Thursday, October 1, 2015

End of a Century

For my 100th trick, I pulled a Post Card out of my ass...

For this installment however, I will pull an email out of my ass...

It happens that there is another bicycle technician living and working just down the street from me and the truth is, he wasn't always a wrench, no. He learned by overhauling Mongi' in my garage.

He has since gone on to one of the most beloved and well respected bike shops in town and since then has been a valuable asset within our cycling community. 
He has also come to be a close personal friend. The kind of guy one would call, 'family.' Indeed, He and I have spent countless hours getting hammered in my home shop, telling tales of how our day went, and the people we meet in this crazy ass industry.

It was on that note that he inquired about writing a guest spot on this blog, and naturally, I obliged. 

...what's the worst that could happen, right?

So the story goes:

"There's this tiny little bike shop in a small town here in Indiana that I have called home for the better part of two years now. Every bike shop, in my opinion, has their own special atmosphere, their own smells, and a flavor of personality that resonates in the employ and the clientele that surround it. My shop is no exception. The first time I walked in the door, I was assaulted with the smell of rubber tires, chain lube, and the jokes they tell when no customers are listening.  "Ahh." I thought, smiling to myself "This is where I need to be!" Although, this wasn't the first bike shop I've worked for; it may certainly be my last. The reason why is simple. There's so much character here, that I would be crazy to leave it behind. 

You see, I grew up in a mid-sized, middle class city north of Boston. 
The east coast is exceedingly different than the Midwest. Faster paced, rough around the edges, and claustrophobic. Driving is enough to raise your blood pressure to 1000, nevermind riding a bike. One of the best things about the Midwest, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the people. I find great people everywhere I go. What separates Indiana from the rest is the timbre of those people. 

And then there's me.

I've always been a bit of a free spirit. Some would say I march to the beat of a different drummer. 

 (Being a drummer; I especially like that idiom.)

 One of my favorite things to do is to immerse myself into the culture of any given situation. I look past the humdrum simplicity of what it may say on the outside and delve into the social fabric that makes it so blisteringly unique. When I moved to the Midwest almost ten years ago I was startled by the hodgepodge of characters that this region has to offer. There's a real salt of the earth thing going on here. But me, being me, has to make the best of any situation and engage with people on a more personal level. Working at a local bike shop has presented me with the most awesome of duties: To interact with "John Q public."

We bike shops all have our regulars. It's a subtle culmination of personalities that unite to pave the way for the incredible diversity that a local bike shop can call their own. It gives them a panache. Almost a secret language between you and your customers. Here I've been given the opportunity to use this platform to enlighten you on my shop's particular brand of clientele.

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.

There's no shortage of nicknames flying around the shop. I myself have been cordially referred to as A.I. Short for Angry Irishman. I never let my cohorts down with that one.

So there's this one guy we  jovially have dubbed "Hoosier Tire." Hoosier Tire comes in quite regularly as a matter if fact. A dumpy, unkempt kid in his twenties whose meaty hands are covered in warts like the face of a smallpox victim. When I first started working there I couldn't figure out why the guys in the shop called him Hoosier tire. Some pet names are more obvious to me. After an especially long conversation with him I found out why. Generally he comes in and asks us for old bike tires we would otherwise throw in the trash, takes them home and apparently shaves off the rubber tread with the assistance of a propane torch and what I assume is a putty knife. 

"Just like in the NASCAR!"

Thus he creates "slick racing tires." His language, not mine. 

I get that you may be as glassy eyed as I was at this point, but his claim is that he had entered into contract negotiations for these racing beauties with Hoosier racing tire. According to him they weren't "On board." This while pedaling his cheap Huffy (covered in Jeff Gordon #24 stickers) all over town. I once had to overhaul the coaster brake on that bike, and after that job, messy as it was, he left the shop still owing us seven or so bucks. 'Cest la vie dude.

As I was working one day on an especially cheeky disc brake bleed the door chime went off with its distinct "Bong, bong bong!" and I was greeted with the sweet smell of diabetic shock, or someone completely hammered. As my mother would say in her thick east Massachusetts accent, this guy was "Pahhlooted."  Lo and behold: The Hamburglar was sauntering his way through our front door.

  Accompanied by a broke down Next bike as his only friend. Until me that was...

 It was at this moment that I realized my boss had to suddenly "call in an order," and my coworker has made a beeline for the bathroom. Now it's up to me, I guess. The Hamburglar stood there unassuming with a casual pirate sway, bulbous nose and smelling like a brewery with a bad batch of yeast. As I checked his bike in for a flat repair, I was overwhelmed with the sweet boozy breath he had. Frankly; it made my eyes water. He left us the bike, and went about his drunken business promising the whole while that he's getting his license back in a few weeks. "Sure," I thought. He returned a short while later with McDonald's hamburgers for the shop and thanking me profusely for fixing his ride. I graciously accepted the food thinking that "Hell; a tip is a tip."

On any given day there will be more than one uncommonly unique character that makes their way into the shop for repairs, or parts, or company. Some guys just come in and want to hang out.

 Like Amos, who stares at me with a crooked leer that sets my teeth on edge, purchasing nothing but the shivers that roll up my spine when I notice him doing it. 

There's also Crazy Craig, whose diatribe on how Indian doctors are installing the Caste system here in America makes me want to reach desperately for my tinfoil hat, and pray for that unburdened sense of paranoia that we all sometimes feel.

All in all I feel nothing, but unfettered joy at all the people whom I meet everyday. They all have one thing in common; their bikes are broken and it's up to me to fix them. So bring it on weirdos! I can handle multitudes of problems, and aside from their rants, stares, and sometimes questionable conversations at the end of the day, they're just customers...right?

I guess time will tell..."

It is here, I must honestly thank my friend for submitting this, and also his support over the years for this blog.  
... in good times AND bad. 

I hope you all enjoyed the ramblings of a small town bicycle technician. 
I hope we can do this again.