It’s different down there; in a way that doesn’t make sense, but things rarely do in this upside down world. It’s downtown and it’s old. People down there have a different lifestyle, a simpler one. One of the oldest bicycle stores in the city is down there and it just happened to have the only women’s bike that my wife had been looking for in the entire city. A bike shop in that community didn’t make sense to me… at first glance anyway.
The single silver aluminum framed glass front door jingled as it opened into world that was timeless. It was like stepping through the window of time back into the sixties. The cement floor was worn smooth by foot traffic over the decades and the low ceiling that at one time had been white was now tinted yellow by Father time and cigarettes when they were legal inside a public building.
“Afternoon!” one of the five men working called from behind the splintered paneling flanked counter. The white formica top was black in spots along the edges where all the elbows from all the generations leaning there had stolen the finish little by little unknowingly.
While the tired building reflected a past all but gone, the young men working there reminded me that I hadn’t slipped into the Twilight Zone by their dress and accessories; namely the earrings in their spreading earlobes that you could fit a penny through. They weren’t the only ones – the customers matched and made us look like the outsiders.
It didn’t take more than a few minutes to realize that my assumption about the little bicycle shop being over staffed was dead wrong. Although there was only one other vehicle besides ours in the tiny parking lot that was just a thin sidewalk and a curb from the glass front faced shop, the place was hopping with business.
I had plenty of time to observe the folks and the interactions while my wife test drove bikes, helmet, and jerseys. I learned it cost twenty two dollars and eighteen cents, with tax, to get a flat tire fixed with the the heavy duty thorn resistant tube.
I also noticed that those people that live with far less than the ones in my neighborhood, minus the tattoos and earrings, are in better shape. But the main thing I noticed was how friendly, mannerly, and genuinely happy they seemed.
“How’d you pop it?” I asked the mid thirties man that was built like a linebacker and had the face and aura of the perfect TV show serial killer.
“A pothole,” he chuckled.
“Bummer,” I shook my head.
“Yeah, it was four thirty this morning on my way to work and I just didn’t see it,” he lamented and added, “It’s my fourth one in two months.”
The kid fixed his bike and gave him the “That’ll be twenty two dollars and eighteen cents, please,” line that I’d become accustomed to. The burly bicyclist counted out the exact change and graciously thanked the kid for his help. He then turned to me and offered with a genuine smile and nod of his close shaved head, “Have a great day, sir.”
“I will, thank you… and you too,” I told him. He thanked me and told me that he would. “And watch out for those potholes, huh?” I called to him.
He laughed, nodded, and answered, “I’ll try!” as he exited the silver door with the year round Christmas bell on the handle.
We tend to strive for so much, we forget how much we already have.
We use words like, “please”, “thank you”, and “love” so often out of habit that they’re stripped of their true definitions and heart…. until you hear and see someone use them with magical simplicity and power that we’ve forgotten how to.