I sat on the filthy sidewalk outside the grocery store, rivulets of sweat running down my back and into my eyes, stinging them, as I gnawed on the top of the plastic bottle. With one last surge of strength, my teeth pulled and the plastic tip stretched and finally snapped, flying backward against my soft palate. I tasted the acrid oil as it gushed in. Standing triumphantly, I spit the tip away like a Tour de France athlete clearing his mouth for the final climb up the Alps.
I like to think of myself of as someone who is rather well put-together, who has a plan for her life, knows how to get things done, and is looked upon as someone who has made significant changes as she truly follows her dreams. The reality is that most of the time I’m getting by just like everyone else, doing the best I can, and hoping for more good days than bad. Lately, that has been very, very true. Except when I don’t trust my instincts. Which is what led to The Bottle Tip Chewing Incident.
It was one of those mornings when I decided to squeeze errands in before traveling off to do treatments at my massage office. My first appointment was at 10 am so I figured I had plenty of time.
Tucson is a very bicycle friendly town. The weather allows cycling year round, there are lots of bike lanes, and places to lock a bike abound. I use my commuter bike, shown in the photo. The baskets fold out and are ideal for groceries, and most everything else I need. I’ve been known to carry home over $140 worth of foodstuffs and sundries. Of course, some of that was gourmet chocolate…
I locked my bike in the grocery store’s bike rack, and headed in, quickly filling up my cart. Yogurt. The extra large box of cat litter. Deodorant. Fruit. Oatmeal. Coffee. Sliced turkey. Cheese. Coffee creamer.
After checking out, I headed back out to my bike. The 28 pound box of cat litter went into one basket, and most of the rest of the items went into the other to counterbalance. What didn’t fit went into my backpack, which I would strap onto myself for the mile and a half ride home.
With the bike fully loaded and balancing on a knife edge, I carefully inserted the key into the bike lock. This part is always tricky because my bike doesn’t have a kickstand, and easily falls over if I’m not paying attention while locking and unlocking the bike. Still, my mind was on how I had plenty of time to get home, unload, and get ready for my appointments.
I turned the key. Nothing happened.
I turned the key again. Nothing happened.
I turned the key again and again and again and again. Nothing happened.
I’d been having trouble with the lock sticking, but I’d always been able to get it open. Sooner or later.
I turned the key again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.
I started perspiring delicately.
I turned the key again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.
Twenty minutes later I was still trying to unlock the *&^@*#$) lock. Medieval chastity belts must have been easier to open than this thing. Thoughts of contacting Fort Knox on how to upgrade the locks on their gold storage rooms went through my mind.
Ten minutes after that, I was sweating like a mob informant, and swearing like one too. With absolute crystal clarity, I had a complete understanding of the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.”
Just the previous week I had talked to the guys at the hardware store about oil for my lock that was sticking. They recommended this special (read expensive) oil to put in it that wouldn’t attract dust like other oils would. So, of course, I bought it. Had I put it in the lock yet? No. Had I thought about putting it in the lock? Why, yes! In fact, that very morning before I took off for the grocery store. Was I wishing I had put the oil in the lock when my instincts had told me to? Draw your own conclusion.
It was time to fall back and reconsider my position. All my extra time had evaporated and panic was starting to edge in. I could go down the plaza to the hardware store and buy bolt cutters, but I’d have to leave my bike with all the groceries piled into it. The distance to the hardware store stretched before my eyes until it seemed like it was ten miles away. Visions of dirty, hairy, fur skin wearing marauders pouring through the parking lot, pawing at my yogurt, drinking my coffee creamer, stuffing my sliced turkey into their barbarian mouths, and stamping my fruit into the ground with their hobnailed leather boots while I was sliding my debit card through the reader made me quickly discard that idea. Besides, I didn’t know if I had enough strength to cut the bike lock off.
Wait a minute. Oil. All I needed was oil. Maybe the grocery store had some WD-40 on the shelves. I didn’t have time to unload the bike and trundle everything back in so I was just going to have to trust that my purchases would still be there when I came back. With a deep breath, I raced back into the store, trying not to think about leaving my vulnerable groceries all alone, with no protection. I found some oil in the one foot length of home improvement items on the shelf. Oh, good. It was less than three dollars so I could just throw the money vaguely in the direction of the cashier and sprint back out to my bike.
I arrived breathlessly at the only open cash register (the store does not have self check-outs) to wait behind a customer with a complex transaction that, apparently, could only be performed in super slow motion and with lots of chit chat. Maybe the marauders would at least leave the cat litter, and I’m sure they wouldn’t be interested in the deodorant. They certainly wouldn’t be able to get the lock off so my bike was safe. After aging fifteen years, my purchase was finally rung up. I gave the cashier the three dollars and turned to leave, but she said the total came to three dollars and two cents. Are you freaking kidding me?! Precious seconds slipped by while I searched in my purse for the two most elusive pennies in the history of mankind. After tossing them to her, I streaked back outside, my breath caught in my throat, a cry of agony on my lips to discover… that all my groceries were on still on the bike. Nothing had been disturbed. Everything was fine.
Trembling with relief, I took the cap off the oil, ready to pour it down my lock. The tip of the oil bottle was sealed. In the directions on the bottle, the first step was, “Cut the tip off.” You know what I had in my purse or my backpack to cut the tip off the bottle? Exactly nothing. I had come too far. My need was too great. No scissors? No pocket knife? Not even a pair of nail clippers? You know what I do have? I have teeth.
I made it to the office in plenty of time for my treatments.