Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I can fly!

This post has been dredged out from the archives. I never completed it then, out of laziness, forgetfullness and some other ness monster. This is an ancient story that I would like to tell, and it has a moral too! The incident I describe occured in the middle of August 2007. It made so famous, that even 5 months after it happened, people who had never met me before would recognize that I was "that guy" on just hearing my name.

Laziness makes you notice every bike shop around you and the deal they offer. Gator cycle advertised "cheap bikes" for college students. Walmart has these nice sections where you have bikes on shelves (actually on shelves). Travelling to a new country makes you really great at multiplication. Especially by 40, since at that time $1 = Rs.40. So "cheap bikes" at Gator Cycles, with the cheapest at $200, were quickly scratched off the list and Walmart became the shopper's paradise. To think of it, everything that I had in the house then was bought in Walmart or in India. So, I bought this bicycle from Walmart for a measely $60-ish.

Compared to the bikes you get in India for similar prices, the bikes in US look pretty damn cool (notice how I mention that they only look cool). They have 18 or 24 speed transmission (yes, I used the word transmission for a bicycle because I like to glorify it) and a suspension system (cough.. cough). Long story short, I clicked pictures of the bike and my friends drooled and then envied me. Over the next week, I realised why the bikes were so cheap. Well, I guess I must point out that "cheap" and "expensive" are in the American context. For Indian prices, the bike was already expensive... and an outright rip-off.

The brake pads wore out within the week, and stuff was already rickety. Soon I had developed a masterful technique of stopping by bike - squeeze both brake levers hard, and if the speed is still not suffiently low, press the rubber coating on the bottom part of your shoes against the ground. I must point out that I never had the problem of not being able to stop in time.

So this one day, I heard the news that I would be getting a Teaching Assitantship at UF, which would cover my tuition costs and also give me a healthy paycheck. To say I was happy would be understating it. Suddenly there was this economic freedom and I immediatly agreed to go to Tampa with my friend - Nikhil. There was just a small hitch - he had left some documents (or keys or something) at another place and it was essential he have it before he left. I offered to go and pick it up for him so that he could finish his lunch. Since I had already left my bike at home, I picked up his bike.

So happy me decides to race the bike up to the place. A short check shows that the brakes are good. A short check also misses out the fact that the brakes are quite good and that since I am used to my super braking technique, I should take it easy. The short check also misses out reminding me that in US, the brakes are opposite - unlike those in India, the left lever is for the front wheel and the right is for the back.

As I zoom down the slope at a high speed, I think about how I will not be in debt anymore. I will be able to actually enjoy US without worrying about that multiplying factor. I also think that the SUV pulling out of the drive-way in front should not come so fast.

You know how in movies the action slows down at critical moments. Well, in actual life it doesn't. Here is what I remember: Oh car, I must slow down. Jam the brakes (damn you, short check). Where did the handle-bars go? Face palm upwards to see that the handlebars are gone. Umm, I'm not sitting on anything anymore. Land face first flat on the ground. Realize that the bike also hit you after you landed on the ground.

Get up dazed. The glasses are skewed. Take them off so you can check if they were damaged. See they are covered in blood and panic. Take out handkerchief so that I can stop the blood flow. Realize that I don't know where is the blood pouring out from. See left hand bleeding and use to handkerchief to clamp it down... and so on.

Here's what I guess happened. I jammed the both the brakes, but probably jammed the left one first causing the bike to flip. Since I was pretty fast, I got thrown off the bike. I think I flew 6-7 feet in the air. I did not realize that I was flying and turned up my palms to check where the handlebars had gone. No bones were broken and I did not hurt my head (as I first thought).

The kicker is, the car pulling out of the driveway wasn't at fault. He wasn't even in my way and I did not hit him either. I was trying to just slow down and he would have probably given me way if I hadn't flipped. My left hand was pretty damaged and the blood from it scared me and him. I refused his offer to call for an ambulance or 911. I hobbled a bit to the house I had to get to. Some Indian guy with a car saw me as I was walking and took me to the univ clinic where I got stitches.

Over the next 3 months I learnt everything about health insurance.

Everyone heard about the guy who didn't know how to ride a bicycle. They also heard how nobody hit me. I just fell off. Funny thing is, whenever I asked the Indian guys laughing at me which side the back brake is, they told me the Indian convention - left lever for back brake. So, considering that so many Indian students buy cheap bikes, it is a miracle there haven't been many accidents.

Moral of the story: If your life depends on it, spend more money on getting a better quality product. Also, don't be an idiot and do not race down a slope with bike unless you have atleast a helmet. Or really kick-ass insurance.

1 comment:

  1. i like it =)
    sorry that u had to get hurt like that though..