The god of the handy

I was riding our exercise bike out in the garage (meaning, in the cold) this morning. I had a good book, and everything was going fine for the first 6 minutes, up until it got to the “steep” part of the program. Then the darn thing started slipping like an elephant on ice skates. There is a belt that transfers the pedaling force into something the computer can use to tell you how you are doing. It was this belt that was slipping, no doubt because of the recent cold temperatures around here. Well I tried pushing for a while to see if it would warm up some, but it didn’t. The darn thing was slipping so much that every push was too easy. So cursing my luck, I got off, and looked at the bike. There’s only a few screws holding the case, I told myself. This should be easy.

Famous last words.

An hour and a half later, I had the whole thing opened up, the pitifully antiquated bearings were soaking in gasoline, and most of the parts were clean. (As an aside, when was the last time you broke down an open bearing? For me it was on an old bike over 25 years ago. Were talking metal races holding a dozen large bearings. Huge gaps in the side with nary a bearing seal in sight.) While I was trying to tighten down the old style bottom bracket I was forcing the wrong wrench on a part while my knuckles kept brushing the last plastic guard I had left on the bike. That last piece was held on by only 6 screws. I knew because I had taken off it’s opposite, mirror-image piece on the other side. 6 screws was just that much more to break down, and I really was trying to finish up. Those of you who are handy will know the rest. Sure enough, the wrench slipped, and wham! I got a pressure cut across the back of the knuckle. Damn.

Funny enough, after that, it was smooth sailing.

All this has lead me to conclude that the god of small repairs must be Hephaestus; the crippled Greek god of the forge. On little projects he does not care as his help is not as needed. But on big jobs, he likes to see a little sacrifice in order to get things to work well. Blood mixed with grease or oil must be his thing. I cannot tell you how many times I bloodied a car engine, or a lawnmower engine, or pretty much anything that takes an hour or two to break down, and put back together. And it is usually after the hand has slipped, and the blood has flowed, that the project begins to snap.

When I got the whole thing back together, I discovered that the belt was still slipping. (insert sound of face palm) A few twists on the belt tensioner seemed to do the trick, and I finished the rest of my ride, 2.5 hours later, in peace.

But it sure pedals nice now.

The very definition of brave

I met a young man today while waiting for a bus. His name was Alan (I believe, I am terrible with names). Alan was 25, african american, and new to the LA area. We started talking about this and that, and I come to find out Alan had just moved here from Atlanta. He had been involved in some things there, ways of making money that wasn’t healthy or legal, (or so I gathered) and he was here in this town to make a fresh start. He has been spending the past two months living on skid row, trying to find work. Even his mother didn’t believe he could do something like that. Somewhere he has a brand new baby child, and the desire to be man enough to be considered a good father.

This is one of the better things about being a man. To see in others the hard work and sacrifice necessary at times, to earn the title. It made my day, and I told him so. I also wish him all the luck he can find.

More Bus Stories

Two different stories to share. The first was last night (Friday) coming home around 8:00ish. I was on the phone with a colleague, and I overheard these three girls ask somebody if a certain bus came by the stop we were at. Well, I just had to butt in. Turns out there were three young ladies visiting the states from Australia. They were genuinely surprised I guessed their country of origin correctly, as most Americans asked if they were English. Since I meet an Aussie about once a week on this route, its not that big a skill. They had some very nice things to say about our country, “Everybody is so friendly here.” one said. I didn’t have the heart to tell her is was likely more to the fact that she was blonde, cute, and young. They were good company until I got to Hollywood/Highland, and had to run off.

Tourists are the perfect people to meet on the bus. They don’t mind a short conversation, and one can learn oh so much just by asking them questions. They also do not expect a deep relationship, they are quite happy with a short polite talk, and then to be on their way. Sending them off with a smile is so easy, and costs practically nothing but a little friendliness.

One of the ladies asked me about superannuation, which caused me to say, “huh?” I can be quite witty at times, but this caught me completely off guard. Apparently it is the name for their retirement/pension system. It was interesting to try and explain Social Security to someone not from around here. This lead to a discussion about medical insurance which was even better. They thought our system was absolutely stupid, leaving so many people uncovered. When I told them that many conservatives were convinced their medical system was terrible, they laughed. “Why would they think that?” one asked. Why indeed. That this conversation took place on the bus, which means we were surrounded by a crowd of mostly working poor, most of whom could not afford medical insurance, only made the point stronger. I wonder what those sitting next to us were thinking.

All in all it was quite a pleasant experience.

Earlier in the week I had the opposite experience. An elderly gentlemen of color approached the stop while I was waiting to catch the Orange Line one morning. He was dirty, and smelled strongly of urine. When he saw me looking at him, he started talking to himself. He soon got very loud, and was obviously agitated. The other people at the stop moved away from him. His stench alone would have been enough, but his tone of voice was pretty scary. He didn’t yell at anyone, and he didn’t make any sudden moves, so I assumed he was reasonably safe. I did keep a careful eye on him though. The worst thing was that he often was speaking to himself, telling himself to calm down, but he could not. He mostly spoke lots of disassociated gibberish, like scanning through several talk radio stations, but all in the same voice. He also looked around and addressed people who plainly were not there. It was sad to see, as he was old enough to be a grandfather, sitting at home, bouncing babies on his knee. Instead he was living on the streets, peeing in his pants, and unable to contain his mental illness. ┬áIn his lucid moments he must know what he is doing, and feel a sick dread at is actions.

Sometimes mental illness really sucks.