Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Racing the Moon

It's not like me to stare at the sky while I ride my bike home. For one thing, looking up means you're not looking at the more immediate threats to your well-being, namely the two-ton SUVs being driven by folks balancing cell phones in one hand and coffee cups from the drive-through in the other. (Speaking of which, I'll never understand how they manage to simultaneously steer while they engage in this seemingly masterful feat of multitasking. They must have grown a magical third arm when no one was looking.)

Beyond the obvious need for impact-avoidance, looking up does nasty things to your sense of balance while you're trying to pilot a gyroscopically-balanced machine on pothole-strewn roads. The next time you're on a bike, find a quiet spot and give it a try. If you're anywhere near as dexterously-challenged as I am, you'll find yourself grabbing desperately at your handlebars as you try to keep the bike from veering hideously off-course. For all my vaunted skills as an urban commuter commando cyclist, the looking-up thing eludes me. Oh well.

But on this ride home, I spotted a hot air balloon that had just taken off from a nearby field. One of the nice things about living in London is the relative frequent appearance of HABs in our skies. Since London is a fairly small city - around 25 km at its widest point - balloons can launch from around midtown, float to the hinterland and land anywhere in the farmer's fields that define the exurban landscape. Bigger towns would usually necessitate too much flight time and, correspondingly, fuel. And Toronto, a couple of hours east of here, is out because it sits next to Lake Ontario. Ever tried to land a wicker basket dangling from a bag of hot gas in a polluted body of water? Not so much fun, apparently.

When I turned for home, I ended up with a lovely tailwind out of the south. The balloon hovered over my right shoulder all the way to my house. I felt like I was racing the moon, and kept trying to resist the urge to peer up lest I become a hood ornament for the aforementioned caffeine-addled, communication-challenged SUV pilot.

Does it matter in the overall scheme of things that I was paced home by a wind-following balloon? Likely not. But it was another tiny, unique event that defined my day in the midst of what would have otherwise been an unending sea of chaos.

The next time something floats over your own shoulder, I hope you'll take the time to enjoy it as well. Just don't crash your velo in the process.


Anonymous said...

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and take a look around once in awhile, you could miss it." ~ Ferris Bueller

Nice little story, Carmi. :)

carmilevy said...

Ah, one of my favorite movies of all time. Although like most films of that era, it reeked of cheeky 80s sentiment, it had a certain innocence about it that still seems comforting when I watch it now.

I hope I don't miss the small stuff. It's so much more fun to write about minutae than big things that people can't get their heads around. Everyone relates to little moments.

Amelia said...

I've tried the multi-tasking thing. It is obviously a skill I am yet to master, because I invariably end up covered in what ever drink I was consuming,and if I try to talk on my phone whilst driving, I just can't manage to find my third arm to change gears!

carmilevy said...

I remember when computers started to evolve from single-task DOS machines to multitasking Windows-based affairs. Ooh, the thrill I felt when I was able to reformat a diskette (remember those?) while printing a document.

These days, I keep so many windows open on my desktop that colleagues think I'm hopelessly ADD. Maybe I am, because I don't think I'm any more productive than I was when I had a simple little PC running a word processor.

We may have unbelievable technology, but I don't think it's as helpful to our well-being as we initially believed it would be.