Friday, January 06, 2006

Totems...

…or the quasi-religious significance of iconic objects among indigenous self-delineated semi-nomadic sub-populations.

I'm not usually superstitious, except for my fears about the chupacabras who lurk in the woods along my commute route and those pesky alien UFOs, but those fears are based on experience. I've had far too many incidents that can only be explained by the presence of aliens from outer space or goat-sucking vampire creatures. And I won't go into a discussion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and His Noodly Appendage because people get so cranky about religion these days, particularly here in Oklahoma, surrounded by various species of Baptists.

No, I'm going to talk about really baseless superstitions. I know they're foolish, but I still go through the rituals nonetheless. It can't hurt, can it?

This is really stupid. I put on my cycling shoes the same way every morning. I put the pair down in front of me on the floor, and then put the left shoe to the left of my left foot. Then I put on the right shoe, snug the laces down just right and tie it in a double knot. There's a strap that covers the knot too. Then I repeat the process for the left shoe. If I'm lucky, I can do all this without being attacked by a marauding housecat as all those laces are in my hands. I never change the procedure. Something bad may happen.

Whenever I add something new to the kit, I wonder if it brings good juju or bad juju. Any new item could precipitate disaster. Strangely, this never applies to things that are genuinely necessary, like a patch kit, a new tube, or some new tire levers. A new helmet, on the other hand, brings with it a feeling of impending doom until it's been used for a while. Maybe juju dissolves in sweat.

But the worst items on my superstition scale are tools. I carried a Campagnolo 'peanut butter' wrench for years. This is a 15 mm wrench designed to tighten crank bolts. It has a wide, flat handle suitable for spreading peanut butter. Hence the name. I carried that wrench religiously but never used it on a ride. I carried a Campy T wrench too, a 6mm T handle with an 8mm socket on one end. I never used it either.

I decided it was stupid to carry tools that I didn't use. They went into the toolbox and came out only when I was working on a bike in the garage.

It happened on the Tour de Claremore a couple of years ago. The group stopped at a highway crossing, and one of the guys noticed his crank arm was loose. And of course, no one had a tool for it. I resolved to carry the peanut butter wrench again, and actually did so for a couple of months before coming across a deal on a Cool Tool. The Cool Tool has the requisite sockets for both 14 and 15 mm bolts, a chain breaker, spoke wrench, adjustable wrench, and a couple of Allen keys. It's heavy and kind of clunky, but it will do most quick repairs that can get me home. And I've never used it. The tool is quietly rusting away somewhere in my bag.

I've started carrying the Campy T wrench, too. I've decided it has great religious significance, particularly in light of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" which postulated Henry Ford as a deity and the T as his symbol. Maybe it'll fend off them chupacabras. It can't hurt.

1 Comments:

Blogger Greg! said...

Great post, Ed!
It's comforting somehow, knowing that I'm not alone in my fear of the dreaded chupacabra. I've found that having a Madonna del Ghisallo medallion affixed to each of my bikes protects me not only from highway bandits, but also from chupacabras, aliens, ghosts, and werewolves!

6:08 PM  

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