Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The three hour commute

A bit of my bike shattered this morning. I was surprised. I'd not known it was there until it came flying off in the middle of Regents Park.

What's that? I thought, staring at the grubby thing. An hour or so later, I was in a bike repair shop just off Oxford Street. It appears to have been staffed for a gay porn film that never happened. Some of the cast appear to have been waiting for quite a few years.

I stood patiently waiting for the tall dark-haired man at the counter to patronise me. I figured I could just about handle it from him. But instead, the owner (short, bald, pierced) decided to serve me.

"What's the problem?"

I held up the broken metal thing. "Well, I don't know what it is, but it's not happy. It used to have a spinny wheel."

"Humph. Deraillier."

"Is that really what it's called?"

He gave me a look. A look of cunning, weary appraisal. A look that said, "This fool knows nothing. I can exploit him. If I told him his bike needed new cheese, he would agree. But can I, oh can I, be bothered?"

He sighed, and produced an intricate device and tapped my chain with it. "Oh dear. This is loose. When did you last have this serviced?"

"By you. A month ago."

"And to think no one mentioned this. Dear me. A month? Are you sure? How remiss. Did you oil the carriage?"


"Thought not. Well, we'll have to replace that as well. Which means the rear gear will have to be removed. Otherwise we'll be loose and not biting. Won't we?"

I held up the broken metal thing. And stared at it sadly. Its tiny wheel didn't spin.

He took a phone call from a more important client. He was already on another call. I admired his multitasking. He could patronise three customers at once - and two of them weren't even in the same room. Even the more important one received a brief, "We used to do that in a single package. But now it's more of a bespoke service. Yes. Ha ha. Most amusing."

The tall, dark-haired sales assistant leaned over and tried to help me. "What needs doing?"

I held up the broken metal thing. "This is being replaced. And my chain. And some gears."

He arched an impossibly neat eyebrow. "Really? Normally we replace the carriage as well."

"That too! He said that too! I've only just learnt that this broken metal thing is a deraillier."

He snorted dismissively, and began to fill out a form for me. Slowly. He handed it to me, lightly taking the broken metal thing out of my hand as though disposing of a dead pet.

"Come back tomorrow after 5."

I left, thinking, Thank god I don't own a car.

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