Points of contact are the most vulnerable. In biking, its the tires to the road. And the road is rough: gravel and glass and wire and nails. I spy as a ride, looking for chips of renegade road and glimmering shards of glass. But no one's eyes are that sharp. Flats happen, and learning how to repair the bike is part of my "learn-as-I-go" education of the road. I've fixed a tire maybe twice in my life, and in the past three weeks, I've had three flats. I've needed assistance on each one.
First Flat: A puncture, the size of my small-toe nail bed. The blow was audible from a distance and a quartet of riders behind me from Ohio heard it, pulled over, and coached me through the flat. I write that I was coached, but, truth be told, they did most of the work. "We leave no one behind in our cycling club," offers one from the Cincinnati Cycling Club. Within minutes, the tube is changed and inflated, and the tire reinforced at its tear. 5 minutes off the road. New Yorkers would have left me in disrepair on the side of the road. People are just more helpful in Ohio, swing state be damned.
Second Flat: Just 10 miles later. Same day. Same place on the tire. Ohio is no where in site. I call the bike-ambulance van, and they bring me home. I buy new tires.
Third Flat: This time I thought I might be able to figure it out myself. I heard the hiss, that exhaust of air escaping, and pulled over. I set myself up on one of those Idaho fences that keep the animals penned or the people away and prepared for intestinal surgery on the bike. I lay out my jack-knife and inner tube. I deflate the tire, coax the tire off the rim, and score my fingers along the inside of the tube scavenging for detritus of the road. One, a second, and one more cyclist rides by, but I wave them along with an "It's all good" and "I've got it."
But, of course, I didn't "have it," nor was it "all good" at all. One helpful couple -- both practicing Buddhists -- knew better than to heed my dismissal. They turned about and returned my tire to its rim and the air to the tube. What goes around comes around -- for both my tire and karma.
No doubt some good will come around their way.