Anything can go wrong when you think you’ve everything figured out to the last minute detail. And when you’re having that feeling that you’ve dodged a problem or avoided a bad situation, you suddenly find yourself in thick of same, or somehow being confronted by it, rendering credence that even the best-laid plans sometimes do not work out!
My effort to evade public transport, or any mass transport system for that matter, came a cropper and I found myself using the same means I had done my utmost best to avoid! With the coronavirus out there, you don’t know who may sneeze or give a wheedling cough and have all passengers contracting the virus – provided it has spread this far.
But how did this happen?
Well, to begin with, the best option would have to work from home and be as safe. But with the laptop having taken a sneeze the other week, and went dead internally, that option was out.
So I take out the old Raleigh bike. It has seen the better of days, with welding and shouldering done here and there on its frame, just to prolong its longevity; otherwise, it is still in good condition. So I inflate the wheels with maximum air pressure, take a bath and I was good to cycle to town, which, from home to my reckoning, is about twenty-five or so kilometers away.
The first few hundred meters of cycling were the ‘induction’ stage, for I don’t use the bicycle much after a migraine attack a couple of years back, though I do get mild forms which leave me feeling dizzy. And the same applies to motorbikes or any open carriages doing a speed.
With the ‘induction’ stage over, and my head okay with the speed I adopted, I estimated I would be in town under forty minutes, unless I made few stops of slackened the pace of cycling in case of a hilly incline or congested or busy roads – the dirt roads are shorter than following the tarmac roads all the way.
A fellow friend of mine, with a motorbike, slows down next to me, and as we are going the same direction, but not destination, he engages me in a bit of chit-chat and expresses his surprise seeing me with a bicycle. He comments I’m an oddity on the road, to which my refrain is that necessity had made me opt for safer transport means and avoid this coronavirus. He’s still not done and says of someone disposing of a motorbike for about 30k.
“Bicycles belong to the museums. That thing looks ancient like you inherited it from your grandfather,” he says.
I extol my bike as a great workhorse that in the past faithfully took me wherever I wanted, and for the same reason, it was taking me where I wanted. He gave up, engaged gear and left me suffocating in fumes of his wake.
I had done a quarter of the journey, about seven kilometers at most when I decided to check time, and perhaps motivate myself by setting a deadline to have arrived at my destination. So I fish for the phone from my pocket. Nothing in the pocket! I apply sudden braking that the rear wheel gave a squelching protest while raising a cloud of dust and leaving behind a furrow with burned tread marks.
I search all the pockets. Except for the wallet and the notepad, there is no trace of my two phones. In my hurry to get out, I had forgotten about them.
I reason whether to proceed with the journey, and come for them in the evening, or return for them. I do the latter for a reason or two. I have a pending loan to settle from a mobile lender today, and apply for a fresh one as well…these hard economic times are sucking many into debt distress, and I’m no exception.
I stop at a bike mechanic shop to have a bolt or two fixed. He’s kind of a friend from the days I was seeking his services… five years back to be exact. He simply looks at its ancient frame and shakes his head in disbelief.
“This thing looks like the one Jomo Kenyatta used when he was a meter reader during the colonial days. You mean to tell me you bought it from an auction market?” he asks.
I smile inanely. “I’m inquiring the prices of your frames, you know,” I tell him, and he suddenly becomes serious and businesslike quoting different prices for different brands.
Anyway, I have the services I requested, and cycle back home, this time taking familiar shortcuts I recall. Five years back, there was an open field on one side of the road I’m using, but today the place looks different. The field had been partitioned into minuscule parcels, and houses of all kinds sprouted up. The road ends into a cul-de-sac and I had to retrace my way back.
Given the ominous rain clouds with a promise of a Noachian deluge, I saw no point in using the bike having fetched the phones. The public means I tried to avoid are the same I have to use!
And hopefully no coronavirus!