Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Passion and the Universe
When I made my way into that bike shop known as BS, to plunk down the hard earned dough for my first "real" bike, I was immediately drawn into the deep and beautiful world of cycling. Four months after I payed my last twenty dollars (made in weekly installments for two months) I was getting paid to flounder about the very shop I had been frequenting/pestering. The whole crew at that shop rode and was passionate about bikes. Every damn one of them. It was the perfect shop to guide my ascension of the cycling tree of knowledge.
Nothing came easy in the first few years. I was a complete neophyte and was forced to understand that nothing in the bike shop world just gets handed to you without some form of payment. I remember using a crescent wrench to build one of the first bikes thrown my way. This humiliating faux pas of poor tool selection stripped me my privilege of bike assembly for two weeks. "The right tool for the job" they said, as I sat red faced and disheartened, "You're lucky Mel didn't see you". As traumatic as that episode was, it opened my eyes to realize that this wasn't my dad's garage where I only had a handful of primitive tools to work with. I actually had a large collection of specialized tools at my disposal that addressed all the fine details of bicycle mechanics.
As the years passed, I moved on to other shops and still carried the deep passion and curiosity of cycling with me wherever I went. I read books and magazines, watched videos, raced, wrenched, and basically did whatever I could to envelope my life within the world of cycling. I was passionate about bikes. They became a defining part of my life. I finally became like all those people I looked up to at that first bike shop.
While I moved from shop to shop in search of ever more bike culture, I failed to ever again experience the collective passion for cycling that that first shop embraced. I soon found that cycling is also a world full of very different people with a wide range of reasons for working at a bike shop. Thus, I began to formulate a theory that folks within the bike shop world can be matched up with the various types of phenomena in the universe. Here is what my unscientific mind has come up with so far:
These are the collectors (aka the equipment whores) that work at the shop so they can buy their parts on the cheap. Their nose is always buried in the QBP catalog plotting their next acquisition.They make it a point to always look the part, but they sure as hell don't ride much. They're the fabricators of the lamest excuses for only riding two or three times a year.
These are the guys that blast off into the cycling world and get all the bikes, clothing, sunglasses, and accessories possible and then ride like madmen for six months only to fizzle out with a quiet whimper. They can usually be found at the local race every year telling you how they're gonna get back into riding/racing next season. Next season never comes.
This is the funny, fat guy that comes in once in awhile to build the odd bike but spends more time waxing nostalgic about the good old days of cycling yore. He doesn't ride anymore because "Cycling has become a superficial sport of soft men with plastic bikes". Besides, he's "paid his dues". Still, he's fun to have around and is always good for a sixer of imports and chips.
He roams the shop aimlessly looking for something to do. Without fail, he will not do anything unless specifically told to do so. He also manages to take five times longer than he should to complete any task. Only threats of bathroom duty will goad him into any meaningful action. The only reason the boss hasn't fired him yet is because he'll take minimum pay and work a shitload of hours. He's something of an enigma in that he usually wanders in late and yet, is almost always the last one to leave.
Why does this bastard even work here? Oh, I know! He's the boss's old pal. This guy hates every soul that walks through the door and rarely lifts his gaze from the bike he's working on, which happens to be his own. He doesn't wrench, he doesn't sell, he doesn't merchandise, and by God, he doesn't fucking clean. He does, however, take massive shits in the bathroom that make your lungs bleed as well as drink all the beer.
Red Dwarf Stars
These are the people that keep the whole damn shop ticking. They've been around forever and continue to soldier on for the love of the bike. They are the rare constants that keep on keepin' on. Always the same old dudes you've seen riding for years and years in all sorts of familiar, different and unexpected places. They have their ups and downs like anybody, but they keep it centered. They also know that even though the faces change and most of their coworkers will go on in a few months or years in search of fulfillment elsewhere, every so often one of them will stick and find their passion for cycling in much the same way they did.