A left turn off a fast, flat section and my bike commute immediately grinds to a near-halt. The hill. Shift down. Click. All the way down. Click, click. I lower my head and settle into a different frame of mind. I get hot and wish I could take off my jacket, but that would mean stopping and there's no way I'm stopping. And then, from somewhere on my left...
"Enjoy your ride!"
Startled back to reality I lift my head and look around. There, at the end of his driveway checking the mailbox is an old man, 80 years if not 90, waving and smiling as I pass. "Thank you, I will," is all I can muster through labored breathing. Eyes forward, keep pedaling, and then...
Many things have been yelled my direction while cycling. It's part and parcel of what Bike Snob calls "the indignities of commuting by bicycle" and you get used to it. But atta boy? My mind begins to fill with scenarios from the old man's past that would make him sympathetic — no, enthusiastic — about seeing two wheels roll by.
He was once a bicycle courier, battling cars and trolley tracks and cobblestone streets in 1930s Tacoma. Or maybe he was a board track racer in the waning years of the great six-days, for whom the sounds of chain and cog stir deep emotions. Then again, it's entirely possible he's just a guy who still remembers his first bike, baseball cards in the spokes, and that feeling of sweet freedom.
To the old man... thanks for making my day. I did enjoy the ride.