Maybe. A funny, slightly horrifying, slightly tangential story.
During the day, the weather in Austin is positively spectacular. Clear skies, crystalline blues pattered here and there with fluffy, white clouds. Light breezes stir the trees in my quiet neighborhood. On a day like this, some two weeks ago, I decided that I would have a productive day. But first, lunch!
I took my friend’s bike, which I have on loan. On the return ride, there’s a soda in my right hand. The lever on the left-hand side of the steering wheel is for the front brake which I realized, as I rode home, ‘could be a problem if I have to stop quickly.’ Yes, indeed. But what a lovely day!
I’m daydreaming this beautiful ride away, as I begin to accelerate down the hill which leads into my neighborhood. It is, perhaps, 400 yards to my place. The rush of a passing car snapped me from my reverie, and there began the beginning of the end.
Instinctively, I squeezed my hands. The 32-oz Styrofoam cup was no match for my Jiu-Jitsu grip and near-instantly crushed, splashing me and surrounding areas with Dr. Pepper. I was soaring, hauling ass down the hill, and my left hand clamped down on the front brake. I tried ditching the cup to grab the back brake, but things are happening too quickly.
The rear tire leaves the ground, as the bike lurches forward. Time to put my feet on the ground, and stop myself the old-fashioned way. Forward momentum cannot be stopped however, as my ass leaves the seat. For the briefest of moments, the delusion I have mildly entertained for years is finally realized: I’m flying. I am finally flying! I am flying in the air!
But racing into the clouds, shrouding myself in the soft blue of the sky, visiting my friends abroad using the grit of my own locomotion, was not to be achieved on that day. After the tenuous, split-second, motionless hang – when a projectile reaches the apex of its upward motion – passed and I began my downward descent, The “Failure to Fly: Contingency Plan A” manilla folder was wiped of dust, and implemented.
The gravel from the road digs into the palms of my hands as I execute a near-flawless break-fall. Had the bicycle not tumbled with and over me, banging my damn ankle (recently healed!), it really would have been quite the illustrious, if overdone, break-fall. Brown belt level. At least.
There I was again, basking in the spectacular weather. The ground was cool. Laying face-up on the side of the road, blinking, bleeding but unharmed, surveying the series of events which led me to that exact moment, I might’ve had the best view of the sky in all of Austin. What a lovely day it was!
Fifteen seconds passed, and I had still not made the decision to move. Not for any particular reason. I was still ‘taking stock of where my life went wrong for me to have ended up there,’ and wondering whether there was any conceivable way to recover some of the lost Dr. Pepper, when a brown van pulled over on the other side of the road and rolled down the window…:
“Hey, are you okay? Do you need an ambulance?” asked a woman my mother’s age.
“No, I don’t need an ambulance,” I told her, sitting up. ‘Don’t look at my face,’ I wanted to add. ‘Never recognize me again. Pretend this never happened.’
“I saw the whole thing, young man! When you weren’t moving, I thought you were dead.”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Just my ego, just my ego. Thank you.” If I had had one, I would have shot her van with a bazooka as she drove away. The Embarrassment. The Self-Loathing.
I stood up in base, walked over to the bicycle, pulled it to the side of the road for inspection Also unharmed. Does my friend’s bicycle know how to break-fall too? Apparently so. Hands bleeding and now terrified of falling off bicycles at any speed (but most especially high speed), I pedaled home, thoroughly washed the blood off my hands, grabbed a pair of tweezers, and carefully removed the bits of hanging skin and imbedded rocks from my palms. The Pain. The Horror.
I abstained from telling the story for several reasons. I wanted to be sure I was unharmed, which I am. Otherwise, it’s not really funny…or, at least, a lot less funny. Secondarily, I wanted to find a YouTube video illustrating the kind of fall it was. An hour of mostly hilarious searching later, and I found one…missing only the break-fall…and the simple, objective fact my fall was faster, stupider, more embarrassing, and more painful.
If I had fallen on the road like this girl, going at the speed I was going, the person writing to you now would be, at a minimum, much uglier.1 Even with the break-fall, I still got a little scuffed up and spent all the next day in bed, too sore to move, watching episodes of Seinfeld. And at a maximum…dead. Or worse, severely or vegetable-type handicapped.2
Break-falls. Learn them. They could save your life one day. Seriously. Do it.
1. Sunday was my first day back on the bike. First thing I did was buy a helmet, thank you. I thought they were dorky…no, wait. They are dorky. But I had been inaccurately assessing the risk involved in falling off a bicycle, prior to the fall itself. I’ll always wear it now.