Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Grizzled Vet

When we arrived in Montreal and I put the bike back together, I noticed one of my brake cables was dangerously frayed. No big deal considering this bike - the beater bike that I used to use for commuting - hadn't been used in months. But the prospect of descending a large mountain at high speed and having my brake cable snap and do all sorts of horrible things to my person didn't really sit too well with my wife. So, rules of flight - the inviolable set of rules that I have before I set off on any wheeled journey - being what they are, off I went to the bike shop to have the offending part replaced.

I took my purple wheels to a place called Cyclo-Sport near my parents' and in-laws. It's the same bike store I used to frequent when I was a kid. The owner was still there, only his hair was a lot wilder and grayer than I rememebered it. He graciously welcomed me into the dark, dusty service area out back and set to work replacing the cable.

I may as well have stepped back in time, for the store hadn't changed since I first set foot in it. The sun struggled to shine through the hazy air over his workstand, and the walls were lined with the flotsam and jetsam of decades worth of bicycle parts. Even the smell, a strangely comfortable mixture of rubber and oil, hadn't changed.

While he worked away, we chatted - in Quebecois French - about his love of biking and the life it allowed him to lead. It was the kind of fascinating insight into smalltown life that you just wouldn't get from the smock-wearing doofus assembling steel-framed monsters at the local Wal-Mart.

I left the store with a smile on my face because I had been lucky to glimpse the kind of simplicity that makes this world so fascinating to write about. But I was also saddened that such glimpses are gradually fading, replaced by the thrum of a society bent on doing everything faster and cheaper. What we lose in the process will only become apparent to us long after it is gone.

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