Are you missing your banana?

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On the way back from the NPR yesterday, just past the stoplight at Mt. Chevron, I saw a big yellow banana sitting in the middle of the road. “Is Dan Cobley missing his banana?” I wondered.

It seemed wasteful to leave it there, but it seemed dirty to pick up a banana from the middle of the roadway and eat it. I swung over and stopped and watched as a car made straight for the banana.

Missed it.

I turned around and headed back as the second car roared towards the bright yellow marker. “What could be easier and more fun than squishing a banana in your car?” I wondered. “Especially while it’s being hungrily eyed by a cyclist?”

Missed it.

I reached down and tucked it in my jersey, or tried to. No wonder it had fallen out. It was a solid 150-grammer, long and bulky and a poor fit for Dan’s jersey pocket, or anyone’s.

The beneficial necessity of riding alone on the New Pier Ride

Great things can happen when you’re alone. Just that morning I’d had the opportunity to stop on Pershing and take a long, leisurely piss while the planes took off overhead. I’d gotten to wave and say hello to Francisco and Hugo. I’d found a fresh, lightly bruised banana. While everyone had been rushing to get to the bricks, I’d been slowly pedaling back.

Lately it’s been necessary to drop off the back after the NPR sprunt and get back as best I can. When you give it everything in repeated efforts, there’s nothing left for the brisk, post-ride pace back to the Center of the Known Universe that’s set, then anted up, then raised, then called, then raised again by all of the wankers who couldn’t seem to find their way to the front during the NPR proper.

Why are they so fresh? Did we do the same ride? Am I that much weaker? [Ed. Note: They sucked wheel for four laps; Yes; Yes.]

Being by myself, or slowly riding with one or two other people is just fine. One thing you realize when you go from in the group to off the back is that time slows down. That’s because each millisecond isn’t divided up into segments known as “avoid crashing,” and “accelerate,” and “follow wheels,” and “pull through,” and “gasp.”

The disadvantageous necessity of riding home alone at night

Whatever reflection and clarity may occur during those OTB post-NPR pedaling sessions, nothing much like that happens coming home in the pitch black after work.

It’s less than 48 hours away from the most important holiday in America and the celebration of pure, unadulterated joy that our nation knows, that brief time when we put down our work, set aside the things that occupy our bodies and minds, and give deep, reverent thanks as we sit out on the cold pavement at midnight in long lines with angry strangers awaiting the sale of discounted gadgets at Target.

Riding home alone at night in this pre-Black Friday blackness, when drivers are in black moods trying to reconcile their desire for gadgetry with their groaning revolving card balances, when drivers are angrily cutting and chopping and speeding their way through molasses that won’t let them cut, chop, or speed, when drivers are feeling the relief of the Black Friday Holiday being compressed and tortured by the stresses and strains of knowing they’ll spend too much money, eat too much bad food, and drink too much, amidst all of this Black Friday blackness, it’s a dicey time to be a frail reed of skin and bone wrapped around a few sticks of carbon, stuck to the road on a few millimeters of rubber, and noticed by the world if at all only by virtue of a red blinky on the back and a bright but narrow headlamp on the front.

This never happens

Somehow I made it down and up the Malaga Cove Climb, up the Lunada Bay alley, up the Oceanfront Estates bump, and up the Hawthorne grind to Highridge. My legs were dead and my spirit was dead. The heaviness of my brother’s death just gets worse, it seems.

Tucked safely in the bike lane I approached the driveway of the apartment complex on the right. A stream of cars passed me, each giving me a wide berth. Then, what often happens, happened. A sporty car made a hard right in front of my wheel, chopping me harder than a Brad House “hello” and zipping into the driveway.

My black mood erupted into fury. I sprunted up to the next opening in the hedge, hopped up on the sidewalk, and dropped down into the parking lot just as the sporty car disappeared behind the closing security gate.

I bombed down the ramp and entered the secure garage just as the sporty car pulled into its spot. The driver was a fat, tired woman in her late 40’s who looked like she’d been placed in the cockpit with a shoehorn. She looked up and saw me. Her face showed shock, then fear, then anger, then shrewd manipulation.

She half-cracked the window. I knew she had one hand on her phone, ready to dial 911. I had stopped a good seven or eight feet from her car and had one leg over the top tube, making no move to dismount or approach her. I was livid.

What happened next was a first.

“What?” she snapped.

I opened my mouth, and the torrent of abuse and foul language and rage melted. What came out was a polite, almost ingratiating question. “You didn’t have to do that, did you?”

“Do what?” she re-snapped.

“Cut me off.” I was listening to myself in shock. I never talk to people like that.

“I didn’t cut you off.”

“Yes, you did. You missed my front wheel by about six inches.”

“I did?” Of course she’d seen me and made the whole calculated decision in a split second: Chop the guy on the bike so I can rush down and park. You never know when your reserved parking space is going to run away.

“Yes. I mean, I’ve got a bright tail light, a head light, I’m doing everything I can to be visible and ride safely.”

The nastiness of her day and stress of her Black Friday abated. I was just some skinny dude trying to ride his bike safely for her. I wasn’t even angry.

“I’m really sorry,” she said.

“It’s okay.” Then I smiled. I never smile. I turned to leave, but the security gate was shut. “Could you hit the button?” I asked.

“Sure.” The gate opened.

I left and I wasn’t even mad. I was alive.

Like I said, this never happens. It must have been Dan’s lucky banana.

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