Before I begin, I want to point out something: I consider myself to be a pretty upbeat, positive guy. In fact, I put a considerable amount of effort into it. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Even politicians, sometimes. I think that my effort shows in this blog. I try to keep any whining, kvetching or complaining down to a minimum, unless it has to do with things that really piss me off . . . like creationists. For the most part I try to focus on things which inspire my enthusiasm. I think I’ve done a good job with that. Therefore, I apologize in advance to anyone who feels the following entry is just Poor Me Wants a Pity-Party. I know I think it is. Enjoy.
Were I to make a list of my favorite things, somewhere near the top would be: Riding my bike through the city. I love, love this. I cannot stress enough how happy this activity makes me. I love how close I feel to Chicago itself when I’m riding. It’s a feeling I don’t get when I’m in a car, or even walking around. When I’m on my bike it’s like I’m a blood cell flowing through the veins and arteries of the city. I can’t get enough of it. You can understand, then, why it upsets me when someone tries to ruin the experience for me.
It was as simple as it was lame: I was riding north on Milwaukee Avenue. I had maybe two or three blocks to go before I reached North Avenue and Damen. Everything was great, and then a gray car passed me on my left. As it came even with me, maybe four or five feet away, the person in the passenger seat made a loud, high-pitched barking noise at me. I was not expecting it. The sudden noise made me jerk my handlebars a little, and I felt a rush of adrenaline dump into my veins. I became very aware of my sweat. Mostly, though, I felt like I was eleven fucking years old.
I think I am a good rider, and by “good” I mean that understand my place in the flow of traffic. I am not very fast, but I know how to place myself so that faster riders can pass me. I stick to streets with defined bike lanes, or at least streets that are bike-friendly as indicated on the official Chicago Bike Map, whenever possible. I don’t swerve in and out of traffic. I am careful of pedestrians. I am wary of parked cars — you never know when a driver’s side door might open. I have a decent amount of reflectors on my bike, and also on my person. I do not always wear a helmet, which is sort of indefensible but I will say that I feel safer without it. I have yet to find a helmet that does not mess with the acoustics. Cars behind me are never where I think they should be when I’m wearing a helmet, and it makes me very nervous. When I find a helmet that doesn’t have that effect, I will wear it every time I ride. I promise. But aside from the helmet, I don’t think there is anything I’m doing that should make me a target for derision.
So, my only conclusion is that there must be something comical about a fat guy riding a bike. And that sucks for me. I mean, I’m riding the bike because I’m a big fat guy and I’m trying to do something about it. Now if you caught me tooling around on one of those scooters old people ride in shopping malls, then by all means give me all you got, because at that point I have obviously given up.
I cannot adequately state how embarrassed I am about my weight. It is difficult to describe the way my brain just shuts off whenever there is food around. I am incapable of sticking to self-imposed limits. I lose all self-control when presented with a choice between healthy or unhealthy foods. Social functions, job interviews, auditions, any situation where I have to meet new people . . . I have to push down these waves of anxiety just to get out the door because I am convinced that everyone is noticing my weight, horrified by it, and talking about it. When I ride my bike I feel like I am taking steps toward regaining control. Of course, the people I meet these days are pretty much all adults, and if they do notice my weight or even care about it at all they have the good grace to keep it to themselves. I am an intelligent man who is moderately quick of wit, but I am entirely unprepared for junior high teasing. Instead of enjoying the last several blocks of my ride home I spent the whole trip flushed and embarrassed, and wishing I’d had something brilliant and cutting to shout back.
After the gray car disappeared from view a series of fantasies flashed through my mind. I imagined myself doing this Jackie Chan move where I leap from my back and crash through the rear passenger side window, landing in the backseat, where I reach forward and grab the douchebag by his hair and slam his face into the windshield, or maybe put him in a sleeper hold, or possibly just snap his neck. After I’ve calmed down a little the dreams get less violent; I picture myself pulling up next to the car at a red light, and just before the light turns green I lean toward them and say, very clearly so everyone in the car hears, “Too bad about your tires.” Then I take off, and just as they hit the gas all four of their tires blow out in a spectacularly humiliating fashion. Of course it ties up traffic, and a tow truck has to be called, and maybe the cops show up and find a few ticketable offenses? But of course the dickheads from the car won’t be worried about that. They won’t be able to stop thinking about that fat dude on the bike, and wondering how in the hell he did that.