I was sitting in my office last December when the secretary buzzed me. “Wanky,” she said. “Mr. Geiger is here to see you.”
“Mr. Geiger. Mr. Alan Geiger.”
“I don’t know any Alan Geiger. What’s he want?”
“I’m not sure but he says he has something for you.”
“What? He’s selling radiation readers?”
“Do you want me to tell him you’re busy?”
“If he knows me at all, he’ll know that’s a lie. I’ll come out.”
Wanky, meet Mr. Geiger. Mr. Geiger, Wankmeister.
I went out into the lobby and he was sitting in the chair as if he owned it. He was short, looked like he was in his late 50’s but he had that fit cyclist look which meant he could have been in his 70’s. He hopped right up. “I brought a couple of things for you,” he said.
In my line of work no one ever just pops in to “bring me something” unless it’s a summons and complaint. I raised an eyebrow. “Okay…”
“First, I want you to have this magazine. It’s the best bike mag in Japan. You’ll love it.” He handed me a giant, full-color bike magazine, all in Japanese, that makes anything ever put out by Bicycling look like it was done on recycled tissue paper.
“Uh, thanks.” How did he know I read Japanese?
“But most importantly, I want you to have this.”
I tensed, waiting for the hammer. He fished into his pocket and pulled out a little plastic zipper pouch. “I got it at the hundred-yen shop in Harajuku. Perfect for your iPhone, a couple of bucks, and a credit card. Waterproof. Fits in your back jersey pocket like it was made for it.” He held out the little plastic pouch, which was made of clear plastic and shot through with reinforcing strips.
“Are you fucking kidding me, dude?” was what I thought. But incredibly, the only thing that came out was “Wow. Uh, thanks. Thanks a bunch…Alan.”
“Gotta go,” said Alan, then he said, “That is that.” And then he was gone, with a tip of his hat.
My secretary had watched the whole thing, and after he left, she couldn’t suppress a giggle. “Who was he?”
“Damned if I know.” And damned if I did.
My life partner
I looked over the little pouch once I returned to my office. It was sturdy as hell. It had a nice, easy grip ring on the zipper. It was perfectly sized for an iPhone. Curiosity being more than a land rover on Mars, it got the better of me. I put my phone inside. Then I clicked the round hole at the bottom of the phone and up came the screen. “Will it really work through the plastic?” It did. Then I placed a call to Mrs. WM.
“Hello?” she said.
“It’s me. Nothing.”
“Okay. Bye.” This was one of our deeper conversations. Amazingly, the sound came right through the plastic.
Two weeks later I and my pouch had become inseparable, so much so that it had led to a rift with my trusty leather wallet. I’d transferred all my stuff to the pouch, and in the process had weeded out all of the crap that accumulates in wallets, kind of like the spontaneous regeneration that occurs in shoe closets.
That pouch went with me on every single bike ride. It was bullet proof, rain proof, sweat proof, and key proof. Soon I took to dropping it into the pocket of my suit coat. The sheriff’s deputies would look at me kind of funny when I showed them my bar card as I prepared to go through security at the courthouse. It’s not every lawyer in a wool suit and shiny black shoes who whips out a plastic zipper pouch.
After six months of constant use, and no small amount of abuse, the side of the pouch began to tear. No problem. We had a roll of Granny’s Special Japanese Duct Tape at home, and I taped it up while also reinforcing the other corners. Some things are disposable. This pouch wasn’t. It was without question the best non-bicycling product I’d never not bought for cycling. No more fumbling for shit in my back pocket. No more swapping stuff from wallet to jersey. No more forgetting shit in the jersey until the credit card and the Jackson got new and improved with a stiff dose of hot water and Tide.
Best of all, it was the ultimate fashion statement. As it got rattier, the deputies’ eyebrows raised higher and higher. And to say that it matched the ding in the rear bumper of my Camry, well, that hardly needs saying.
By last Thursday’s edition of the New Pier Ride, however, as I sat on the bricks and fiddled with my phone, it became apparent that the pouch was not going to last a whole lot longer without another round of duct tape surgery, which was fine with me. But it also occurred to me that if I knew where to get replacements, assuming they were to be had somewhere other than Harajuku, I could lay in a few for stock. With care and a roll of duct tape, they’d last me the rest of my life.
I turned to the SBW dude on my left. “You know Alan Geiger?”
“Alan? Sure? Why?”
“What’s his email?”
My neighbor gave it to me. I sent the email. In five minutes Alan had pinged me back. “You used to only be able to get them in Harajuku. But there’s a new Daiso, a couple of blocks down from the big Marukai in Gardena. Don’t go to the Daiso in Torrance. They won’t have ’em. In the office supply section. You want size B7. The price has gone up, though. They cost a buck fifty now. If they’re in stock, buy a fistful. That place is funny. They’ll have something you like, and then you’ll never see it again.”
What goes around, comes around
Mrs. WM and I made the trek out to the Daiso in Gardena. Everything was exactly as Alan had described it, down to the location. His perfect description made it a five-second affair to choose from the plethora of pouches: B7. I scooped up ten of them. At a buck-fifty, that was a price even I could afford.
This morning as I got ready to roll out I happily chose a new pouch from the new stack, stuffed it, and consigned the tattered one to the trash. Then it occurred to me as I looked at the remaining ones. Maybe, instead of hoarding them all for myself, and despite the vagaries of the supply chain, maybe I should try and pass on the karma? I grabbed two extras and shoved them into my jersey.
As we rolled out of Malaga Cove I handed one to New Girl. “Here,” I said. “Don’t ask what or why. Just put your phone and money in it. You’ll thank me later.” She nodded.
When the wankoton hit the bottom of the reservoir I grabbed Sparkles’s jersey. I could see her phone making a sharp outline in her jersey pocket. “Hey, Sparkles. Here. For your phone. You’ll thank me later.” She looked at it, smiled, and tucked it away.
I got a funny feeling that lasted the rest of the ride.
Back at the ranch
Later today it occurred to me to find something out about this mysterious giver of pouches and Japanese bike magazines. I made a few calls until I hit pay dirt: Cary the Elder, he who knows everyone, connected me with Alan. Moments later we were chatting on the phone.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “Everyone in Central Park has one of those. I discovered them ten years ago at the Hundred Yen shops in Japan, and since I go back and forth, I always brought a few boxes with me to hand out. I thought my popularity in New York, such as it was, depended on it!”
“You just…handed them out?”
“Oh, absolutely. People had no idea what they were or what they were good for until they used it. Then it was like, ‘How did I ever live without one?’ followed by ‘Where can I get a replacement?'”
“I saw Tara with one.”
“Yes. A friend of mine was having lunch with a friend, and my friend took out her pouch to pay the tab. The other woman looked and said, ‘Do you know Alan?’ They’re everywhere now.”
“We picked up ten yesterday, and I…well…I gave out a couple.”
Alan’s voice warmed even more over the phone. “Oh, then you’re carrying on the tradition. That’s how it should be. They’re small things, but somehow, they’re bigger than they look.”
I thanked him for the gift, but I wasn’t talking about the pouch. And he knew it.