The Golden Wrench

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

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Communications from the Home Front

Most people who work at bike shops have some sort of life or another on the outside, believe it or not. Some of it includes mundane tasks such as eating, sleeping, protein synthesis, acrobatics, aeronautics, asparagus, Ashtabula (oops, that's a bike word), Arkansas, aardvark, arthropods, and anthropopathisms. Yes, we like to ride bikes, but there's more to life (not by much, mind you) than bicycles. We actually have families and friends and stuff!

Some of the most wonderful moments in life are those when these worlds overlap unexpectedly. I was working at check-in on a Saturday afternoon when a fellow wheeled up with, of all things, a bicycle with a flat rear tire. I had seen this very thing a few times before, and I was pretty sure I could help. I took the bike, threw it up in the stand, and looked for traces of Gremlins. Let's see here: Yup, the tire's flat. Nope, it's definitely flat. Wow, that tire is toast. The rest of the bike looks OK, maybe a bit dirty... no gaping wounds in the frame... chain is OK...

Me: "Sir, you have a flat tire."
Him: "You don't say. I walked over a mile to get here."
Me: "Oh, it gets worse! The inner tube will have to be replaced."
Him: "Drat! Drat! I figured as much. An evil star shone on the day of my birth, and my every turn brings me misery. It's like purgatory, my life, a continual weariness of toil and labor, where every scrap of news conceals a bad omen, and every angel of hope wears a mask of death. Why did I get out of bed this morning? WHY?!?! Oh, curse the day I bought this wretched claptrap, I knew I'd regret it!"
Me: "Furthermore, you need a new rear tire. This one is toast."
Him: "So it is, look at that. Worn right to the belts. Which one would you recommend?"
Me: "On our streets, sparkly as they are with shards of glass and metal, you need a robust tire for commuting. One with puncture protection, such as this Bont" BBBRRRRIIINNNGGG!!!!

I had been anticipating a call from my wife and had placed my cell phone in my shirt pocket. In a characteristic stroke of dazzling brilliance, I had forgotten to mute the blasted thing, and here it was pealing like the liberty bell.

Him: *blink... blink... blink...*
Him: *blink... blink... blink...*
Me: "Excuse me for a moment, this is likely important." *turn away*
Me: "Hello?"
Voice: "Chris, do you think Phoebe would eat Russell?"

A few details would help the reader here. Phoebe is our kindly, eleven year old English Cocker Spaniel whose chief passions include peanut butter and plunging into swamps. Russell is our adult male English Budgerigar who flies around the house whenever we have company. We're not sure if it's because they're both Limeys, but they get along as well as we could hope for two beasts of such varied biology. Phoebe is a bird dog, but she does not really consider Russell to be a bird: he's a "friend" who happens to be small and blue. For that matter, she does not consider herself to be a "dog" either, but simply looks at her four-footed stature as an advantage when playing tag in the yard. Russell is a brave little parakeet for his part, and chirps merrily whenever he sees another living thing moving through the house. His greatest concern around Phoebe is being trampled when he is out of his cage and walking around on the floor. In short, they've never been anything but cordial toward one another, and we have reason to suspect that they're good friends after their fashion. In fact, when the feral offspring of some of our friends attempt to capture Russell, Phoebe will often threaten the children with woofs and stand in front of the diminutive parakeet to protect him.

Me: *blink... blink... blink...* "...I don't think so..."
Voice: "Well, I found a big pile of blue feathers in the kitchen, and I can't find Russell anywhere."

I was recalling these facts about our pets while my wife was asking me if Phoebe would eat Russell. Yes, if pigs flew, or if Russell had inadvertently coated himself with peanut butter, or perhaps if they had argued strenuously about whether Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister was England's last hurrah. I simply could not wrap my brain around a scenario where Phoebe would eat Russell. So there I was, dumbfounded, standing in front of a customer with a 700X28 Bontrager Hard Case tire in my left hand, a priceless expression carved on my face, and a vision of pandemonium erupting in my once-peaceful home flashing through my mind.

[Apparently, Russell had found a nice pile of sweaters in the top of a closet and bedded down behind them for a nap. My wife had closed the closet door, and he either could not hear her calling, or his chirps in response were muffled by the sweaters. Also, he had molted recently, so there was a pile of feathers near his cage. So her fears were not unfounded as she applied Occam's Razor to the apparent details of the case.]

Incidentally, my dad was a bike mechanic while I was growing up, and he most assuredly had to deal with some crazy phone calls from the home front. I know because I placed a few of them myself: for example, I called him once to tell him that our cat was stuck on the garage roof, and to seek his wisdom regarding how to safely get the reluctant and agitated cat down from that garage roof with minimal damage to either cat or self (conveniently left out: how the cat got onto the garage roof). I wonder if he was standing there in front of a customer with a tire in his hand, wondering why a cat would be on the garage roof...