This encounter’s narrative was truncated for your protection.
This afternoon, my mind numb from hours of wrangling with numbers, I took a walk. The sun shone and a fresh breeze blew. My tired brain welcomed the great outdoors.
I walked along, lost in my thoughts. Suddenly, a voice called out to me from the right.
“So…you look like someone who could use a bike.”
I turned to look. A large bearded man rode a pink cruiser-type bicycle next to me.
I kept walking. He kept pace with me. Seriously?
“A sophisticated lady such as yourself could get a lot of use out of this bike,” he said, smiling my direction.
“It’s very pink,” I commented. I kept walking.
A tight smile passed over his face.
“Some people – we call them rednecks – might comment and make snide remarks about me riding a pink bike. But I would punch them. I’m known around town as someone who can take care of himself.”
He looked satisfied. I laughed.
“I’m Rich, by the way. And you are…?”
“Well, Susan, I’d love to give you a screaming deal on this bike. See, I’m a philanthropist.”
Only he didn’t pronounce it that way. The context helped.
“I’m a humanitarian.” He rode to stay with me, looping a bit so he wouldn’t fall.
“I’m glad there are some here in town,” I quipped. I kept walking. He kept riding.
“There are three definitions to a philanthropist.” He held up 3 fingers, in case I got confused.
“One is volunteering your time. I volunteer my time with March of Dimes and old people.”
Old people? Pretty broad. Do parents count?
“Two is being self-supporting. I own my house free and clear. I’m an electrician, and I only have to work when I want to. It’s not like L.A., where it’d be much harder to make a living.”
I couldn’t argue with him there.
“And number three. I also put old things in museums. I have a patent on an engine. I found a Shelton tool and it sits in the museum with my name on it.”
Somehow, I think he got a little mixed up. Anyway, back to the bike.
“You could be riding this bike instead of walking. You could get places so much quicker.”
He stopped, after almost running into me. I stopped, too. How to get on with my walk?! He stood over 6 feet tall. He wore a navy blue T-shirt and dark greenish gray sweat pants. His dark curly hair grayed at the temples. He looked like he could pass for Mark Ruffalo’s younger brother.
He adjusted the seat for me, lowering it considerably. He mopped his forehead. Too hot, really, for sweatpants today.
“You can hop on right now and give it a try.”
Wearing a dress and having no interest in the two-wheeled wonder, I declined. I wasn’t even tempted. Bikes and I do not get along well. However, I admired his persistence.
“This bike would go for $170, easy.”
“Well, Rich, if you put it on craigslist, I bet you could sell it in a minute.” I meant it as encouragement.
“Besides, I’m just out for a walk on a break,” I said.
“Where do you work?”
“I work for the city.”
Then I got an earful about how the city spends money, or doesn’t spend it.
“Where does the money go?!” he wondered aloud. I sometimes wonder the same thing.
“Rich, it’s been a pleasure,” I said, shaking his hand and trying to wrap up our encounter. My break was over.
“Don’t you want to try the bike?”
“I don’t. Thanks, though.” I mentioned crashing on the volcano at Haleakala. Not my best biking memory.
He thought for a moment.
“With my house as collateral, I guarantee you will never crash on volcanoes while in Shelton.”
I turned around and started walking back to work. He rode alongside, chatting more. He followed me all the way to the main intersection. He had all kinds of strategies for figuring out what cities should spend on roads, sewers, etc.
“I’ll probably see you around,” he said, as he soared off.
You probably will, Rich, I thought, smiling to myself.