Thursday, May 26, 2005

Knock down little girls to the ground

I biked home from work two days ago in a teeth-grittingly hellacious mood.

It was one of those free-floating, petty, bad moods - I don't know if you're familiar with them, dear reader - which aren't even ameliorated by the knowledge that you have something to justify them. Nope, it was just a cavalcade of low-grade annoyances: the grizzly, rainy day, the slightly annoying living situation, the amorphous worry about my future direction and continent of choice. I was hungry and my blood sugar was low. I'd been working since 7am and I was about to teach two more yoga classes. My thigh muscles, already sore from a week of intense yoga practice, screamed at me as I grunted up the 16th st hill, splashing myself in a mud puddle on the way. The traffic was heavy and cars were honking at each other. A taxi swerved out of its lane and cut me off, prompting a bus-accident flashback. So I switched to the sidewalk.

Now, pedestrians are very easy to avoid if they move in a predictable way - just check out the streets of Amsterdam if you want proof. But sometimes you encounter bike-phobic pedestrians. They see you coming from twenty feet away, their lips clench, and their little eyes fill with paranoid, passive-aggressive fury: "That bicycle should be on the street! It's clearly only on the sidewalk for the express purpose of barrelling into me and grinding my bones into the sidewalk! I must prepare defensive maneuvers!" They stop walking, glare at you, and then they jump to the left. Just as you start to swerve to the right to avoid them, they change their minds and jump to the right. This continues for a couple of beats until you screech to a halt in front of them. They glare at you for a final few moments - channelling the combined hostility of a suburban fetish gardener watching adorable children play on his obsessively-watered lawn, and perhaps Laura Bush watching W. do the tango with Condi at the White House Christmas party - and then they continue walking. Meanwhile, you've lost all your momentum on the hill and have to get back on your bike again.

So yeah, there were a couple of those anal pedestrians. And I was wet and tired and hungry and cranky. I was hardly noticing anything around me, so wrapped up was I in my internal narrative of woe and self-pity. Every detail in the universe seemed designed to annoy me.

When I finally reached the stairs leading up to my apartment - sweet 15-minute catnap! Hot tea and taking my shoes off! - I eagerly picked up my bike and swung it around the corner to start climbing. Then I heard a faint noise behind me.

This noise was absolutely indescribable: subtle, somehow anthropomorphic, and also, somehow, definitely bad. I turned around.

There was a small girl in a bright pink sweatsuit lying on the ground. Sunk in my absurd funk, I hadn't noticed her behind me, and I'd knocked her down with the back of my bike as I swung it around to start climbing the stairs.

All the competing noises in my head vanished, like fog in the wind, to be replaced by just one thought: OH SHIT. I KNOCKED OVER A LITTLE GIRL BECAUSE I WAS DISTRACTED BY MY BAD MOOD. I'M SUCH AN ASSHOLE. And then a series of imaginary images: the little girl's bloody mouth with all the teeth I'd knocked out, her black eyes, her sad innocent face, her dawning realization that the world was out to get her...

"Omigod omigod omigod, is she okay?" I said, putting the bike down. "I'm so sorry, omigod..."

Then the little girl sat up. She laughed.

Her family, who'd been walking behind her, also laughed. Her dad made a waving motion at me as if to say, "Don't worry about it." Her sister began yelling something at her in Spanish; I'm not sure what it was, exactly, but from the tone of voice it seemed to be along the lines of, "Ha ha, you got knocked over by a bike!"

My panicked tongue was a bit late in catching up with the situation and it continued to blabber. "Oh my god, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, are you okay?"

The little girl jumped up and ran over to take her sister's hand. The whole family was laughing now - perhaps at the farcical physical comedy of the situation, or perhaps at my flustered distress - and they all waved goodbye at me.

I have to say, I'm a fan of instant karma. It's nice to just get it over with, y'know?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

2:15 AM  
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