Wednesday, August 21, 2013

C&D Bike Repair (A Memoir Parable)

On a sprawlingly long, deliciously cool summer day, when I was about eleven or twelve, my friend Dave and I decided to put in some hard work. We were going to open a bike repair shop.

We dug in to the work, clearing out and organizing my parent's aluminum storage shed in the back yard. We put things where they belonged and hung things on pegs. We swept. We gathered up the available tools (not that many were around in the home of a trumpet player/arranger, but we made-do) and put them on a shelf, neatly lined up. If I'm not mistaken, we polished them with our breath and a rag, too.

When we were finished organizing, we examined the fruits of our labor -- must have been five-hours' work -- with fists on evaluative hips. I remember bending to pick up a small piece of dried leaf from the concrete floor. It wouldn't do to have the alabaster interrupted by some deciduous intruder, after all we'd done.

We looked at each other. What was next? We snapped our fingers: the sign.

We walked to the nearest store and purchased poster board with the change I kept in my room in a nine-inch high, toy Mosler safe (with a real combination lock). We gathered up markers and paints and pencils and rulers. I, having already been recognized as the neighborhood bohemian (despite my modestly impressive talents as a third baseman) was given the task of creating the sign. Dave reclined in the shade of our walnut tree, a blade of grass between his teeth, as I set to work. Eventually, he fell asleep, no doubt dreaming of the wealth we would accrue as bicycle repair moguls.

After an hour, it was finished: C&D Bike Repair (with a red arrow that pointed from the road to my backyard gate).

I woke Dave up and we set the double-sided sign in place. I admired my perfectly-straight, three-dimensional letters for a few minutes after Dave had ceased to be impressed and had wandered back to the walnut tree, then I went back to join him and to await our first customer.

If we'd only had cigars, we would have spent a half-hour glancing meaningfully at each other and tapping ash off of the ends between elaborate and luxurious puffs. We were tycoons. We were entrepreneurs. We were giants of the transportation biz. We were the Lords of the Bikes.

Then, with a rapid draining of blood from both of our faces (fictitious cigars dropping from our slacked jaws into the grass) we realized something horrible; a detail that, in the midst of our day-long labors, had slipped our minds: NEITHER ONE OF US KNEW HOW TO FIX BIKES.

We cursed our own stupidity and bolted for the sign, removing it from the front yard as quickly as possible, breaking it into pieces and sending it to the abyss of a metal trash can.

We then went to the local playground and shot baskets until bed time, just in case someone should show up at my house for a handlebar adjustment.

And isn't that the nature of youth?


  1. Reminds me of when I used to see pieces of scrap metal lying around in my garage that looked like an eye, or some kind of antenna, and would start devising schematics for a robot that were simply impossible to make (at least with my understanding).

    In some cases, though, I think childhood ambition should be mixed with adulthood ambition; if you're a stubborn adult mixed with a stubborn child, then if you find that you don't know how to do something (like making a bike), then instead of giving up, you'll learn how to do it.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Alexis. I think you got it just right: a mix of adult facility and childlike ambition can be a road map to success (though, not a guarantee. Wisdom can coexist with logic and experience, for sure.

      Thanks, again.

  2. Now, if only you'd offered shed clearing services, you'd now be rich men