Like most American men, I get excited over the purchase of shiny metal objects. And the most recent shiny metal object purchase in my life is a new road bike. It’s my first-ever decent, not meant for tooling around town, dedicated road bike. (I know you’re wondering how much it cost, and I won’t give you the exact number, but I’ll give you an idea: More than the bikes you see at Walmart, but less than a new iPhone. Or even a year-old or two-year old iPhone, for that matter.)
As I’m writing this, FedEx is bringing my shiny mobile object all the way from Texas. I’ve been preparing myself emotionally for the big arrival. When the big white FedEx truck pulls in my drive, I’ll be checking my appearance, playing trendy music over the speakers and setting out the hors d’ouevres.
So yeah, I’m excited about my new bike, and I’ve been daydreaming about how it will transform me from Just Another Lame Dad into Active, Sexy, Mysterious Dad. But ya don’t get to the ripe old age of 28 without learning a thing or two, like purchases don’t bring you true happiness.
So here’s a breakdown of some of the high anticipation I’ve had in regard to my new bike (Expectations), tempered with what will probably actually happen (Realities).
Expectation: Beautiful scenic rides, with a backdrop like the Swiss Alps.
Reality: Dodging pot holes as I ride around my podunk little Midwestern town, sans mountains or any remotely majestic scenery. (There are worse places to live, but no one sings “Sound of Music” while walking through my town.)
Expectation: Meet friends frequently after work for a quick ride as, over time, we evolve into a group of abnormally attractive athletic friends like those featured in the Michelob Ultra Commercials. Everyone else envies us and invites us to their cookouts.
Reality: Most of my friends, like me, have young children and not much free time. So I’ll probably end up riding by myself, like always, and teenage/20-year old girls will yell mean things out their car window at me. (This has happened quite a few times, and I haven’t even bought one of those goofy-looking helmets yet.)
Expectation: I will look like one of those cool cyclists you see in the Tour de France, pedaling away like a machine in a sporty outfit.
Reality: I’m still wrestling with the thought of wearing those shorts that cling to a man’s undercarriage like vacuum-molded packaging. Plus, it’s hard to feel like a bionic bicycler who’s in the zone when you’re pulling a bright orange trailer that’s emanating Disney songs and animal sounds from your toddler daughter.
Expectation: I’ll learn to appreciate my bike, not only as a rider, but also as an amateur mechanic. Oh sure, I’ve never been much of a gear head, but this time it’ll be different. Soon I’ll be The Wizard With an Allen Wrench, and people will flock from miles for my expertise and assistance.
Reality: With the bike just assembled, I’ll set off on my first ride, not making it through a full pedal rotation before I hear a sickening crunch and tangling of chains, and my new bike will be immobile. I’ll stare at it for about 10 minutes, hesitantly touching a few parts, but it’s an exercise in futility. I might as well be staring at hieroglyphs.
Maybe you think I’m cynical or have a negative attitude, but I’ve just learned to be realistic.
Still though, I imagine I’ll find myself hurrying home from work to see my shiny new metal object.
This column was originally published in the Republic-Monitor on January 18, 2018.
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