The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Bonk of the Soul

Spring is rough in the bike industry after a long winter. It's probably rough for grizzly bears as well. They get right fat in the fall, sleep like loaves through the winter, wake up all skinny in the spring with some breath let me tell you, and BOOM! FIVE MILLION CUSTOMERS, ALL OF WHOM WANT TUNEUPS YESTERDAY!!! So they eat the customers.

This is why customers have stopped going to grizzly bears for tuneups. They are tired of being eaten. A good customer service motto would go something like this: In the springtime, do not eat the customers. They will tell all their friends that you are grizzly bears and take their business elsewhere. That would pop on a coffee mug.

We had several zillion customers come in today who requested that we engage in various activities such as fix their bikes, sell them things, hunt for ancient hub cones, nurse a few more miles out of their ramshackle winter rigs, and explain the difference between UG and HG chains and why the big blue S changes its mind all the time. Not to mention normal shop activities such as deciphering layperson-speak over the phone, marveling at marvelous things (if you're too busy to marvel at marvelous things, you're too busy--another excellent motto), and giving Pandora the occasional thumbs-down. By the end of the day, we had all begun to drift toward the limits of sanity.

The general manager, whom we'll call "Jacques" to partially conceal his identity, was sitting on the floor behind the parts counter. He was furiously eating a slice of pizza with a hollow and hunted look in his eye. This was probably the first break he'd had in four hours.

One of the sales guys, whom we'll call "Whatsisname" because I can't remember who it was right now, stood motionless in front of the suspension bench for about a minute before admitting that he had forgotten what he had come back for. I complimented him on his convincing thousand-yard stare, noting that he was nearly translucent. Despite his haggard countenance, he responded crisply in the King's English, forming what most certainly was a sentence, and probably a good one at that. I was using my resources to frantically check sold bikes over for customers and could not use my brain to process incoming verbs and nouns. I got the prepositions and a few adverbs such as "to" and "by" and "swiftly," by which I think he meant that customers were waiting and I ought to work faster.

I was installing a rack with lots of fiddly bits which was designed by people who smile and laugh and play lots of Frisbee in the cool grass, having had an excellent lunch, and who often knock off work at 3 PM to go mountain biking in real live mountains, which are right out the back door of their offices, those offices being stocked with pinball machines and tanks full of tropical fish. As I mused about the designers, fiddly bits of their latest masterpiece were bouncing off the chainstays and into the seamless void. Apparently the guys who designed the racks have three hands, or perhaps work in teams. Or perhaps they have super powers of magnetism. Or maybe they spot-weld the fiddly bits in place between games of pinball or three hour mountain hot-laps. Or perhaps they make the tropical fish do the work.

Anyways, as I struggled, Jason (oops! I mean "Whatsisname") glided silently away to help (and not eat) more customers. He will sleep with vivid dreams, I thought to myself.

We closed down the shop in high spirits, but had begun using hand gestures and shorter sentences without relative clauses (which look like this) to communicate with one another. We had come to the end of ourselves and prevailed. We can do it! More than one veteran of spring rushes said "Game on," and more than one greenhorn was trying to look brave in the face of the hurricane.

Is it going to be worse on that first 70 degree day in April? Probably. We'll be toughened up by then. Of course, at the end of the day, we'll still be running on fumes, grunting and waving at one another, laughing out loud at stupid things, and fighting off the gremlins which make us drop our tools. But we'd do something else if we didn't love it.

Pete on his laptop, burning the closing time oil
Notice the slight hunch in his shoulders
Methinks he could use a hug