Saturday, April 14, 2012

The World Gets Bigger

This is a happy man. This is a man who has just finished a five mile mountain bike race among rocks, trees, creeks, gravel, mud pits, and fallen logs. He is sweaty and smells pretty rank. He has cuts on the backs of his calves from his bike pedals and he has only had a banana for breakfast so he could do this race; otherwise, it would make him nauseated.

This is an obsessed man. This is a man who weighs his tires, his wheels, his pedals, his water bottle and his snack pack before he heads out on a ride. He pores over magazines endlessly trying to determine if his bike needs another brain, or a different stem, or if he should trade in an S-Works for a Stumpjumper, or if it's better to have twenty six inch wheels or twenty nine ones. He has strewn bike parts and tools all over the dining room floor, the bedroom, the basement, the stairs. There are two air pumps sitting in the living room right now, and each one looks exactly like the other.

This is a man with a mission. This man rides in the rain, so he can master that one hairpin turn that dumps him on his can whenever the ground is soaked. He washes off the oil on his bike chain, oils it, spins the wheels around, rubs the oil in, and carefully removes it again. He forgets to brush his teeth, but not his bike chain. He gets up at ungodly hours on the weekends to drive miles and miles to put on a helmet, pedal like a madman and then run over to a piece of paper taped to the side of a van to see his scores. He rhythmically jerks his legs in his sleep, and sometimes kicks me in the shins. Even now as I write, he pores over his computer reading the cumulative scores of the races he's been in, to see his "overalls." He is in second place.

This is a man who cares deeply, passionately about stuff that isn't even on my radar. This is a man who has cluttered up my life with gears and posts, spokes and tubes, sweat bands and forks you can't eat anything with. You can't walk two feet in any direction in any room of our home and not step over on or over a bike thing. We eat dinner among stems and grips. Pass me the bread dear, its right next to that saddle.

You would think it was a royal pain, having to deal with all the effluvia of a sport in which I have - had - virtually no knowledge and certainly no interest. But it's not.

It's amazing. It makes me look at things in a whole new way. If this is so important, why have I been missing it? Simply because I didn't see it. And I didn't see it because I needed to borrow another set of eyes - in this case, his.

I like to think of myself as someone who might be able to see and appreciate the viewpoints of others. But now I recognize myself as a rank amateur of the art.

Watching this guy salivate over a handle grip makes me smile, but it also makes me marvel at the joy he takes in it. It makes me want to experience that same feeling, if only for a minute, because it takes me a little further out on my boundaries. It makes the world get bigger for me.

I may never be a bike fiend. I may never get to the point where the words "Cannondale" or "Cervelo" will stop my in my tracks. But living with someone who does screech to a halt for a really beautiful two-wheeled contraption with some new gizmo on it, I realize a little of the vastness of pleasure there is to be had in putting on those glasses for a while and taking a peek at the world through those other eyes.

It's a little like turning the telescope the wrong way round. Things look far away, a bit confusing, but enticing. What exactly IS that thing I'm looking at? What happens if I get closer? If I stick my nose in there, and really really look, what will I see? What will happen?

I can tell you what happens. The world gets bigger. Messier, for sure, but bigger.

And as I step over yet another weird shiny thing with points and gauges on it, I can tell you - I rather like that.

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