Y Marks the Spot: My Stupidest Maneuver

Artistic Reenactment

The original plan for this week’s column was of a more political bent. Due to the abundance of tin foil helmeted townie psychos I’ve had to slog through in the past year, I was going to explain my own government conspiracy theory. The first half of my theory states that if I was a willing member of a corrupt government, I’d disguise my footsteps by filling the heads of all the twitchy, unwashed ambulance chasers with all the grassy knoll stories they could eat. I’d set up a few fake government watchdog sites, some group like what the 9/11 Truth people have going on, have a crew of fake militia types shore up a crowd, and then I’d send the creeps loose to warn the rest of the nation. I would do all this because, well, nobody takes vagrant psychopaths seriously, and the more they scream about federal schemes, the more the general public is willing to discount ALL conspiracies as the pipe dreams of vagrant psychopaths. After that rampage of disinformation, I’d be free to conspire at will.

But with the exception of the second half, there’s not much more to say. So let’s lighten things up with a story about something that happened to me this week. Like the title says, it may be the most (gloriously) stupid thing I’ve ever been responsible for.

* * *

It was Friday. I had come home from work in the evening and knocked off for a few hours on my couch. It was dark when I came to, the only light coming from the faint green Christmas bulbs in the living room. It took some time for me to scrape myself upright and get ambulatory. A rash of phone calls followed. Very few people were out and about, and the few friends who were doing anything lurked within a collective house, a few blocks away. The location was close enough to not require a car (I almost never drive within mainland La Crosse), yet far enough away that I’d rather bike the distance.

Before I left, however, I required some typical Friday night preparation. By the time I mounted my bike and left the house, I was, to put it diplomatically, in a state.

The ride over went fine. I was coherent, riding in straight lines, and even had my bike light on. I arrived at the dark, ramshackle wooden porch, where the expected crowd hadn’t materialized. Those outside the house loitered atop the dirt and grass, smoking cigarettes and no doubt wishing for more excitement to fall from the sky. After an unknown period of time the home team went inside to sleep, the away team drifted away, and I shambled over to my bicycle as a rainstorm materialized within seconds.

I want to say that what followed next happened because of the darkness and rain, but I would be lying.

So focused was I on getting home through the storm that it didn’t immediately dawn on me that my bike light was on the opposite end of the handlebars. When this was noticed, I thought it had slipped from its attachment, though it didn’t move when I tried to pull it back into position. The hell with it, I thought, and I rotated the light so that it illuminated the road, upside down.

After a while, I realized that not only was my light out of position but my hand brakes were behind my hands, not in front of them. A block from home, the truth slipped into my brain. I had ridden nine blocks in a rainstorm with my handlebars turned backwards.

The usual idiot, when becoming aware of such a folly, would take stock of the situation and fix it in a rational way. Not me. Still in motion and invincible in ignorance of the laws of physics, I wrenched my handlebars to their correct direction.

The wheel wobbled, and I soon hurtled over my bicycle and landed in the soft, wet grass. On the ground, I howled with a joyous and wholly inappropriate laughter.

There were no injuries, and almost no possessions were broken. When I finally called off the mirth and stood up, however, I realized that the front tire of my bike had folded in half. All things considered, the destruction was minimal, a sign of providence which only confirmed my sense of fortune about the whole experience. Lifting the machine by its damaged limb, I wheeled it the final block home, locked it in the garage, and slept like a champion.

* * *

There’s no conventional moral to this act of brilliance beyond the usual condemnations and perhaps an endorsement for protective headgear. But what I took from the adventure, and what was in mind as I recounted the story ad nauseum to all my friends, is that one can find joy and fun in anything, even while staring down the gun barrel of danger. In fact, danger – outside of simple masochism – might well be a crucial ingredient for such happiness.

Which brings me to the second half of my conspiracy theory. If I wanted total control of a population, I’d give the people everything they wanted or dreamed of, every impulse fulfilled at the click of a button. Because what do you get for the man who has everything? Everything to lose.

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