Friday, September 18, 2009

Ignorance and Laziness

"Any Bike Shop, this is ABW.” Unless I’m having an exceptionally shitty day, I normally manage to say that with a smile in my voice, and I was having an OK day.

“Uhm, yeah, hello?” There is the sound of a child or children screaming in the background. My OK day may be taking a turn for the worse here.

“Any Bike Shop, hello?” I’m still giving this caller the benefit of the doubt.

“Yeah, hi. How much do you charge to straighten a tyre?” Yep, my OK day is sliding right down that slippery slope. Really, I hear the straighten tyre thing often enough, you’d think I’d just get over it, but I can’t. It positively makes my teeth hurt. In my defense, I haven’t stooped to the level of my old mentor, Draco, who would launch into the conversation as if the customer had used the proper terminology. He’d sometimes talk about tubular cement and making sure the base tape showed evenly on both sides of the rim, or maybe he’d talk about contacting the manufacturer about the molding process required to center the tread between the beads, all to the consternation of the customer. Once that consternation was so awkward as to be undeniable, he’d say, “OH! What you meant to say was wheel.” The latter statement would drip with cruel sarcasm and the customer would be cowed into submission for the remainder of the conversation. It was a thing to behold. But, as I said, I haven’t stooped to that level.

“Also, how much to run those new, oh, whatdya call them, brake lines?” The child’s/children’s volume has increased and my masseters are aching like my quads would if I was headed up Alpe d’Huez.

“Well, I always hesitate to give estimates without seeing the bike, but a wheel true is 15 bucks per wheel; a new brake cable is 4 and 15 for the installation, which includes adjustment of the brake.”

“OK, then how much for a new one of those, whatdya call them, the little wheels, the little spiky wheels by the back tyre?”

I tried to say “cassette” and “sprockets” twice each, only to be interrupted each time by another misguided attempt to describe to me a part for which the owner didn’t know the right name. Despite all this evidence to the contrary, I really am a patient person, but this was pushing it. I have no patience for being interrupted by the questioner while trying to answer his/her question. I said something to the effect that, maybe it would be best to just bring the bike in.

“Oh, but that’s something you think you could fix.” Lady, give me enough time, money, and beer, and I’ll fix a rainy day.

“Yes, I’m sure that’s something we could take care of for you.” The screaming in the background intensifies. I hear the woman talking and realize she is no longer paying any attention to the phone in her hand. I hear her say something about slamming fingers in a door, and I can’t suppress a small smile of satisfaction, even though my frustration with the conversation had more to do with the woman’s lack of intelligence than her child’s/children’s behavior. I feel bad for feeling satisfied.

“Well, maybe I should let you go.” I agree with her and hang up the phone.

So many things went wrong with that conversation. I’m an exceptionally intelligent person, so there isn’t a lot about which I can’t converse intelligently. I’m not a doctor, but when I go, I know what my body parts are called. I’m not an auto tech, but when I take my car in, I know the difference between a water pump and an alternator. The issue is, I don’t see bikes as being as complex as the human body or an automobile. Despite my intelligence, I view my mastery of the bicycle as having much, much more to do with experience. I’ve known crackerjack wrenches that were dumb as rocks with regard to anything other than wrenching. They just loved bikes and immersed themselves in them. I don’t see why everybody can’t learn enough about their bikes so that, when the time comes, they can accurately describe what the bike is or isn’t doing. The issue then becomes not a question of ignorance, but of laziness. My patience for ignorance, while small, is larger than my patience for laziness. Just pay attention to your fucking bike and listen to the words coming out my mouth, and we’ll be just fine.

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