Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Trying New Things

Text message to Doc: I am riding a motorcycle! :-)

Many people I know ride motorcycles. Big Guy and his lady friend, several of our neighbors on the cul-de-sac, many people at work, and Doc and The Chemist are all avid riders. Most importantly, Accountant Boy used to ride, and wants to start again.

I, on the other hand, haven't ever had a desire to ride a motorcycle. The whole idea of being exposed and vulnerable out on the road, and all of the work involved in even the most basic maneuvers put me off of them before I'd even sat on one. Let me reiterate. I had never sat on a motorcycle and gripped the handlebars in my life. I rode on the back of Big Guy's bike once, when I was in high school.

To be honest, I haven't even enjoyed riding a bicycle in the last twenty-four years. Once I learned to drive a car, there was not turning back. I tried to pick it up again at UCSB, because biking to school was so much more convenient than walking, and I lived too close - embarrassingly close - to drive. It didn't stick, though. Once we graduated, I got rid of my Roadmaster. We bought mountain bikes a few years later, but we've only ridden them twice in the last dozen years. For me, four wheels make more sense than two.

Everyone told me that I should at least try riding a motorcycle. "Take the beginning rider course, and just see if you like it. If you don't, no big deal. How will you know if you don't try?" After months of hearing this from every rider I know, it started to make sense. Was I resistant to riding simply because I'd never done it? Was it the same resistance that held me, paralyzed with fear, at the top of the high dive when I was ten years old? Would it be fun, the fear an amusing memory, once I'd done it? Was it that Santa Claus situation, wanting to do something so badly but being terrified of it at the same time?

Whatever the case, I kept telling people that I just didn't want to ride. Although I appreciated their confidence in me and my ability to be a rider, I did not have this confidence in myself. I was even willing to entertain the idea of being a passenger. However, I spent so much time thinking about it, and had so many conversations with riders about it, that I convinced myself that I was in the wrong.

I agreed to take the beginning course, and went with my very eager friends and an equally eager Accountant Boy to CycleGear, where I bought gloves, boots and riding jeans. I'm not going to pretend that shopping for gear wasn't fun, and that I didn't get too caught up in it to listen to my inner voice, which was still trying to tell me to not ride. That's exactly what happened. I quelled my inner voice by shouting over it. "But look at this beautiful Dainese jacket!".

We bought our helmets at another store, really nice, full-face helmets. Big Guy told me that I should get a skid lid, but I told him that I loved my chin too much for that. "All your gear, all the time. That's how I'm going to roll, Big Guy." He chuckled.

Text message to Doc: I am in the emergency room. :-(

Four and a half hours into the first day of the riding course, I went down while turning a corner. I think, based on the scuffs in my new boots and the gouges in my helmet, that I hit a patch of gravel as I was turning. My head bounced off the tarmac, followed in close succession by my shoulder, my knee, and, apparently, my hand. It happened so quickly that I was back up and cursing before anyone noticed that I'd hit the ground. "Stupid! I can't believe I did that. God, I am so pissed off right now."

The instructor picked up my bike and told me to get my gear back on and keep riding. I held up my helmet, which was now not entirely intact. He played around with it for a few seconds, then handed it back to me. "Mount up!" He walked away before I could tell him that my knee hurt, and my hand felt like I'd slapped it pretty hard on the ground. Therefore, I felt like a sissy for complaining about it. What should I, as a rider, do after falling like that? Clearly, dust myself off and get back on the bike. That's what I was expected to do.

My helmet had other, more prudent ideas, and fell apart once more as I tried to pull it back on. I couldn't get the instructor's attention again, and A.B. was concentrating on his turn in the emergency braking exercise, so I killed the engine on my bike and stepped away to figure it out on my own. A man from the sidelines, there to watch his young daughter get her license, trotted over to help me. "I don't think I can fix this," he said. "You shouldn't wear it." He paused for a second and looked at me. "Hey, are you O.K.?"

"Well, my hand does kind of hurt." I pulled my gloves off, right one first and then the left. "It's redder than normal, but I did slam it pretty hard when I fell." Having only been told to check on my helmet, not knowing that I'd dropped the bike, A.B. rode up just as I exclaimed, "Oh! I don't think I'm supposed to be able to press on it that way and make it move!"

"O.K. We're going to go to the emergency room and get that looked at," A.B. said in the most measured tone he could muster, given that I was injured and that he was not a little grossed out by my dislocated and rapidly bruising finger.

"I'm just not going to look at it, because it didn't hurt until I looked at it."

"Let's just get to the car."

"Wait! My helmet! Get all of the pieces. And could you carry it for me? Because I don't want to take my right hand away from my pinkie..."

"Yeah, I've got it. C'mon, honey. Let's GET GOING."

Now, it might be hard to tell, if you don't spend much time looking at my fingers - and why would you, because that might be considered weird and intrusive - that there's much wrong with my pinkie. I, however, spend a lot of time looking at my fingers, because I love my hands. I think they're beautiful, as hands go. I spend a lot of time looking at them when I'm not busy typing. Is that vain? Maybe. The takeaway here is that I love my hands, both for their form and their function, and I know exactly how each finger should look.

This one? Wrong. The last joint isn't bending the right way, and it's missing its characteristic lateral wrinkles. Also, the knuckle is all screwed up. I've broken off half of the piece that would hold the first and second phalanges together, and now the joint isn't stable. They tried to pull it back into place in the ER, but it wouldn't stay, because there's nothing to anchor it. The little piece is now floating around where my knuckle should be.

And now, two hours prior to the surgery, I'm rushing to get in one last blog post before beginning what will probably be eight weeks with my hand in a cast. Eight weeks of showering with my arm wrapped in a grocery bag. Eight weeks of having to plan where I park my car, because it's not easy to back out of a parking space with your right hand on the wheel, especially after a quarter of a century of doing it the other way. Eight weeks without knitting, without (easily) typing, without being able to walk my dogs...yes, there are two dogs now, and I haven't even had a chance to tell anyone about the second one. Weeks, and then more weeks of physical therapy to try to make it work right again.

I'm able to write this now because my finger is only in a splint. This is the first day since the accident that it's felt good enough to use it. I've suddenly rediscovered the muse and feel like writing again. Of course there's a second half to even this lengthy story.

And I have so much to say about riding and knitting and work and summertime and dogs and...I'm out of time. We're heading off to the surgery center.

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