My alarm goes off at 6:30am but I am in no shape to cycle on two-hours’ worth of sleep. I snooze it until 9:30am for I think 5 hours is the social minimum I need.
Once I’m operational, and excited, I rush off to Yellowstone. I get asked by a passing couple to take a photo of them by the entrance sign. A half an hour conversation ensues (obviously!) and they decide to give me some money as they believe it’s simply impossible to travel without it in “this country.”
“For whatever you need.”
I have already gotten used to people giving me cash so it’s no big surprise, but seriously, if this continues at this rate, I will have to change the name of my trip to “That MILLIONAIRE of a Cycling Chick…” LOL!
I finally shut up, we part our ways and I’m ready to enter the park. One stroke of a pedal later, I hear a loud snap. A spoke popped! How lucky that I am STILL in West Yellowstone and only 5 minutes away from the closest bike shop! I know how to adjust the spokes but not how to replace a broken one, so to the nearest workshop I go.
Do you know that state of mind when you feel really stupid? Well, multiply that by a thousand, and you’ll have an idea of what kind of embarrassment I put myself in at the shop:
“Good morning. I need some help with my bike. Is your mechanic here?”
“My spoke just broke and I need to have it replaced. Is your mechanic going to be around anytime soon?”
“Eeeerrrrr… I could really use some assistance, I only know how to adjust spokes but not how to replace them.”
After another moment of uncomfortable silence, the man behind the counter finally replies:
“I’ll need your wheel to be able to help. But tell me, what does a mechanic look like, *exactly*? People keep coming in, asking whether a repairman is around and I’d really like to know *what* a bike mechanician looks like. You know, I’ve been doing this for over 50 years.”
I want to die and wish the ground could swallow me up.
Here I am - BIG advocate for diversity, rejecting stereotypes, challenging preconceived ideas and saying no to discrimination – judging this man through my ugly glasses of ageism. Assuming - just because of his age - what he might or might not be fit to do. Putting him in a stiff box of societal “norm labels.” Something that I hate and am annoyed by because people CONSTANTLY wrongly assume things about me: my nationality, my sexuality, my identity and what not, to name a few.
I am given labels I do not identify with and every time I straighten them out, it’s one “coming out” after another. It gets tiring after a while. Not that I care that much, but still. It’s just annoying that people see a very narrow black & white options sheet in front of them and forget about all the shades of grey…
Back to the bike shop, and the lovely older man behind the counter: I can feel, in every cell in my body, that I have hurt him. Not offended, but hurt. I think hurting people’s feelings is worse, it makes me want to cry. I am yet another person whose narrow-minded and ageist shit this guy has to put up with. Yet another person he needs to justify himself before: he’s been doing this for over 50 years and he’s GOOD at it!
I cannot imagine myself blabbing to him about my trip and my challenge. Why would he care what this PREJUDICED cycling chick has to say…? I have insulted and hurt him and now I am going to ask him to forfeit his fee to support my narrow-minded self? I don’t think so. I want to give him ALL my money and beg for his forgiveness. Money can’t buy forgiveness you say? Given how ashamed I feel, I am willing to give it a try. This is MY emergency that all the money-giving people kept giving me cash for. Not food, not medical emergency, but this. And the guy should probably charge me double so that I pay for my ignorance in addition to the new spoke…
The bill amounts to… 10 dollars. Really? Is that it? Can I donate 10 more and we’ll call it even? 30 and we’ll forget about my misfortunate start to this relationship?
Off I go, grateful that there’s been quite a lot of fortune in this misfortune after all, for it could have been a LOT worse. I FINALLY make it into the park. It’s beautiful, it’s wild… it gives me a flat tyre 10km after the entrance. It’s the same wheel so I am afraid it might the faulty spoke that got wild again. I decide it’s best to get back to the shop and up that donation a bit for I really do not want to have my wheel disintegrate.
I go back, I have it fixed, I get back on the road.
I decide, in the meantime, about a gift I *absolutely* need to send this man. Do you know the “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirts? Well, I am going to get one for him that says “this is what a mechanic looks like.”
In five colours, for every day of the week: so that he never has to put up with this world’s narrow-minded shit again.