Sunday, September 22, 2013

Caught in the Rain

"You're a fair-weather rider," the kid behind the store counter at the bike shop said. It was not meant as a compliment. But you know what? I am a fair-weather rider, and proud of it. I don't like riding my bike in the rain and my gear is not equipped for it.

Tonight I woke up on the couch after a long nap. It had been a long day, I didn't get enough sleep the night before and I had a couple drinks at a mixer my building held earlier on the roof. My friends birthday party started at 10:00 and it was now 10:45. I was in a stupor and still tired but was determined to make an appearance. I brushed my teeth, threw on the clothes I had worn earlier and prepped my bike for the night ride. It would only take 20 minutes to get there.

As I started my ride I felt a little detached from reality. Still a little tired and not in the mood for a party but the decision was made and I was on my way. It was dark and there was a siren and flashing lights (squad car? ambulance?) some distance behind me. A few blocks into my ride I felt a few rain drops. The sky was cloudy and it had been quite humid all day. But I didn't check the weather report and had no idea what to expect. About a third of the way there, as I approached the BQE above me, it started to rain. A light rain at first. But within seconds it picked up. By the time I was passing under the BQE it was now a steady shower so I checked my mobile phone to see what the weather prediction was. Didn't look good. Cloud and rain symbols for the next several hours. Not wanting to over-think things I decided to forge ahead. A little rain never hurt anyone.

Now I was heading down Kent Ave, the long stretch of road that separates Williamsburg from Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy. The Navy Yard was to my left while Hasidic homes wrapped in wrought iron bars was to my right. It was at this point that it started to downpour. I don't have any wheel fenders and I knew the wet dirt was spraying me from the street. I was getting soaked. I passed a car getting towed, blinking orange and yellow lights that I had to swerve around. Any further obstacle to the situation was incredibly frustrating. The rain was pounding against my body, making it hard to see. Only a couple blocks further I realized I still had a third of the way to go. And then what? Leave my bike out, with its leather seat in the rain? Show up to the party soaked to the skin with no change of clothes? That was it. The weather had beat me and it was time to turn back. I cursed and turned around.

Somehow the rain seemed worse on the way back. I could barely see, there was so much water in my eyes. It suddenly occurred to me that my phone was still in my back pocket and must be getting wet. I had to think of a dryer place to put it but there weren't many options. So I stuffed it down my crotch, into my underwear, hoping it would be protected enough from the outside elements. I leaned all the way forward on my bike to try and shield it further. I was riding as fast as I could under the circumstances.

I finally made it back, swung the gate to my building open and fumbled with my keys. I was now inside the building and out of the rain. But every square inch of me was waterlogged and filthy from the street grime. Luckily my phone was ok. I gave up on the idea of making it to the party and crawled back to the safety of my apartment, stripped off my clothes and watched a movie.

Phew. Fair-weather rider indeed.

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