Late evening massage gigs when traveling by cargo bike—a bakfiets, in my case—is not without its hazards.
I recently was hired to do chair massage at a cocktail party fundraiser for a local parochial school. The guests would be moms whose kids attended the school, and I, along with one of my massage therapist friends, would be providing short massages for the guests in between their eating, drinking, and socializing. The massage portion of the party was going to be offered from 7 pm until 10 pm, and though I was a little leery of traveling five miles on a bike with my massage chair in tow after 10 at night, not only were the brakes on my car beginning to fail but, also, one of the guests at the party was the host of the show 190 North, where I’d been featured as a massage therapist who delivered massage “on two wheels.” It therefore seemed wrong, somehow, to arrive on four wheels.
Getting there was no problem, since at this time of year there is plenty of daylight at 6 or 7 at night. My biggest problem was trying to ride slowly enough that I didn’t arrive sweaty. I am not the type of cyclist to just tool along, even when I’m not in a hurry. Actually, I’m not the type of walker, swimmer, etc. to go slowly. Sometimes I think doing massage—which generally requires a measured pace—is therapy for me. But I somehow managed to arrive not requiring a shower and change of clothing.
More challenging was the getting home. To begin with, I am usually in bed by 10. But here I was, at 10, not only upright but actually packing up my massage chair and readying myself to ride home. I was so tired by then—having earlier in the day gone for a short run with the dog and attended my two-year-old niece’s birthday party—that I could barely form coherent sentences. But after a tiny lemon tart for the road from one of the hosts, I trundled my massage chair to the end of the block where I’d locked up the bakfiets, loaded the chair into the box of the bike, zipped up my jacket, put on my helmet, and headed down the street toward home, sweet home.
I had gone hardly more than a block or two, though, when I realized that while it wasn’t really cold out, there was enough wind that, without the little hat I’d brought along, my ears were going to be unhappy with me. So I found a safe spot to stop on a side street, put down the kickstand, and rummaged through my bag for my hat. After I’d put on the hat and rebuckled my helmet, I climbed on the bike, ready to set off again, only then realizing that I’d forgotten to put up the kickstand.
Now the kickstand on the bakfiets is not some slender metal wand beside the pedal to which you can apply a simple kick backward with the heel to make disappear. In order to hold a hundred pounds of bike up in a steady fashion requires something more substantial, and the kickstand for the bakfiets has two rubber-tipped feet on either end of rod that runs beneath the box. Putting the kickstand up requires giving the bike a good push forward to take its weight off the stand and then looping your toes behind one side of the stand to slam the feet up into a locked position.
I blame it on the fact that I was tired, for I don’t know what else could have possessed me to think I could do all of that while straddling the bike frame. Pushing the bike forward went fine, but when I went to flip the kickstand up into the locked position, my pants leg got caught on one of the feet—just as the kickstand locked into place, of course. The only way to let the kickstand down again is to tap the coin-sized lever just to the right of where my leg was now fairly firmly trapped. And before it even happened, I knew the only way out was down. And that’s where I went: me, the massage chair, and my bag, all dumped on the ground as the bakfiets tumbled over.
Other than a slight scrape on the left palm and a rather savage nudge in the butt from my bike seat, I was unhurt. But wouldn’t you know it: just as I and my things spilled out into the road, a car came along. Off to the side, as I was, I was in no danger of being run over—just of being really embarrassed. I swiftly righted the bike, put the kickstand in place (which had come down in the fall), reloaded, and got back on. The car sped off without so much as an “are you ok?” Which was fine with me. I wasn’t keen on acknowledging my klutziness, thereby more firmly entrenching the embarrassment.
The rest of the ride was less eventful, but suffice it to say, there is a different feel to riding your bike down the street at 10:30 on a Saturday night than there is during the daylight. First there were the Saturday date-night folks, going to or from trendy bars and restaurants in the Lincoln Square area. Then, on Lawrence Ave., I saw a man standing on the sidewalk wrapping himself in a long white cloth, perhaps a dhoti. I’d never seen anyone in the process of doing that, much less on the sidewalk, so that was interesting. But the crowd in front of the Admiral Theater with its euphemistically named adult entertainment just made me sad, seeming to be, as the song says, “looking for love in all the wrong places.”
But then who knows: they might have thought I was the one to be pitied, a poor woman alone on a Saturday night on her weird bicycle! Little did they know that the next day I’d be out with my best gal at the garden center, buying some window-box plants and a bale of straw for the garden. Oh yeah, I’m a happenin’ gal. Don’t cry for me, Admiral Theater.