Rule Number One

I passed a kid on a bike while driving home today. He was on my side of the road, facing me. I’m assuming that someone had his safety in mind since he was wearing a helmet. However, he wasn’t on the correct side of the road. I learned that you always ride with the cars and walk against them so that if you’re hit, the speed of the bike is absorbed by the speed of the car, rather than the velocity of both slamming into each other, causing more damage. I’m no scientist or mathematician (by a looooooong shot) and I’m not sure I’m even right about the terminology or how bad it’d be for you or whatever. So it might not be accurate but that’s how my brain remembered it and I am sticking to it. Am I going to look it up to prove my theory? Nope.

Seeing the kid reminded me about learning how to ride a bike. In our house, we did not use training wheels. I’m pretty sure my dad laughed at me when I suggested them. And then he placed me right on the bike. Gave a little shove and off I went. (I don’t remember this part very clearly.) I think I was six years old, maybe younger, and I remember careening around the back yard on the grass, shakily making my way on my pink bike with the banana seat and possible streamers hanging from the handlebars.

There was a cherry (?) tree in the middle of the yard that had the sharpest bark I’ve ever encountered. I did not climb that one because it basically wore a sign that said, “Get the fuck away from me.” You probably know where this is going. So there I was, wobbling my way through my first ride when I lost balance next to the tree (obviously, not on the other side of the yard where the soft grass sat laughing at me) and ran face-first into it, scraping my cheek along it in the slowest slow motion of all time. Much like the scene in Poltergeist when the dude is looking in the mirror while peeling off his face.

I only know about this scene because when I was seven, my dad plopped my (older by 3 1/2 years) brother and me in front of the TV (a rare treat), turned the movie on, and left the room as all my future nightmares began and I forever hate clowns forever and ever and no you can’t convince me that they’re OK. Case in point, my college freshman roommate dressed up like a clown for a campus children’s day (of torture??) and tried to convince me that I would be fine when I saw her in the costume because it was her and I would know that and she was safe and that it would be OK when she came into the room and IT WASN’T. Back to the private screening from hell, it ended when my mom came into the room at some point and said, “What are they watching?!” and my dad, reentering the room, said, “It’s a story about a little girl!” I mean, accurate, but come on.

Anyway, all of this is leading me to Rule Number One. Of life. Of everything. Of all of the stuffs. It is, of course, that you never walk a bike. Universal, yes? Let me explain. Not that it’s going to help because how it is possibly the ultimate first rule of life is beyond me. Basically, at some point around the time I learned to ride a bike, my dad proclaimed, “Rule Number One: Never walk a bike.” I was a child and probably said, “OK, that sucks, but whatever you’re my dad so I guess I have to follow your dumb rules.” And he would NOT let us walk a bike up a hill no matter how steep it was or how young we were. We had to carry it if we weren’t going to ride on it. Yes, carry it. I still remember biking up a road near my house that was basically a mountain. I frequented it through my teenage years and each time, I would huff and puff and curse everything on the planet, but I pedaled all the way to the top of that stupid fucking hill.

Two major things have come out of this. First, I don’t really ride bikes so much now. And second, if I see you walking your bike, you can be goddamned sure that I’m gonna yell, “RULE NUMBER ONE: NEVER WALK A BIKE” out the window at you. So be prepared. I mean, I won’t get out of the car and make you carry it, but I’ll definitely think about it.

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