For all things Tooks, and some things, er, relating to other people. As well as to other things. You get the picture.

15 June 2007

Toots 88

Whew. This is a tough one. Well, here goes nothing:

Yesterday, I cycled to class on my lovely lady's superfast Masi bicicleta italiana. Here she is: Che bella!

And here's the bike:

So superfast. The great thing about riding a superfast electric blue Italian bike is that, aside from going superfast and feeling supercool, you get to say "Ciao, bambini!" and "Ciao, bella!" and "Bongiorno, papa!" to everyone on your way to wherever it is that you're going, like Dennis Christopher in _Breaking Away_.

Only problem is, since you're going superfast, no one can see you. They just see a blue streak and hear a Doppler-affected moan rocketing away. They probably assume it's a Vespa-mounted hipster high on Starbucks and Modest Mouse. But they're wrong. It's me, superfast.

Anyhoo, yesterday I cycled to class. And I borrowed my lovely lady's special spandex bike shorts with the special keister padding since my keister has been a little tender due to lots of cycling. [Important note: I wear mesh shorts over the bike shorts. I'm not _that_ absurd.] Because the keister and associated hardware become somewhat constricted by said shorts when not riding, I brought along a change of clothes so that I could be more comfortable during the 3.5 hour agony that is class during the summer session.

Ok, so there's the extended background info. Now for the main event: Having endured class for another day, I headed for the bathroom afterwards and into the handicapped stall to re-don my cyclingwear. Only to discover that, horror of horrors, the only other man in my class of 17 people, was already in the bathroom! Now, for normal people, this probably wouldn't be an issue. But since it's me, I suddenly felt a wee bit embarrassed to be changing clothes in the bathroom. The activity usually involves unpleasant details like slinging clothes over the top of the stall, talking to myself, precise adjustment of the shorts and hardware, and my feet-in-socks touching the bathroom floor (which is supergross to me). One final potential point for sheepishness: the keister padding is purple on the inside.

So there I was, forced with an uncomfortable predicament. Should I just go for it, and hope my erstwhile classmate will hurry up and finish at the urinal before I get to any embarrassing parts in the changing process? Or should I pretend to need to make a number two while I wait him out? No question, it had to be the latter. That way, he'll finish quicker since everybody knows you're not supposed to speak to a pooping person. So I drop trow and pull up a chair, so to speak.

Two things happen. First, a bunch of noisy farts come flying out. I honestly did not see them coming at all. Out of nowhere. In retrospect, I chalk them up to the Doritos, hummus and rice krispy treats that a classmate provided for snack. Deliciousness on the way in, deafening thunder on the way out.

That was bad enough, but you know, Murphy's Law, and everybody farts, so I figure I can live with this. My classmate will understand and while he may snicker to himself on the way out (as I definitely would have done had the roles been reversed), it probably won't change our non-relationship. I decide at that point that since he's leaving momentarily, it'll be ok. I can get changed, get on the bike, and, going superfast, get on with my life as planned.

Only, I couldn't, because the second thing happened. My classmate began to talk to me. "Hey, I wanted to tell you," he began, and I swear I am not making this up (too humiliating), "I really admire the way you pull your thoughts together in the comments you make in class."

"Oh, uh, thanks," I managed, dumbstruck at the fact that not only was he violating cardinal rule number one, don't talk to a pooper, he was trying to have a serious conversation about class after I just blasted a hole in the plumbing thanks to a diabolical conspiracy by chickpeas, Frito Lays, and General Mills.

"Yeah, I noticed that in the first class we took together, and I really noticed it this time, too. I think it's great."

"Ok, thanks. I appreciate that." Wow. I wondered how this could get more awkward.

A merciful silence descended for about three seconds, just long enough to start to feel that the encounter might be over, and that my conversant would zip, wash and exit.

"Yep. Got a really busy weekend coming up."

Are you serious? Seriously? You really expect me to respond to that? Considering what has just transpired here between us? It's one thing if you're paying me an ill-timed compliment; I won't be rude. But, dude, you gotta understand, I refuse to make small talk with my pants around my knees. Ain't gonna happen. I granted him an understanding "Mmm" but no further comment, and I think he got the hint, since he finished washing his hands and took off. He might have said bye, or see you Tuesday or something similar; I was still reeling from the shock. Luckily I managed to pull it together, complete my change of clothes, and ride home, superfast, without incident. But I'll tell you, I'm still blown away (pardon the pun) by the whole thing.

It just goes to show that the developmental theorists are right: it all depends on culture and context. Evidently my bathroom Discourses are different than his; the scripts that determine for me how to act and be in the presence of a pooping person are not the same at all as those of my compatriot.

I guess, in the end, I can look back on how the experience was as educational as it was uncomfortable. And there was la Bella, waiting for me to take her home, superfast. But still, I'll never forget the day I learned that there are no universals, and that our most intimate moments together are culturally determined.

Drop some Babs Rogoff and Jimmy Gee with me,

05 June 2007

Cycling danger!

The lovely lady and I have been cycling of late. Cycling as in "riding bicyles," not as in "going through our options in a cyclical manner," or "passing through a series of stages of being." Anyway, we cycled with a bunch of old men of the Rochester Bicycling Club last Sunday for 16 miles along the Erie Canal. Very nice, and historic to boot. Aside from the fact that one of them heckled my bike (a common occurrence, but it still hurts both me and my green Fuji), an interesting conversation ensued with Cat's dad when she called him after our ride. "The countryside is very beautiful along the canal, Dad. Very picturesque."

"Be careful, mi'ja," he replied. "You might get attacked."

"By what, Dad?"

"By a puma."

A puma.

As it turned out, he had been watching the Discovery Channel and saw a show about these mountain bikers who had been mauled by a puma in the mountains somewhere out west. And he wanted to give us a heads up.

Which was nice of him.

His other advice: bring a machete or something. Just in case.

Because you never know.

Invest in some anti-puma bicylcing equipment with me,