I want to ride my bicycle

Coming back from Japan, I thought I would be relived to have four wheels and a motor to get me around, instead of having to bike to each destination through rain, snow, and disgusting saturating humidity. And I was, for the most part, because Los Angeles is a car city, and the only places I could realistically bike to in my neighborhood were gas stations and grocery stores. And after biking to the latter, inside the store, I would inevitably forget my transportation and take advantage of the “buy 2 milks and 3 cereal boxes, get one carton of eggs free” deals, and end up in the parking lot in quite the dilly of a pickle.
But now that I’ve moved, I’m a bit closer to work and a bit closer to grocery stores that I can hit on a daily, small-item basis. Most influential, perhaps, is the fact that street parking is near impossible to come by, and when I get a Rock Star Parking Space, I tend to not want to give it up for a measly carton of eggs down the road., even if I DO get them for free.
I originally bought a $30 mountain bike off of craigslist that kind of only had one brake and looked a little like a death trap, but it got me from place to place. A few weeks after purchase, however, the tires cracked into a hundred pieces. I’m not even joking. This was an old bike. Well, one of the real reasons I was such a cheap ass about it was mostly because of the whole unemployed thing, but also mostly because I half expected to give up biking as a ridiculous and unnecessary whim. But my constant wishes that my tires HADN’T actually disintegrated was enough to get me to the shop for a tune up.
So I found a place relatively close to home employed by three delightful Mexican Americans who basically told me, yes, they could fix and replace tires and other necessary parts on my bike, but for what it would cost, I might as well just get a better one. They happened to have one there a guy had just dropped off, and I could have it for the low, low price of $180. I tried to haggle, but unfortunately, I come from the Peter Griffin School of Not Knowing How to Haggle, and I wouldn’t have put it past me to try and get them up to $280.
They asked me what I wanted to do with my old bike, and I told them to set it on fire. I don’t think they believed me, though, so I joked that I would leave it downtown for some crackhead to steal, and one of the Mexicans muttered that they probably wouldn’t even want it. I liked them.
Now, I’d read up on the place online, and in addition to tales of bike-fixing prowess, there were a few angry reviews that this place was all about upselling and only caring about money, but it’s like…can I blame them? They’re a business. We’re all just trying to stay afloat here.
It did, I guess, prepare me with to strength to politely decline ridiculously expensive headlights, helmets, and bike horns shaped like dragons. This is a huge feat for me, the person who usually buys a product if the vendor gives me a free sample, just because I don’t want them to feel bad that they wasted food cost on me. I am also the person who recently bought a video game (on a bit of a sale) because the guy in the store next to me said he knew I’d like it, and I didn’t want to insult his recommendation by returning it to the shelf. And he could have been watching me walk to the checkout, so don’t even say I could have dumped it then, because I couldn’t have!
Ahem. Where was I?
Well, after intending to purchase a new tire, and walking away with a slightly impulsive $180 bike, I ended up loving it and being totally satisfied with my purchase, and I’ve been biking to work and to my friends’ houses all while saving my kickass parking spots in front of my condo.
Well, about a week ago, my front tire went flat — a $10 inside tube replacement. I chucked my bike into my car and headed back to the store. They remembered me and joked a little about my old bike, and set to work replacing my tube, as I sheepishly walked around the store, picking up the expensive headlight that I actually do need, because it gets dark early here.
The owner set off on a new spiel, offering me the latest in a line of water bottles, and nice as I’m sure they were, I worked up all the images I could of me eating ramen for the next few weeks and comically out-turning my pockets, and I politely declined. A man came in while I waited, trying to sell off his used bike to them for a ridiculously high price, and they went back and forth for several minutes, in what was surely a polite, normal exchange, but seemed to me like shameless, unabashed, cutthroat lowballing on both sides. I could never be a salesman.
The owner turned to me and asked how much I’d paid for my used bike, in an attempt to help his argument, I assumed, and I gulped, hoping he wasn’t giving me some secret sign to lie to the man to help the store with their sale. I said $180. I guess it helped? We’re all just trying to stay afloat here.
When my bike was finished, the three guys came over to present it to me, and asked if I had any questions. I tried not to show my glaring bike ignorance, so I just mentioned something that had been terrifying me occasionally. Sometimes when I turn a corner or move my right leg in too fast, my pant leg gets caught in the gear, and I’m always able to get it free, but I’m sure one time I won’t, and it will be the time I’m forced to choose between having my pants ripped off or careening into an oncoming car’s windshield, or possibly both, scarring all passing motorists for life. Or…turning them on for life? You be the judge. (Hint: Scarring.)
Anyway, luckily for all of us the owner cut me off right when after I said “sometimes my pant leg gets caught –” and he exclaimed, “I’ve got just the thing for you,” and ran behind the counter. He emerged seconds later with a sort of ridiculous piece of velcro and reflective tape, and demonstrated on the bottom of my cuff how to restrain my pant legs.
I’ll be honest. It was kind of silly. I pretended to think about it, and, in the nicest way possible, shook my head, and muttered something about passing on it this time, but I’d think about it.
“But it really is easy to use,” he insisted. “I’d be worried that you’re out there without it.”
He was playing hard ball. “Um, I think I can just tuck my jeans into my sock. It’s really not a huge deal.”
“Are you sure?” he pressed on.
“I’m sure.”
“It’s just so easy.”
“I really don’t think I need it.”
He looked at me like I was crazy one final time, and then said, “I was going to give it to you for free.”
Now I’m in another dilly of a pickle. Free. Free is good. But if I accept it now, it will seem like I was just holding out because I’m a cheapskate, which I kind of am, but seriously? Was I even going to use this silly thing? But free. It would be stupid not to take something free. But we’re all just TRYING TO STAY AFLOAT. Is it even RIGHT to take something for free from this fledgling business?
Finally, I decided the least rude of two evils was to just take the ridiculous pant leg tie thing.
“Are you sure? I feel like I’m stealing from you.” I said, sheepishly taking it from his hands.
“No, no, this is a gift. This would be stealing.” And he grabbed an expensive lock, shoved it in his shirt and walked out the back door. I think he just really likes demonstrations. Or maybe he doesn’t think English is my first language.
Well, I thanked them and went on my way, feeling happy that I had gotten a free prize for being, I don’t know, a repeat customer? Not a mean haggler like the man in there before me? Whatever.
I tried the reflective velcro strap on when I got home, and it is kinda handy.
Maybe I will use it.

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