3.23 Bikes and Bibles
Traffic. Rush hour. The way I’m going completely blocked by some innocuous and misplaced construction sign. No construction in sight. Naturally, not a car going in the opposite direction. This is the way life works. The world conspiring against me. Or at least, in my view, a group of unseen construction workers who went to work earlier in the day, much earlier than the rest of us, and giggled at the prospect of placing a giant sign, blocking an entire lane, in a way that would make my return home more tedious. I chose to look at it in another way. By creating the series of events that led to me sitting in traffic, unmoving, hot and sweaty from the summer sun, cursing the very concept of traffic as an abstract obstacle that an individual must overcome in order to refrain from truly going mad, I was presented, my driver’s side window like a television, a piece of slapstick dashed with a pinch of absurdity, that made the entire thing – the traffic, the giggling invisible construction workers, the sun itself – worth it.
A live Youtube video combined with a cautionary tale.
Approaching me on the opposite sidewalk, a teenager rode a tiny bike. He was obviously cool, decked out in fashionable clothing, listening to his ipod and riding in a standing position. When he got right opposite me, he hit a bump on the sidewalk and went head first over the handlebars, smashing into a perfectly (the boy might have said ironically) placed lamppost. His earphones popped out of his ears as the ipod crashed to the ground and the bike scattered on to the street.
I want to say that I at least made sure he was okay before I laughed out loud. Sadly, this was not the case. I chalked it up to the desensitization of violence. My instinct wasn’t to help the boy, my gut reaction was to find his predicament amusing. And amusing it was. My justification for not helping him being that we were all held up in traffic over here on this side of the road. We couldn’t exactly exit our cars, leaving them running. As soon as we would’ve left our car, the traffic would’ve started moving, our driverless vehicles now causing even more blockage. This was my excuse. I’m still happy with it.
“Awwwwwww shit, man,” came the restless call. Words do not do justice to how he teased out the ‘Awwwwww’ part. You’ll have to wait for the live performance of this story for that. He slowly made it to his knees, crawled over to his ipod, picked up the pieces, looking at them like it was his best friend, broken. The world flashed back to him and he realized he was a cool guy and did something very uncool-like. “Awwwwwww shit, man,” he said again as he sat down on the lawn of an adjacent house. He seemed stunned over his ipod and in some pain, but overall okay. I felt better at my laugh out loud. I would have felt it was a lost opportunity at this point if I didn’t do it.
Now for the absurdity. As the boy sat on the lawn, mourning his ipod, saying over and over, “Awwwwwwww shit, man,” a white Volvo came out of nowhere and stopped in front of the bike that was still scattered on the street. An old man jumped out – large cross dangling around his neck, an unkempt moustache above his lip – and pulled the bike to safety on the sidewalk. He went back to the car – he moved quickly and with agility reserved for younger men – and grabbed a thick book, a bible, I guessed by the large cross on the cover that was equaled in scale with the one hanging from the chain around his neck. He sat down next to the boy, put his arm around the boy, and presented the holy book to him.
Traffic started moving. This is the way life works. I wanted to pull a u-turn, to get out of my car rendering it driverless. I wanted to hear the solicitous conversation happening, what you might call ‘the hard sell’. I felt it was an event worthy of blocking traffic. I realize that earlier, I was not willing to block traffic to see if the boy was hurt in any way, and now, at this strange encounter I was more than willing to block traffic, this situation which bears no resemblance to the possibility of injury, in fact, quite the opposite as the old man seemed to be seeing if the boy was okay. Opposite, that is, unless you count the attempt at conversion at such a vulnerable state of mind psychological perjury, or at the very extreme, if the old man was successful, consider it indoctrinated damage to the psyche. If you believe this to be the case, then really, the bicycle accident and the bible both had their drawbacks. Again, sadly, I must admit that I had betrayed the boy’s physical well being, ignoring it, except for my own amusement, until the introduction of the Volvo, the dangling cross, the bible. The difference being the breaking of patterns. The boy smashing into the lamppost had a somewhat simplistic linearity. Riding bike – hitting bump – lamppost – awww shit. The man with the bible was wholly unexpected.
As I pulled away, watching the duo talk, the old man gesticulating the bible towards the boy, I grew curious about this mysterious figure. Did he wake up every morning and thank God that it’s a new day? After he prayed and ate a breakfast of bread and wine, coiffed his unkempt mustache, combed his hair, buttoned up his see-through worn-out white shirt, pulled the giant cross hanging on a chain over his head, got the bible from the freezer, looked at himself in the mirror, did he say, “Give me the power to search the streets, guide me to where an accident has taken place, preferably a young man that just fell off a bicycle, who is stunned, vulnerable and mourning his broken ipod, and I will present the holy book to him and he will take Jesus into his heart.” And in his old white shirt, the door on the old white Volvo creaked open, he started it up and roamed the streets until he came across the perfect storm of a teenager, a bicycle, a bump in the road, an awwww shit and a lamppost. Today his faith grew stronger than ever before.
As I drove farther away, my curiosity turned into fear. As the distance between us grew, so did my fear. I was not afraid of the bible or religion, but the man with the cross around his neck. From now on white Volvo’s, hell, any coloured Volvo represented a potentially dangerous situation. I was afraid of others out there, lurking in the shadows, armed with bibles, watching the roads, watching me as I rode my bike, waiting for me to hit my own bump in the road and smash into a lamppost. And there they would be, ready to pounce, ready to press the bible into my bloodied palm. And the only thing that came uttering out of my mouth: