I’m back to riding my bike to work every day which means I’m back to being left in the dust by crazy super fit people who have educated opinion about chia seeds, or it means my blood pressure is constantly about 6 times higher than it used to be because apparently the people who block aisles at the store learned about bikes.
I’m not really an impatient person, and I’m pretty good at finding a safe and convenient way around people (and fantasizing about flipping them off as I go by). But I don’t always want to swerve into the dirt or mud to get around these happy chatting pairs of people who take up the entire path. It’s the same situation as the people blocking the aisle at the grocery store. Yes, I could leave the aisle, walk down the next one over, and come into the blocked one from the top, but those are extra steps that I don’t want to take. I want to find pasta sauce at a pace that is not dictated by criminally chatty families and oblivious pods of people blocking the good veggie burgers.
I need a bell.
I remember wanting one as a kid. I rode my bike a lot because that’s what children do if they want to simulate some sense of freedom in a world that will systematically suffocate any real sense of it beyond that. I also liked cats and kind of wanted to be one, which seems unrelated but patience will reveal why bicycles, wanting to be a cat, and being powerless are inextricably bound.
I used to hiss at people. I was a tiny hissing child. Picture a little chicken nugget of humanity, shiny gold hair and stupidly disproportionate front teeth, and this little bundle of future problems would ride their little bicycle and hiss–in a way I thought sounded catlike–at anyone who got in the way of my riding. Considering I was bad at riding my bike and afraid of cars, that meant a lot of hissing at people as I, a staggering 36 inches of ferocity and moist throat sounds, came up behind them on the sidewalk.
I don’t really want to hiss at people anymore. I think it would send the wrong idea. For example, if I was stuck behind a little tour group that has apparently never heard that there are actual people who exist and have lives and hammers in their office, then I wouldn’t want to hiss like I’m feral. I don’t know what kind of message that would send, but I’m certain it would communicate that I’m the type of person who hisses at strangers on my bicycle on the way to work, and that’s not something I can deal with in a small town. Instead, my options are to creep up to the group, calling out “excuse me” until it sounds like I’m being aggressively polite, or I can get a bell and ring for their attention like the world is my customer service counter.
I like the bell better than meekly trying to polite my way through the exhausting human blockages of the world, but I wonder what other applications a bell could have. I’m a broke teacher, so anything I buy should probably have multiple uses, so now I’m wondering how else I could use a bike bell.
Would it work over the internet? If I see someone with a really shitty idea on Twitter, can I just ring my bell at them to let them know that thing they said is just in the way and they should feel bad about it.
If my cat is stuck to my shoelaces like a velcro monster, can I ring my bell to tell her it’s time to separate so I can walk and live and finish cooking before dinner burns. Would it work like a P.E. teacher’s whistle?
If my students are being too wild, can I ring my bell to get them to stop? Is there a custom bell I could get that, instead of ringing, would just be my voice yelling “nahhhhhhhhhhh.”
I bet it would. I bet the bell would be a really special investment with returns proportional to its pitch. I bet a bike bell would let me take some control back, let me part of bicycler sea, let me ring in the new day of order and justice and me not having to loudly say “excuse me” eleven times before plowing through the mud to get around. I need a bike bell because I need to loudly take control back from the people who don’t even know how often they take it away in the most annoying ways possible.