Weight, asymmetry, and dejection. A play in three acts.

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I have written before about the about the delusions of grandeur (and the subsequent fall from perceived grace) that some of us suffer from while we ride our bikes. These highs and lows, however, are not exclusive to our time riding. In my case at least, the chance to be put back in my place can (and often does) come at very inopportune times. Here's a story about one such incident.

Act I: Weight

For decades, scholars and linguists alike have debated about which words or phrases are the most beautiful in the English language. Words like "love" and "mother" are often sited in such discussions, but the undisputed winner is actually the compound noun "cellar door". You may think I'm making this up, but I assure you that I'm not, and you can read all about it here if you wish. These two words are chosen by linguists mostly for their phonetic beauty, and not for their meaning. So while scholars can have their opinion, I respectfully choose to disagree. For the record, this is not the first time that I've ever disagreed with scholars. For example, there was that one time that I disagreed with my uncle Manuel (a philosophy professor and writer) about whether or not the TV show The Price Is Right ("El Precio Es Correcto" in Colombia) was a government-sponsored vehicle intended to control the public's mind. He argued that the TV show was designed to control and appease my mind by making me believe that I should be happy and content, even though I had won nothing myself..since I was merely watching someone else win something. The argument I had with my uncle was heated, but stilted due to the fact that I was six years old at the time. Consequently, my knowledge of both propaganda and mind-control tactics was limited...since...you know, I was six. In case you're wondering, no, I'm not making this story up. It actually happened, and it taught me that scholars are not always right, particularly because this was the same man who once saw my brother and I watching the Tour de France, and consequently told us that: "Only ignorant fools would get themselves tired on purpose", in reference to the riders on screen. So now that you know my history with academia, I believe you'll understand why I constantly choose to go against it, and how could I not? I mean...can "cellar door" really be the most beautiful words in the English language? Have you ever been awestruck when a friend of yours told you to go around his or her house, and bring in the boxes that you're helping them move through the "cellar door"? No, no you haven't. As such, I would argue that the most beautiful words in the English language are the ones that often sweep us off our feet, the ones that make our hearts race, the ones that make us happy to be alive. Oh, and before any of you question my credentials for judging beauty in the field of linguistics (or any other field), need I remind you of my extensive collection of Y-Foil bikes and bike frames? Would anyone but an absolute connoisseur with impeccable taste collect these beautiful objects?

Here's a picture of me during my annual "I Have So Many Y-Foil Bikes That I Will Now Throw One Into This River" celebration. In case you're wondering, the reason why my face is blurry in this picture is not because of Photoshop trickery, or my shame for wearing a Camelback, or my shame for owning one of those bottle rocket launcher-style bottle cages. Oh no. The reason for this is that Trek equipped each Y-Foil frame with a facial distortion feature that would render the owner's face unrecognizable in order for him/her not to be tormented and later tarred and feathered as a result of owning this marvel of modern engineering. While I strongly disagree with this feature, I have yet to be able to disable it.

So now that my credentials in the area of judging beauty have been made clear, allow me to tell you what I have long believed to be the most beautiful words in the English language, the ones that get our hearts racing, and can make life worth living. They are:

"You know, there's hardwood floors under that carpet"

While I still feel strongly about that phrase, I must tell you about a set of words that I heard just last week, a set of words that are actually even more beautiful. Luckily, these beautiful words were uttered by my lovely wife, which made them that much sweeter. Let me give you a small amount of background regarding the circumstance under which these words were uttered.

There's a light in the dashboard of my wife's car, which tells you when the passenger's airbag is deactivated due to someone not sitting on that seat. In the last month or so, whenever I would ride as a passenger in her car, this light would come on. For this, and other reasons, the car ended up at the shop recently. Upon picking up the car, my wife called me to let me know how the repairs had gone, and she suddenly uttered the words I'm referring to...perhaps the most beautiful words I'll ever hear in my life. They were:

"There's nothing wrong with the sensor on the seat. I told the mechanic how much you weigh, and he said that your weight is simply not enough to activate the air bag sensor on the seat."

Now that you know what the words are, I know what most (if not all) of you are thinking. You're thinking that:

1. I'm a weight-obsessed lunatic

2. You're worried that the airbag on the car is not activated when I ride as a passenger, and that I should probably ride in the back of the car, on a booster seat, as though I were an infant.

3. You're thinking that perhaps "cellar door" was not such a bad combination of words after all.

Well, let me respond to your concerns one at a time.

1. First of all, I'm not obsessed about my weight, but I have to admit that my power to weight ratio is something I think about as I try to slay my unsuspecting opponents while I commute to work. As such, I should worry as much about my weight as I do about my power output. It's for this reason in particular that these words were music to my ears. Why? Because they mean that the manufacturer of my wife's car does not consider my weight to be that of an adult...and yet I would argue that the power that hides inside this manchild body of mine is semi-impressive, and can easily devastate my fellow commuters, particularly that one lady on the Trek hybrid. She's been asking for it for months now.

2. Regarding the booster seat, I'm fine with riding in the back seat. As a matter of fact, I already have a booster seat model picked out. Sure I'll look like a toddler while my wife drives me around...but that's nothing new to me, since she's about a foot taller than me anyway. This is not because I'm completely diminutive, but because she's also very tall. So, anyone who laughs at me and my booster seat can take it up with me while on a bike. If you laugh at me for my toddler-like seating acomodations, I swear that I will crush you while on the bike...but I'll need your help getting out of my booster seat first before I crush you. So if you could give me a hand first, I would appreciate it...and then, I'll crush you.

3. If you still think that "cellar door" is the most beautiful set of words in the English language, there's not a whole lot I can do for you. You're probably the type of person who dips their pizza in ranch dressing, and also says things like "so, I says to him, I says"...so you're a lost cause.

This is the model I have picked out. I'm talking about the chair though, not the kid.

Act II: Asymmetry

There's a full-body mirror in the bathroom at work where I shower everyday after my commute. The other day, right as I went into the bathroom I noticed something slightly unsettling about my legs. No, it wasn't their massive and sculpted musculature, but rather how different said massiveness and sculpted musculature was between the left and the right leg. So while critics have described my pedal stroke as both "amazingly fluid", and "worthy of a deity", the unbelievable asymmetry in my legs say otherwise. As it turns out, I'm clearly favoring my right leg to an extent that will soon make me more suited for leg wrestling than cycling. I'm lopsided, unbalanced, uneven...my god, I'm downright wonky. What am I to do? Does anyone else have this problem? Is this yet another thing that I'll be told can be solved by riding a fixed-gear bike? If so, please allow me to ask you: Why are fixed-gear bikes like the duct tape of cycling? Can they really fix everything?

At least the reason why one of my legs got bigger than the other is less embarrassing and easier to explain that this guy's story. I'll spare you the details, but he spends a lot of time alone in his room.

Act III: Dejection

Even though most would take their severe asymmetry as a bad thing, I don't. As a matter of fact, I guess I see my leg power as being half-full, instead of half-empty...so while I'm slightly disturbed by this latest finding about myself, I was still happy to see that my right leg has been progressing nicely (even if the same can't be said for its left counterpart). It was with this in mind (my lopsided cycling power), as well as the recent news about my child-like weight (low cycling weight), that I went out to dinner with my wife, my brother and two friends recently. During dinner, the conversation was light and entertaining. We joked, told stories and kept each other up to date on our lives. My seemingly mild demeanor that night only partially hid the fact that I was glowing with excitement, because I knew that my power to weight ratio would surely make me the the fastest and strongest climber during my upcoming commutes. It was at a particularly jovial moment during dinner that my wife, the very person who had only days earlier uttered the most beautiful words in the English language, now uttered a few choice words that brought me back down to reality.

A little background. At the home that my wife and I share (henceforth referred to as the Cycling Inquisition Estate), we each have our own bathroom. This arrangement makes for a comfortable living situation, and affords us the privacy we need when it comes to our bathroom duties. The bathroom I commonly use, however, is the same one that guests use when visiting the Cycling Inquisition Estate. So this past weekend, while my brother was in town, I cleared out my toiletries and put them in my wife's bathroom so that he could have a bathroom of his own during his visit to the Cycling Inquisition Estate. It was because of the fact that I placed my toiletries in my wife's bathroom that one of my deepest and darkest secrets became known, first to my wife, and then to friends and family during a deceptively amiable dinner. My secret was revealed in this manner:

There was a pause in the conversation during dinner, and my wife happily chimed in, and uttered the following words, words that brought my wandering ego back to reality. She said:

"So I discovered something about my dear husband this weekend which I never knew about. Guess what kind of shaving cream this manly man uses to shave his legs? Are you ready? Are you ready to find out?"

I shook my head in horror, trying to salvage a situation that was already beyond my control. The subject of a man shaving his legs is already taboo, so details about the activity should really be kept to a minimum, and yet I knew the facts were about to come out. The whole thing reminded me of the time in college when I realized that my car keys were inside my Dodge Horizon, as I was in the process of closing and locking the car door...this time it was also too late. She said the words. My secret was out:

"Flirty Mango." she said, "He uses a shaving cream called 'Flirty Mango'"

The words, like my deep secret, were both out...and unlike my low weight, there's no booster seat that can help me this time. Flirty Mango, that's me.