Falling at 0 mph.

I recently setup a Facebook account and reluctantly joined the expanding herd of social networkers.  This is big news for the likes of me. 

I have a cellphone, but it’s the cheapest one I could find…a pay-as-you-go setup used so rarely that when people ask for my number, all I can provide them is a blank stare.  My phone came with 600 minutes of air time, and nine months later I still have 537 minutes available.  I have neither desire nor use for a Blackberry.  And pagers are not allowed within my personal safety zone.  

I like being connected to the world, but on my terms only.  Should you call my home, I may not answer simply because I don’t want to.  As my sister says, “The phone is a convenience, not an obligation.”  

I digress. 

On Facebook, I’ve become reacquainted with friends from my long-ago past.  High school chums and college pals have friended me, and I’ve been perusing their personal information and photos.  I examine the snapshots that they’ve posted and I read their occasional messages and declarations.  While some of their life journeys pique my interest, the majority exist in what I consider a Melba toast world.  Familiar and comfortable and slightly enjoyable, their daily metronomes march to a ¾ beat.  There’s no syncopation.  No salsa. 

Few of these folks have recounted tales of adventures, and even fewer offer illuminating and insightful observations.  Their comments are banal platitudes of monotony that make me wince, roll my eyes and think that there, for the grace of the Great Pumpkin, go I.  It’s all about their children’s soccer games, fieldtrips and report cards.  I read about shopping for birthday parties and religion classes and all manner of minutia that rings in my ears like the mwa mwa mwa mwamwa of Charlie Brown’s teacher.  They live in the suburb of Bland. 

I want to reach through cyberspace, grab their shoulders and shake.  They need a swig of Tabasco, a moment of  b-a-d, an instant of discomfort.  Smoke a joint.  Spend a day braless.  Visit Starbucks with bedhead.  Adding a snippet of discomfort or fear to the day provides rich contrast and creates the colorful tapesty of an exciting life.  People don’t march about this world fearlessly and in straight lines.  We lurch haltingly, staggering to retain our balance, trying the left fork and then reversing course to go right.  Along the way we laugh at our mistakes and relive our adventures.  It’s the unexpected that flavors our reality and allows us to triumph.

I remember years ago when I started cycling.  I dabbled a bit with sensible gear.  First I bought a used road bike.  Then I equipped both it and me.  A rear rack.  A trunk bag.  I learned to change a flat…first the front tire and then the rear.  I stepped into lycra bike shorts, first with underwear and then without.  Reluctantly, I adjusted to being seen in public wearing tight clothing.  Finally I transitioned from toe baskets to clipless bike pedals and shoes.  I worried about being caught in the pedals, unable to unclip fast enough to avert a hard fall. 

Friends told me I’d certainly topple several times, but that I’d be fine.  They warned me about the proverbial 0 mph fall.  A rite of cycling passage, they’d all had their share of such tumbles as they grew accustomed to being attached to their bikes.

On a quiet, paved back road that skirts a rural flank of Montana’s Clark Fork River, I learned that like a Weeble, I can wobble and get back up.  I was slowly adjusting to my new pedal/shoe combination and had yet to fall.  Riding slowly, I missed a fork in the road and maneuvered a sharp about-face.  A crack in the pavement, a tap on the brake, and I slowed too much to maintain my balance.  Going 0 mph, I fell.

It hurt a bit.  I picked up a few scratches.  But I was fine.  The fall was a risk…and when it finally came, I weathered it…learned a few things – and continued cycling.  Since then I’ve ridden thousands of miles and have always been clipped to my pedals.  I’ve fallen at times, and in fact – I fell this weekend.  

But the falls don’t scare me.  Risk is fun…it’s spicy and hot and it keeps me engaged. 

Forget the Melba toast.  I’ll take a 0 mph fall anytime.

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