RIDER’S BLOCK…THOSE ARE THE BREAKS...ER, BRAKES!
The wheels go round without a sound -- The maidens hold high revel;
In sinful mood, insanely gay, True spinsters spin adown the way, from duty to the devil!
They laugh, they sing, and--ting-a-ling! Their bells go all the morning;
Their lanterns bright bestar the night, pedestrians a-warning.
With lifted hands Miss Charlotte stands, Good-Lording and O-mying,
Her rheumatism forgotten quite, Her fat with anger frying.
She blocks the path that leads to wrath, Jack Satan's power defying.
The wheels go round without a sound The lights burn red and blue and green.
What's this that's found upon the ground? Poor Charlotte Smith's a smithareen!
(-Wm. Yope, 1906)
It’s Thanksgiving Day and I’m sitting here like a ducking fummy, my left wrist encapsulated in a black, medieval sort of constraining contraption made from Velcro and stretchy Nylon. And no, it’s not a Power Ranger laser blast enhancing weapon, capable of turning the entire Universe into molten thermic slag in a parsec: it’s a prosthetic orthopedic appliance intended to keep my broken thumb from avulsing (look it up). Avulsed thumbs can be quite painful, hence the important thing is to immobilize them while the fracture fuses itself back together, you see.
I’d like to say I fractured my thumb while engaged in a particularly delightful bit of Tantric Yoga with Betty-Jo Biolosky (that possessor of superbly bicycle toned pelvic muscles that could crack walnuts wide open), or perhaps that, while attempting the incredibly complicated vertical posturing required to perform what the Kama Sutra calls ‘the Drunken Clam’ position, I somehow inserted said errant thumb up the wrong orifice at a 90 degree angle, in a spurt of orgasmic enthusiasm (ouch!). Alas, none of the above extenuations, my friends, can be exculpated.
Truth is (pauses briefly here to swallow shame and hide embarrassment), I fell off my bicycle. That’s it. I have no one and nothing to blame except gravity and my own inept coordination, as much as I’d like to attribute this f***-up to a somewhat more exotic event. What’s really disturbing, however, is not the bent thumb, or even the bone fracture, but the fact that after nearly four decades of safe bicycle riding, I have experienced no less than three bicycle crashes in as many weeks. The first two were not necessarily injurious, although all three were more or less all similar in the manner in which they occurred.
This last time, I had just crossed the street on my way home from the office, darting across the ped walk in an effort to avoid all the cars shooting down the one-way street at 50 mph in the 25 mph zone. Having made it successfully past that initial hazard, I turned up onto the sidewalk to ride a 1000 yard long segment of it that connects to a bicycle-lane route. This juncture involving sidewalk lies directly in front of the west steps of the California State Capitol, so naturally enough the street was lined with tour busses, all disgorging looky-looie type tourists who had been brought downtown to see the admittedly impressive Neo Greco-Roman edifice that is the state’s capitol. In order to avoid the situationally spaced-out clumps of assorted Japanese, British, and German tourist bodies blocking my way, I turned over onto the grass for a few meters, before getting back onto the sidewalk.
Wrong move! The front wheel of my bike caught the grass/sidewalk interface declivity and threw me onto my right side, slamming me down on the hard pavement of the walkway. So there I suddenly found myself, lying awkwardly on my right side, still partly under the bike’s frame, as the startled onlookers gazed, deer-like, at my arrested posture. Judging from their startled looks, you'd have thought I had just been deposited there by transporter beam from the Mother Ship.
Fortunately, I was able to get up, much to my relief, and disregarding the embarrassment I felt in putting on this impromptu performance for the crowd (an extra freebie entertainment, not planned for by their tour operators), I got back on my mountain bike (after determining it had sustained no damage) and pedaled off towards home (5 miles away). Aside from vague awareness of some aches and pains, and a left thumb that was apparently somewhat numb, I made it home safely and was then able to take a closer look at what I expected to be some substantial road-rash.
Noting that my bike shorts were not ripped or torn, I pulled them and my jersey off to inspect the sore areas. Surprise discovery number one was that you can rip up your skin under clothing that isn't torn, and that doesn’t even evidence the fact that a hit has taken place. But the road rash was there, all right, and there were several patches of it that looked raw and angry. Surprise number two was that my thumb was now starting to regain its feeling, but with a definite segment that resisted bending without creating substantial pain and discomfort. Unexpected finding number three was that I had taken a pretty good slam on my right hip, the principal site of my initial impact with the sidewalk, and there was a nice little goose-egg sized swollen area building there.
As is invariably the case in any situation involving bodily injury, it takes the body a while to tally up its insults before communicating a report to the brain. Only after whatever obtained shocky effects have worn off, scrubbed temporarily out of CNS existence by a cerebral rush of endorphins, adrenalin, and whatever, does the extent of the real hurt reveal itself. It’s as true for any far more severe bodily trauma you can think of as it was for this seemingly trivial crash I took into the pavement. The delay between moment of damage incurred and the onset of pain is an interesting phenomenon to reflect upon, assuming you aren’t the recipient of said damage; in my case, I had no such option to avail and began cleaning up what epidermal damage was visibly apparent, silently relieved it hadn't been worse.
Hoping no real damage had been done to my thumb, which was on the left hand, I also hoped that my right pelvis hadn’t been fractured, since it was beginning to hurt considerably too. Long story short, I opted for a conservative approach and waited for a day or so before being seen by a doc, using cold packs and then a heating pad on the affected areas. The quack’s exam was the typical ‘good news/bad news’ experience in that radiographic films showed that my right pelvis and femur were OK, but the left thumb had had a chip broken off the bone near what smart-alecky medical types call the First Dorsal Interosseous Muscle’s proximal attachment. At least the right Iliac Crest hadn’t been screwed up and the femur’s lateral proximal head was intact. No pelvic fracture was good news indeed, since fractures in that part of the skeletal structure can sometimes be acutely problematic, depending on a range of variables.
The bike, a substantially overbuilt mountain bike of the Japanese persuasion, had escaped unscathed, although my pride and dignity had taken the most direct damage. Resigned to wearing a cast for three weeks that just came off a day or so, I finally traded its bright orange (the orthopedic tech gave me a choice of colors, so I chose a bright one) exoskeletal support for the menacing-looking black Power Ranger thingie that now adorns my left hand. The appliance makes it a bit difficult to type, naturally, but you get used to this in short order. Fortunately I am a rightie, so this also didn’t put a crimp in my occasional hot dates with Captain Winkie (wink-wink, nudge-nudge).
Taking a shower with a cast on your hand is invariably an irritating and challenging experience, since you have to wrap it all up in a plastic bag and elevate it while bathing; It’s also a bit tough scrubbing out the right pit when thus inconvenienced and all that powerful smelling Irish Spring soap doesn’t do a single whack of good if you can’t reach that axial region with your good hand. Aside from these effects, trying to stay clean while wearing a cast is just another one of those transitory inconveniences we all experience from time to time.
The biggest irritation resulting from the fall has been an inability to ride my bike for the time it takes to heal things up, since now that winter is here, it’s nearly impossible to cover up the referenced hand with a suitably warm glove to protect it from the early AM temps (30s and 40s) on a pedal to work. It’s also a bit tough operating the bike’s left side brake lever, as can be easily imagined. Ditto for the motorcycle, since on a motorcycle the left hand operates the clutch lever. Additionally, any further falling off of either the bicycle or the motorcycle would undoubtedly f***-up the already injured parts considerably. Yep. Best to keep off of the two wheeled vehicles temporarily and fall back on Plan C (car).
The only problem with this is option that there are no places to park in the immediate vicinity of the state capitol, since the city’s Master Revenue Generation Plan During Recessions consists of making all curb parking spaces within a reasonable hike of the office one or two hour max slots, requiring a continuous battle of wits throughout the day between the beset parked motorist and the ravenous legions of parking enforcement harpies who regard ticket-writing for parking violations as a blood sport. Maintaining a friendliness quotient somewhat less than that found in the game of professional ice hockey, those junior Gestapo vixens who patrol the parking meters are about as approachable as a pack of rapid dogs, thus making the necessity of using a car to get to and from work more than a bit daunting.
One last alternative is, naturally enough, using the municipal bus system. In our residential neighborhood catching the right express bus to the capitol worksite is a snap, but there’s a sort of aesthetic turn-off associated with using the bus. It involves standing there on the corner at the bus stop, since the bus-stop is located adjacent to the freeway on-ramp. Thus you are subjected to endless stares by the early morning commuters as they vear off the city street and dash up that freeway inlet. Perhaps it’s just me and my innate sense of privacy that is being compromised (and only theoretically at that), but I hate standing there and being stared at like some sort of drab homeless person (perhaps holding up a cardboard sign that states “Will work for a ride”?) who is scrounging spare change from the passersby in their cars.
Then too there is the daily gamut walk past the busload full of blank, uncaffeinated early-morning stares as one boards, only to find that all the seats are already taken, requiring a rather bumpy, jostling stand-up ride to one’s destination. And the hostile bus drivers whose barely contained hatred of their thankless job shows all too clearly in their faces. Yep, despite my acute conviction of the importance of providing alternative transportation options to the general public, using the bus remains one of my most un-favorite personal choices. About the only thing I can say in favor of it is the benefit of being able to observe the vast range of personalities, affects, and appearances of the human herd one shares this daily voyage with: a vicarious experience not unlike what I would imagine an scientist is afforded when he views microbe populations in a petri dish under a 12,000 power microscope. Whole lotta bugs on that dish and a whole lotta bogeymen (and women) on those buses. Yowsa!
And so it goes this T-Day, as the entire population of the United States perpetrates genocidal violence against the avian species Meleagris Gallopavo (that’s North American Wild Turkey to you, bubs and bubettes) with extreme prejudice, in the course of one short day of frenzied celebratory feeding. I can’t help but think that surely the Native Americans who taught those strangely dressed honkie immigrants (“Hitcha? You bet I’m gonna hitcha, Pilgrim!”) who arrived uninvited on their tribal shores how to hunt down and kill wild turkeys never imagined in their worst nightmares that this semi-religious national holy day would ultimately threaten to wipe out the entire annual supermarket inventory of game birds, thanks to the applied marketing genius and industrial expertise of the Archer Daniels Midland Company and their agribusiness mega-cohorts.
National holidays notwithstanding, I’ll be glad when the aforementioned black thingie comes off my left hand so that I can get back in the (bicycle) saddle again. The bit of doggerel appearing at the start of this blog entry by one John William Yopes was a slam against a certain noted female ‘reformer’ of the turn of the century who felt that bicycle riding by women was a scandalous inducement to mortal sin. Exactly why she felt that way is not exactly spelled out, but it probably had a lot to do with certain sympathetic physiological interactions between a specific part…ahem…of the nether female anatomy with the bicycle seat. Modestly forbids following that particular tangent any further, but it was probably about as close to direct contact with Captain Winkie as many ‘maiden ladies’ could come (no pun intended) in those days…
Nuff sed. Now get out there and GOBBLE!