The helicopter, the chain condom, peanut butter-filled pretzels, velcro straps: all fine examples of crafty human engineering, creativity and science at their best.
To me, ear plugs have been the flagship, the stalwart finest sample of self-induced peace of mind. Why, you wonder? Well, what’s not to be marveled about? They have a foamy complexion, their yellow and pink/red hues evoke candy corn comfort; pretty enough to the eye and dashing as I parade around the house or office, cocooned in my own warm hum of silence. I sneakily keep them under my pillow, away from my kid’s grubby hands, and ready to psyche the incautious tooth fairy. She seeks for teeth, finds the plugs. Puzzled, she leaves me alone with not coins but sweet dreams and deep slumber, adequately shielded from the wife’s decibel-worthy snoring.
The truth is, it protects me from life’s insulting ennui. Allow me to elaborate.
Perhaps to many readers’ surprise, I actually have a job outside of the Embrocation keiretsu. Though in cubicle-town America, it’s a good job, challenging, pays the bills and keeps me busy, as with most inhabitants of such sordid environments, I have to live with a few characters around me, to say the least. A squat, neckless female creature with a high-pitched voice who can’t shut up about the most inane matters is one of them. When she’s on, everyone in a 50 meter radius is subjected to her endless claptrap of nothingness, a veritable distracting dissertation in garbage and futility. Ear plugs protect me from the distraction. Or my cube neighbor, a very nice guy who eats at his desk in a very expressive way, to put it mildly. On a daily basis I hear him lapping his food, smacking, sucking, noises that conjure images of a large animal at a trough. I can’t help but imagine him sitting inside a dumpster or a large container, filled with paste-like nourishment, using his fingers and licking the walls and picking through the fish eggs, possum entrails and chicken heads in a food-induced frenzy. It’s wicked disgusting and distracting, and my colorful little friends indulge my inner peace with dutiful collaboration.
Now what the hell does it have to do with bicycles? Everything. As a kid I had issues with hyperactivity (or ADHD, just please don’t say this around me), traits that I have been carrying throughout my adulthood. Proper concentration took me a while; I just couldn’t snap to it at a moment’s notice. The smallest peep would send my focus elsewhere, millions of images playing in my head, thinking of everything else but the here and the now. In a sense it was a very miserable case of involuntary self sabotage. The quick wits were poison to structure, alternate thinking was not equitable to proper learning, and unfortunately it was hammered into me that rigid environments were kryptonite to a vivid, fertile brain. The endless energy that allowed me to engage in many activities simultaneously, seeking challenges, getting beaten up by normalcy, being curious, sometimes got me into a lot of trouble. I was lucky to have realized early on that enthralling distractions were gonna be my thing. And they had to be rigorous in their physical nature, daunting in the efforts required, intense, and dangerous. As in bike racing. The element of speed, the perilous essence of tightly-packed individuals, each part of a team, each team with a well-concocted plot to outgun the opposition, was gold to my spirit. Awareness in haste, calculations on the go, timing moves craftily were extremely fulfilling when the outcome was right. The years of trouble through school, the restlessness, the lack of sleep, they all found a channel. And through that channel came confidence, strength, skills, oh mad skillz. I had something I’d carry with me forever, bicycles as a very constructive crutch that propelled things forward and kept me away from the usual vices of the teenager years. Damn, I had to be sober to ride. I had to ride, period.
As I aged I made a point to acknowledge and subdue the extra energy with my own resources. I got smarter, learned languages, finished grad school, and realized, much to my own amazement, that thousands were just like me. Some had less fortunate endings, others were lucky enough to find a passion, find a stable ground in our favorite sport. Lucky me, luckier us.
*Historically, embrocation and I have been together for a long time. It’s such a wonderful invention in its Mad Alchemy.
**Ear plugs (and bicicletas), however, are mad awesome at keeping my brain alchemy balanced and right.
***Originally published 1/2011