Friday, October 2, 2009

spoiling for a fight

I blame it on that movie - certainly I was cogitating as I pedaled into town how I had only ever known of Julia Child from comic sketches based on her - usually men pretending to be her. How she was someone I most certainly never wanted to be.  So silly.  So hootingly mockable. Even on top of being just a woman in an apron.  I never watched her cooking show - or only briefly in passing, switching through channels, seeing that, yes, she was nearly as goofy as the spoofs of her wanted me to believe.  But cogitating now as I huffed up the long slow rise toward the fairgrounds.  How she led with her whole self, came through not despite herself but because.  Replaying in my mind how this ridiculous woman (à la Streep) bursts in on the room of disapproving chefs manqués, not quelled by their censure, carrying forward and carrying them all before her with the momentum of her fruity, "Bon Jour!" Not silly, but joyous and thus triumphant.  And this is roiling in my mind.

Plus Fritz has just come home from visiting his parents over the weekend - more of that anon (falling, strokes, hospitals, what will we do to help care for them?) - and one thing I have learned over the years with Fritz - even when he is not weighed down and wordless with feelings and fears too complicated for him to feel:  reconnections are difficult for him.  It is easier with people like those I come from - who are loud with sorrow at parting and verbose about missing each other in the meantime and enthusiastic with welcome.  The noise and exaggeration and throwing our arms about one another carries us up and over the threshhold of feeling (if even for a moment) that one had been abandoned and the lingering loss of separation, the irritation of suddenly more noise and more demands. Fritz cannot be carried up and over.  Fritz is never carried away.  Every step must be deliberated through and every thread of reconnection picked up again and re-attached.

So I am pedaling with an excess of energy.

I've been paying the bills.  There are checks I need to deposit at the bank so that I can carry on.  And when I head out to the car I remember -  CARfree commuting.  It is not raining.  It is not too hot.  I have plenty of time until YoungSon's bus brings him up the hill.  There is absolutely no reason not to take the bike.

And it's not until I'm coasting down into traffic near the high school that I remember, Oh yes, there is a reason.  The bank doesn't have a bike rack.  And they don't let bikers (I mean cyclists because they do allow folks on motorcycles) through their drive-thru.  Well, and why not?  I am so tired of this - this meaning just everything.  I don't want to tie the bike up across the street at the grocery store and trudge up to the corner and over the crosswalk.  Besides, I'm still dressed in the clothes I walked hills in this morning so I don't even want to have to go into the lobby.
I think of Julia.  Whom I am not.  Not nearly so joie-de-vivre.  But let's look at what we've got here in this old bag - anything useful?

Well, we've got this voice that despite my best efforts at droppin' the final g and slowing a bit and slurring in places still sounds rather clipped and exact and over-cultured.  It's rather a pansy-ish sort of voice but could that not be turned to good account?  It's not a trouble-making voice.  It's the voice of Niceness (which is gaggingly but unavoidably true).  And there's that pessimistic nose which gives one the look of a rather superior camel - or a very proper schoolmarm . . .  The face itself is a silly sort of face but I've widely read in British detective novels of the judo-advantage of being underestimated for one's foolish physiognomy (Miss Marple, Lord Peter).  Not that this whole act might not go down so much more like butter if I were hotHOTHOT sultry and/or sneeringly Olympian - but let us not despise the tools we're given.  Of course, the haircut's bad which would doom me if this were France, but I'm wearing a biking helmet anyway . . . and I'm full of a sense of outrage at this world where "housewife" and "soccer mom" are shorthand for "stupid."  And outrage never turns me into a weeper or a screecher.  Outrage frees me from my inner Miss Julie of Romper Room fame.  Allows me to trespass on outrageosity myself.  When I am outraged I ridicule and roll my eyes, my gestures broaden and my tongue is loosed . . .

So I line up in the longest line of the drive-thru.  The line that comes right up by the window.  I want to be able to stand close to this other human who will be standing there.  Oh yes, and I am tall - which means that even with them standing up on their little plinth I'll be able to eye the teller eye-to-eye.  And up close I'll be better able to use every expression of my face and hands to help my cause (since that's pretty much all I've got).  I breathe exhaust fumes waiting for my turn. 

"Hey," I say smiling and waving my deposit slip and the checks, "I need to make a deposit!" Because, of course, this is an ordinary and cheerful thing to do.

The man at the window says, "We don't take bikes through the drive-thru."  (Okay, I knew he was going to say that.  Time to make some theatre - )

"What?"  My face is all confusion - whatever could the problem be?  I cup a hand to the rim of my ear.

He repeats himself a little louder, "It's our policy.  We don't allow bikes through the drive-thru."

I do the exhuastion shrug and the confusion hands.  I open my eyes very wide.  I wrinkle my brow - this is all so unexpectedly strange.  I say, "But why not?"

He says with some asperity, "We don't want you to be hit! by a car!"  (What he's saying:  you stupid, we must protect you from yourself.)

I burst out laughing - it's a silly trilly sort of laugh - but this really is so delightfully ridiculous.  I say, "But I bike. On the road.  With cars."

He looks uncomfortable.  He shrugs - what can I do? say his hands.  "It's our policy." (which means: I don't have a good reason, but NO.)

"Look . . . ," I say, trying to help him out of his difficulties - he is after all  working so hard to be courteous - with such obvious effort, ". . . couldn't I just proceed at my own risk?"  We both know this silly policy is ridiculous for road-braving bikin' mommas like myself.  I smile like the nice, school-volunteering lady that I am.

"I'll have to go ask my manager and see if she will let me," he says and makes a show of locking up his till.  I know this is a ploy to change the dynamic - which means I'm getting to him.  Except I'm in these clothes that I've now biked hills as well as walked hills in.  And the haircut.  Oh, carp (like catfish, you know?).  I should have done the Cycle Chic thing.  Serious disadvantage if I have to face the She-Manager in her jacket and coiffure and me in formless activewear and my bookworm glasses.

A young lady teller comes over and opens up the next till.  She gives me a glance of scorn.  I smile sweetly at her,  Just wait, chickie - you're scheduled for appearance out here someday sooner than you can imagine.

"Hello.  May I help you?"  she speaks into her microphone.

"Hello. Yes.  You mean me?"

She rolls her eyes and looks over my head at the monster truck in the far lane.  The van behind me pulls out and gets in line over there, too.  We all know it's going to be awhile.

And then he's back.  "My manager is busy in a meeting and I don't want to disturb her with - " he makes a little, dismissive gesture.  "I'll help you this ONE TIME, but you'll have to come inside next time.  It's just our policy."

"Humph," I say (I am good at humphing).  "Sounds like a policy that needs to be changed." 

So we have a little victory for the little woman, the little cycliste.  I look down on the top of his head.  As he takes my money.  And deposits it in my account. 

Is this the end? 

What if the cycliste were to come back again?  In all her Cycle Chic-ity  . . .  okay, okay, at least in high-heeled boots and the good jacket anyway? With recording device and notebook in one pocket?  And camera strapped over her chest like a bandolier? 

Is it time for the cycliste to tie her bike to the bank's handrail, merrily ask for the manager and shake her hand, burbling something about, "So nice to have a bank here in town . . . so convenient . . . actually doing this series of articles about bike accessibility around town (which actually I am, though begun as a celebration of biking here, rather than a critique) . . . In fact, was in just last week. And one of your tellers - very courteous - but he said it was your policy?  And why exactly is that?  Do you mind?" as the cycliste clicks on her recorder. 

Is this the face of a trouble-maker? 

Of course not.


Mrs. Organic said...

It is the beautiful face of a woman who knows how to get things done and make people think it was their own idea. I can't wait for you to go back as a "reporter" - if nothing else they ought to get their own bike rack or perhaps have one lane for bikers? I mean don't they let motorcycles through? The only real difference between a bike and a BIKE is that one is quite the noise-maker.

Emma J said...

So I get that you're saying I need to be more the noisemaker? I think you're right.

Filigree said...

I love the name of your blog and the concept : )
Will have to watch Julia, which I had hitherto dismissed as unnecessary.

Sometimes an imaginary bicycle is the best bicycle; one must always have at least one.

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