads to the Bat Cave, and it is here where the building’s tenants park. As I approached the ramp from the street, I reached into an open part of my backpack and pulled out the clicky-box garage door opener, and held it in my left hand.
(It should be noted here that I am quite adept at riding bikes no-handed. The key is to never panic—that’s where most people lose it. When you feel as if you’re swaying too far to one side, the inexperienced rider will immediately shoot his hands onto the handlebars and lean heavily to the opposite side. This sudden overcompensation generally causes the rider to topple, leaving him confused and agitated. The proper method involves simply remaining calm and leaning back the other way with your body. That way you maintain control of both the bike and yourself. Any experienced no-hands rider knows this.)
As I sped down the ramp, artfully swerving between the stone columns in the garage, I was struck with a brilliant vision of a Batman-esque entrance in which I would hit the button while on the approach, thus allowing myself to heroically swoop underneath the rising door. I hit the button, but the door did not begin its ascent. I hit it again, and again after that, and finally the door began to rise. I was about twenty feet away, and charging, and the door was only a foot off the ground, and it was at this point at which I asked myself the very important question stated in the opening paragraph. At first I assumed that the answer was “no,” if for no other reason than that a “yes” meant I was a supreme jackass, which I am not. Therefore, I had no other choice but to assume that I had indeed given myself plenty of time and space to, as it were, zoom safely underneath the door. After all, how could I—a college graduate, professional writer, and a person who is trusted with children—have made such a gross error in judgment? Had I really been so brazenly careless? It seemed unlikely.
And yet, the bold facts of the situation told me otherwise. One cannot argue with the sight of a garage door but two feet off the ground as you race towards it on your bicycle. Indeed, it was not rising nearly as fast as I would have hoped, and it was at this point, with about ten feet to spare, that I began to rethink things a bit. Perhaps I had, in retrospect, been blindly optimistic that the garage door would open in time. Or perhaps it was foolish of me to have attempted such a stunt in the first place. Or perhaps my problems arose when I decided to ride home with an eight ounce Blue Frost Gatorade in my hand, which was what I was thinking when I realized that even if I were to fling the Gatorade to the floor and grab my brakes, I would still probably knock into the door, however slightly. But—and this I cannot explain—I for some reason did not want to throw my Gatorade, trying instead to grip my fingers on the brake and around the thick plastic bottle. It was no use. Perhaps if Dominick’s had been selling Blue Frost in the long, narrow squeeze bottles…
It was about at this point when I screamed out “Oh shit!” The door was now three feet off the ground, providing just enough room for my front wheel to cruise safely underneath, thus giving it a—yes—heroic, Batman-esque entrance that, sadly, did not extend to the rest of my body. The front half of the bike cleared the door, leaving my cheek and forehead as the lead objects in this ill-fated man-missile, my face smashing flush into the rising door as I turned my head in an effort to protect my nose. When I wiped the dirt off of my shirt and stood up, I examined the damage. The chain was off my bike, and the frame was partially bent. One of the reflectors had broken off. I had tire tracks on my arm. The garage door remote was smashed. The Gatorade, though, was fine.
Sometimes a fella gets lucky with those sorts of things. Sometimes.
Copyright 2006, jm silverstein