Like walking into a bike shop after crapping your pants

On a sunny afternoon, back when my brother was a little kid, he took a massive dump in his pants while playing soccer. Like so many other similar stories, my brother's ordeal began with the hope of a simple fart. It was not to be. He suddenly found himself two long blocks away from home, playing goalie with about four pounds of poo in his tighty-whities. What was he to do? Running home at once would give away his secret, that something awful had happened. All the kids would know, and he would forever be known as "poopie pants". Not only that, but (forgive me for being so descriptive) the huge load in his pants would surely shift around, get squished and probably run down his legs during the sprint home. There was no great solution to his massive problem. At least there wouldn't appear to be one to us mere mortals. My brother, however, was and is a genius. Much like other great inventors such as Tesla, Edison, Marconi and the guy who designed the Pontiac Aztek, my brother saw an opportunity where the rest of us would have merely seen a problem. His solution? He walked all the way home (slowly) pretending to be a robot. My brother locked up his knees completely, and moved by rocking his stiff legs forward, as a robot from a 1950 sci-fi movie would. The slow and methodical march kept the poo from falling out of his underpants. His friends asked him what he was doing, so as he walked, in a pseudo-robotic voice he said the following again and again:

"The robot walk, the robot walk, the robot walk"

Actually, the phrase he used in Spanish would more accurately translate to "the robot movement", but you get the point. The other kids thought this was a game, something cool he had invented, and they actually joined him. All of them began to walk home like a small army of robots. An army of robots being led by a kid who had just taken a huge shit in his pants. Talk about diffusing a potentially lethal situation. My brother got home with the load still safely in his pants. All the kids thought he had merely invented a cool new walk, and they had all done it along with him. He went into the house, cleaned up...and no one ever found out. Until now that is.

Thanks to Google, I can show you the actual distance that my brother walked while pretending to be a robot.

So why am I telling you this? Because to this day, when I see someone at work walking towards the boss' office to get yelled at, or when I see someone walking to the their girlfriend's house only to get dumped...I think about the robot walk. As adults, we more often take a proverbial shit in our pants than a literal one. Still, the moments that follow it are as shameful as the walk home was for my brother all those years ago. His two-block march was a walk of shame, a trail of tears to be sure...but my brother amazingly managed to stave off disaster. But that was then. He was a kid. As an adult, no robot walk will get us out of the pickles we get ourselves into, no matter how small or large. There is no way to mask our mistakes, no way to hide the massive shits in our pants. Everyone knows. Still, when I find myself in a tough situation to this day...I walk slowly...and in my mind I repeat "the robot walk, the robot walk, the robot walk." Somehow, I still wish that the phrase alone (along with slightly minimizing the bend in my knees) would cure all of my problems. But it doesn't.

Just a few months ago, I once again resorted to uttering the magic words in my mind. I was in the wrong...if only marginally so. On that day, there was no pep in my step as I walked into my local bike shop. My chin was not up. I was not smiling. Instead, my knees were slightly locked into a now-familiar stance, and I was muttering to myself in a voice that resembled Stephen Hawking. The walk from the front door of the shop to the counter seemed eternal...about two blocks long. Why? I had committed the ultimate bike shop sin. I had purchased something online, and was now coming into the shop for help with said product. I leaned my bike against the counter, took a deep breath and asked: "Can you help me?"

I commissioned my friend, who is a super-sweet computer graphix artist to come up with the illustration above. It's titled "The Dawn of Internet Sales and its Possible Effects on Retail Operations"

The ongoing discussion about supporting your local bike shop, versus big chains or internet retailers has been going one for some time. Far smarter (and dumber) people than me have weighed in on the I'll spare you further discourse on the matter. I lack the knowledge or industry insight to make eloquent points on the subject. Still, let me explain myself. I needed a new crankset, I wont bother telling you why. The shop I frequent, which is staffed by gentle mountain bikers and BMX afficionados, quoted me a price, which was certainly fair. They even gave me a very nice discount. I thought it would be best to wait on placing the order, since the amount of money was high-ish. Out of curiosity, I went online that night and looked to see if I could find the same crankset for a better price. Sure enough, I did. Although the crankset and bottom bracket had to come all the way from England, the price was less than half than the price I had been quoted (with shipping, mind you). With the difference being so severe, I clicked and bought the thing. The better price, and not the possibility of good service down the line, had won out. Although I spent the better part of my teens and 20s uttering punk rock mantras against capitalism, when confronted with such a staggering price difference, things quickly come into focus. With the click of a mouse–a track pad to be accurate–the market (me) had determined which retailer would survive. Once I received the crankset, I installed it and enjoyed effortless shifting for a few days. Suddenly, problems arose...ones I could not diagnose. The crankset was not faulty, so there was not much I could talk to the retailer about. If I wanted to, a quick call through Skype would have cost me only a few cents...but that was not the case. My lack of technical knowledge was the issue. I found myself alone in my garage, staring at my bike, knowing what I had to do. I had to go to the shop and ask for help. Only that shop, the one where people know me by name, would put aside other bikes to work on mine. It's that type of service that you pay extra for, it's that type of service that has kept me coming back...and look at what I had done. I had cheated on my local shop and bought something online. To be fair, I've bought lots of stuff at this shop. Two whole bikes actually, along with repairs that I couldn't to myself, a few parts, as well as tight man-leotards. So I felt bad about the whole thing. They knew I was about to buy a new crankset, and now here I was...with a new crankset that had come from the magic world of the internet. I had, in essence, taken a shameful dump in my pants...and I was now walking in...hoping no one would notice. My solution? Well, it was much less eloquent than my brother's. I lied.

"I traded an old handlebar and pedals to my friend for the crankset. I installed it, and now I'm having issues"

Some of you may think I'm a horrible person for lying. Others may think I'm stupid for shopping online. Most of you probably think that caring about a shop owner's feelings is idiotic, and that I shouldn't give a crap. But you see, I've lied to them before. One time in particular I constructed a tale so intricate, that I'm a bit ashamed to admit it to the Cycling Inquisition readership. Before I tell you my lie, however, let me tell you one other thing. I'm part of a great tradition of Colombians who stretch the truth. The great Colombian author and Noble Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez named his biography "Living To Tell The Tale". The whole notion behind the book is that he is willing to go through life, merely to have a good tale to tell. Not "story", not "history"...but a "tale". Marquez willingly admits that you have to stretch the boundaries of truth to make for a good tale. Sharing that tale, a good one, is paramount, and truth is secondary. I disagree with his assessment truth and veracity in storytelling. I only fib when I'm up against the wall....however slight or soft that wall might be. I would not, for example, lie to you about my brother pooping his pants...or about how long the walk home was, or the fact that he pretended to walk like a robot. That's simply not my style. Telling a good tale is important, but it being truthful is exactly what makes it great. So, now that I've told you my complicated reasoning for why I sometimes lie (when I have to, or feel I should to protect myself), here is my other bike shop tale:

"While I was in Europe to see the Tour de France this year, I met a Colombian triathlete. He lives in the U.S., and is an exporter of bike goods to Colombia, where his friend sells high end bikes to aspiring road cyclists and triathletes. He needed a website, so I built it for him, and that's how I got these Sram components."

This is all true actually. I did meet the guy, and that really was his business. Thing is, I didn't build his website. I don't even know how to build a website. I bought the Sram components online. Can you imagine how convoluted and idiotic my mental process is that I would come up with such a stupid tale? Stupid as it may least I'm part of a great tradition of Colombian liars. Right? Still, one question remains.

Have any of you ever lied to your local shop about where you bought something?

Your favorite shop knows you buy stuff online and at other shops. Their feelings wont be hurt...right? Am I alone? Am I a huge idiot? Okay, please don't answer that last question. Has my overwhelming sense of guilt gotten the best of me? If I'm not alone, will we all continue to lie since doing the robot walk doesn't seem to work once your age reaches double digits?

Please let me know.