Today, my bike got caught in one of these:
See, I've read the rules(#2, second paragraph). I know what's up. I knew better, seriously. I definitely knew better than to try to put an awkwardly shaped piece of metal and rubber through a labyrinthine, even more awkwardly shaped gate constructed of hundreds of metal poles and flaking paint.
But, you need to understand the circumstances surrounding that which, at first, appeared to be a comical snafu, but which quickly deteriorated into the kind of human traffic jam you only read about (here), the disgusted eyes of the carless rabble heaping shame and humiliation onto me as they trudged back up two flights of stairs to find alternate exits.
Also, you need to stop judging me.
If I preface this story by saying I was in a not-so-great part of town when this tragic mishap occurred, would that do anything to quell your heartless cackles? I doubt it. You cruel fuckers.
Well, I was. And now, I'm not even going to tell you exactly where I was, because you don't deserve to know. Also, I don't need any more heartless cackles added to the mêlée when you call me a pussy for thinking the Green Line at California and Lake is a bad part of town. Heartless cackles. Heartless cackles. I'm really into that phrase right now. Heartless cackles.
Thing is, I'd never been to this particular stop before today. When I tell you that the reason I found myself at this particular place in the universe is that I had just finished walking a pair of dogs downtown- one that was in its third year of remission from lymphoma, and one that had IBS and incontinence, and was required to wear what amounts to a doggie diaper (affectionately referred to as a belly band) on its way from the apartment to the outside- and was on my way back to a saw blade factory to wash and dry over 1,500 wine glasses, well, you'll just have to trust me. Because that is what I was doing. And also scoring a shitload of crack.
So, where I might normally know the access points of bicycle friendly exits at any number of my regular, more gentrified stops, today I did not. I merely hustled off the train with the lunchtime herd and headed to the nearest exit, where I was being corralled. It wasn't until I reached the halfway point of the trip down that I espied the forbidden gate ahead, but by then it was too late. Not too late to turn around and find the correct exit, mind you, but too late to avoid being seen by Dave, a streetwise tough that looked as bright and sharp as the pile of broken glass he stood in, but not nearly as shattered.
"C'mon man! We can get that shit through here! I done it befo'!," he hollered at me as I faltered in step on the platform, eyeing the gate nervously.
"Nah, I don't think so, dude. It looks pretty narr-"
"It's cool, man! C'mon! Fuck it!"
Yeah, I thought, yeah! It is cool! AND fuck it! This guy knows the score!
Minutes later, my bike now punishingly wedged in CTA purgatory, neither in the train station, nor out, Dave, safely outside the train station, looks at me, safely inside the train station, and says, "Shit, man. I fucked up."
"I don't know, man. I thought it would go, too. How're we suppposed to get it out?!"
"Fuck.. man I don't know! A damn saw? Shit," Dave mused.
By now, the initial crowd of onlookers and angry passengers had diminished, and we found ourselves quite alone in this predicament. I fully expected at any moment that Dave would grow weary of this absurd task, this extraction of a fucking bicycle from a fucking turnstile, and wander away, leaving me to my own devices and fulfillment of so many existential nightmares.
But Dave stayed. Whether it was pride, boredom, or maybe just working off a buzz before returning to the halfway house (I will note my own unfair characterization of the homeless, thank you.), Dave stayed. And we solved our problem together. And it did not include the destruction of any city or personal property, I can proudly say.
Did we alter any chemical properties, perhaps? There is no way to know for sure (except for any number of blood and DNA tests, MRI's, etc., but must we bog ourselves down with such minutae?), but I can safely say that we were different men when we met on the outside of that gate, bike intact, shaking hands heartily in acknowledgment of our shared triumph. Could there be a more apt physical manifestation of not being kept down by The Man, not letting The City win yet again?
As we stood there exchanging accolades, reminiscing about the experience we literally just had, and smoking drugs, Dave said, "We all fuck shit up sometime, man." He's right, you know.
Then he said, "Got any change, man?"
A heartless cackle* flew past my lips as I handed him a dollar and rode down the street, onward to all points wine and saw.
*Heartless cackle, in this context, can also be taken to mean "Here ya go, man."