It has poured down with rain at the exact time we leave work with alarming frequency in the last few weeks, adding yet another layer of routine to my days. But last Saturday, although the rain may have seemed routine the ensuing double puncture that I suffered on the way home was far from it. “Ah but you’re an experienced cyclist!” I hear you cry, “…surely punctures are as routine as they come?”
I suppose it would have been had my second spare inner tube not already been faulty, leaving me around 8 miles from home with a handful of useless rubber tubing and a tyre as flat as the proverbial pancake. For a moment I was frustrated, but then the beauty of the opportunity dawned on me… once again presented with the chance to burst off the pages of my own story and go tramping off onto someone else’s narrative. Even if it was only for a few short lines. This is the kind of detour that becomes common place for the whimsical traveller or hitchhiker, but somewhat of a rarity for me in recent months.
So off I went in search of a solution, first up was the man stood outside his corner shop. No joy. Then a short walk to the nearest Co-Op, with the hope that someone there would cycle to work. What followed was the most non-human human interaction, as the security guard in the shop sought to send me packing as I had the bike with me- I eventually convinced him to let me ask the question I needed to ask. Still no luck. However in the time it took to overcome his staunch anti bike policy I had at least succeeded in drawing the attention of every other shopper in the place.
As a result I was chased out of the shop by a Spanish woman and her gaggle of kids, as she sought to find out what was wrong and if she could help, Muchas gracias! She was unable to help but did attract the attention of an unassuming man walking down the street, who just happened to be a one time keen cyclist. After a brief explanation of my plight, he agreed to try to dig out an inner tube for me in his flat, so he bought some beer in the corner shop and off we went, not before the corner shop man had given me a free can of coke. Success.
The mans name was Ed. Ed lived in block of flats just up the street, and his flat was about four flights of stairs up. Soaking wet at this point I left a trail of sorts up the stairs. He popped inside, leaving me in the hallway, and emerged a while later with a box of spares of the kind I imagine almost all cyclists posses. At least half full of broken, discarded and otherwise useless parts, fixings and brackets… but thankfully also containing an inner tube of the correct dimensions. He was such a gent that he even pumped up the tyre for me once I had squeezed the tube inside. An awkward goodbye followed where I eventually got him to accept a crumpled up fiver in exchange for his inner tube, and then i was rolling off down the road again as if it had never happened.
It is this kind of chance encounter that I miss from being on the road last summer. Leaving things to chance, stepping out into complete uncertainty with hardly a euro in your pocket… sleeping behind a gas station wondering if those truckers will find you in the night, where the next ride will come from and if you will ever get there.