Which is probably why, as much as I love Eggo Beanrocket (and we really are in love, me and Eggo, as I zoom from home to work each morning in a perpetual state of glee), my absolute favorite way to see the world is from a moving bike.
These days, though, I mostly sit on the seat.
I’ve been riding a fair amount this summer, choosing routes that take me along the waterfront of Brooklyn and Queens, or over the Williamsburg Bridge and around the eclectic perimeter of Manhattan. The problem is, I don’t like to turn around – once I’m out there, moving, the last thing I want is to make that awkward 180 just to go back the way I came. So I keep going, and then, suddenly, three hours have passed and my phone is ringing and Brad wants to know when I’m coming back.
“I’m not sure,” I say.
“What do you mean?” he says. “Where are you?”
At which point I realize that I’ve gotten myself fifteen miles away from home, and though this isn’t such a bad thing in and of itself, I’m always sort of aghast when I realize that I therefore have to ride fifteen miles back.
“Do you want to come pick me up?” I say to Brad.
He says, “I hope you’re kidding.”
Last weekend, by the time my phone rang, I had traveled all the way down to a waterfront park in Red Hook and was busy chatting with members of a non-profit group who had set up a lemonade stand. After promising to be home in a couple hours, I set off – sweating like a pig, cursing the heat, and wondering what kind of moron sets out on a bike ride at 10:00am on a day when the temperature is supposed to be in the nineties.
Fifteen minutes later, as I was standing in the blessedly cool shade in a crosswalk under I-278, a family of cyclists pulled up alongside me. They were two forty-ish parents and one little girl, maybe ten years old, all riding shiny new bikes and wearing impeccably clean helmets.
“Hello!” said the dad, whose yuppie bearing was severely compromised by the largest Burt Reynolds mustache I had ever seen. “Were you just at the Red Hook pool?”
“Er, no?” I said, thinking to myself, That’s weird. It’s not like I’m carrying a towel or wearing a—
Because I was, in fact, wearing a bathing suit. Or rather, I was wearing a turquoise bathing suit top, which I had selected specifically because it looked super-cute with the white shorts-white tank top-yellow skimmers ensemble I’d put together for bike-riding (and if you think that wanting to look like Gidget makes me a less serious cyclist, you can go fuck yourself), and ALSO because bathing suits do not turn transparent or get pulled out of shape when they’re soaked with sweat. Which, after three hours of idle pedaling in the blazing sun, mine most definitely was.
“Oh,” I said, “I was just at the waterfront park over there.”
And then, because I really didn’t feel like explaining to Yuppie Burt Reynolds that a) I was fashionable, and b) the moisture he was seeing was not pool water, but rather, my own sweat, I added, “I was just getting some sun.”
“You shouldn’t do that!” someone said. I looked down and to my left, where the ten year-old was standing and looking at me with an expression so rehearsedly prim that I immediately wanted to pull her lips off.
“What’s that, honey?” I said, smiling in a not-particularly-friendly way.
“It’s bad for you!” she squeaked. “Always wear sunscreen and bring a bottle of water!”
Yuppie Burt Reynolds beamed at his daughter with vomitous pride, then looked at me and nodded curtly.
“Uh-huh,” I said, although what I really wanted to say was, “That’s quite the sanctimonious little shitface you have there, Burt,” and then I pedaled away, resplendent in my irritation and my sweaty, disgusting bathing suit.
What the hell? I thought, as I puffed my way toward Prospect Park. What species of insanity was that? Who were those people? Into what sort of godforsaken alternate reality have I slipped, where proselytizing children spew their oversimplified cult of health at nearly-thirty-year-old women while smug, mustachioed parents smile their approval?
And then, of course, I realized.
I was in Park Slope.
The holy grail of the entitled urban parent.
The land of a thousand double-wide strollers.
The place where dignified adulthood goes to die.
So I spit on the sidewalk.