When Shit Happens

4 07 2010

Some days you’re the bird. Some days, you’re the statue.

So, what do you do when you’re on your way to work, and suddenly find yourself covered in more shit than you could picture coming out of an ostrich?

Regular readers of this blog may be interested to know that the avain offender was a common seagull, not a woodpecker. He got my skirt & head too.

Step one: scour E-ville’s unusually clean streets for something to wipe off the chunkage. I found a single piece of newspaper about a block away from the initial incident.

Step two: ride to city hall, pushing bike through the throngs of children (it was Canada Day, so there were literally thousands of families crowding the square), trying not to rub shoulders with anyone.

Step three: immerse entire left side of body in the cold fountain, regardless of the 15C air temperature, to remove any remaining gull residue. Splash around and rub hair & face manically, emerge half dripping, half dry, and shake hair to scare off any gawking tourists.

Step four: ride away triumphantly with the knowledge that having just been shit upon, the rest of your day will be better in comparison. I was smiling within 5 blocks, and dry by the time I got to work, 20 minutes later.

Living without a steel cage forces us to engage with public space in case we need a contingency plan if shit happens. On & near my regular commuter route, I’ve explored dozens of places to take shelter in case of a severe storm (ever been caught in hail?), escape routes if I encounter a bad scene, and public restrooms for obvious and not so obvious reasons. Life can be messy, and it’s nice to have places to clean up.

Last week, I had stopped to take some pictures when I heard my bike fall over. To my disgust, I found that one of my grips & brake levers were embedded in rotten apples.

Nope, don't like them apples. Notice the brake lever imprint in the top one.

Step one: don’t panic. Use leaves to wipe off as much apple chunkage as possible.

Step two: ride to a little used, bicycle accessible bathroom. A security guard actually directed me (bike in hand) to the brand new washrooms in Louise McKinney Park.

Cleaning up the bike in a lovely, though underused modern facility.

Step three: using water and TP, clean everything. Don’t forget to air dry to prevent corrosion!

Dry thoroughly.

Step four: ride to EBC to disassemble levers and clean out remaining apple bits. Swear off applesauce for the foreseeable future.

Step five: ride to 99th street to pick a rose and rub petals on hands, grips & gloves to cover any remaining odors. Ride away triumphantly, smelling of roses.

The moral of the story: there's no security like a bicycle accessible bathroom.

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The Woodpecker Laughs Last

3 06 2010

Living at the speed of bike strikes the perfect balance between being able to take in all the lovely little details in the environment you’re moving through with enough mobility to always have new places to explore. Some of the best moments in cycling are those little things that normally get overlooked from the perspective of a steel cage.

For example, meet this little guy:

He is a pileated woodpecker, and he's not that little.

I was leisurely riding down a bougie boulevard and noticed him digging holes in someone’s lawn. He didn’t seem bothered that I was there, so I stopped and watched him forage.

Woodpecker fishing for subterranean snacks.

He was flicking dirt all over the place, and looked like he was eating something. As I continued taking pictures of him at unusually close range, I started to feel weird about being a stupid human stressing out this poor bird who was just trying to get some grub(s) during a rough season. Then, as if on cue, a BMW pulled up behind me and stopped to see what I was looking at.

The woodpecker still seems pretty unconcerned.

The driver rolled her window down and started taking pictures as well, and we both watched the woodpecker while it more or less ignored us. Another vehicle approached and slowed and I rolled my eyes at the prospect of a wildlife traffic jam a la Jasper National Park on Jasper Avenue, but it didn’t stick around long. Meanwhile, the lady in the BMW was inching closer and closer to the woodpecker.

Profile of an urban woodpecker.

Eventually, the woodpecker had his fill of either us or the creepy crawlies and hopped up a nearby tree. The woman backed her car up towards and me and said “That was amazing! Thank-you so much for stopping. I would never have seen that if I hadn’t seen you first.”

That left me sort of speechless, and I made awkward conversation with her (still sitting in her running car) about birds for a couple of minutes. “Thanks again!” she said as she started to roll up the window and drive away, when suddenly the woodpecker swooped down from the tree, flying only a few feet directly over our heads, and shit on the BMW.