Pumped For the Trip Home

I walked toward my bike yesterday after exiting the 5:46 out of Gotham, tired from a longish day, eager to get home.

I unlocked my cheap new Wal-Mart cycle from the rack, wheeled it toward the walkway, and heard the disheartening sound–sort of like woooickkk! woooickkk!–of a deflated tire listlessly rotating on its axle.

Indeed, my front tire was flatter than snake roadkill.

I started walking the damn thing along the path that runs parallel to the tracks, behind the Ryerlyn building, toward the parking lot south of the station off Elwood. (By the way, why is that tiny little street the lot is on called “Technology Way”? The one building on it looks like it used to house some technology company, but the building appears shuttered, with prominent For Rent signs. Was Hawthorne angling to become the next Silicon Alley?)

I whipped out the Blackberry and called The Missus to tell her I’d be late. As we spoke I heard a voice coming from behind me.

I hung up and forged onward, then heard the voice again.

I turned around. A man. A car, parked in the sunken lot behind the Ryerlyn that floods when it rains and often has the Sir Grout van with the knight in armor painted on it.

“Do you want to use my pump to blow up your tire?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said, surprised.

He was a smallish guy, around 50, in a white t-shirt and jeans, sort of the Fonzie uniform. His hands were covered in grease.

I wheeled my lame steed over. He popped the trunk and whipped out a fancy black Schwinn bike pump.

He got on his knees and stuck the pump nozzle onto my wheel’s nipple. (Did that sentence sound dirty? It wasn’t supposed to.)

He started to pump. The tire swelled. (Maybe I’ve been reading too many of the Fifty Shades books.)

I asked if he was a cyclist. He said he used to be–went to F.I.T. in Manhattan many years ago, and rode his bike from his home in Washington Heights.

He was finished, and suggested I hurry, as the tire might not hold the air for long.

I shook his greasy hand and asked his name.

“Michael,” he said.

“Me too,” I said.

I thanked him and got on the bike. I cranked it up the former Technology Way, hit Elwood, and made the turn onto Chelsea, knowing each rotation of the tire could be its last.

The quickie pump job got me to the base of Heartbreak Hill, about two-thirds of my trip home. I still had a tire to fix, but it was just the pickup I needed after a long day.

Thanks again, Michael.

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