Then I saw the man walking towards me on the platform. He had very well defined calf muscled in his slender tanned legs. He was carrying a backpack. I noticed the legs above all else, though, because they were poking out of shorts (as were mine, but his shorts were shorter) and because he had bare feet. Yes, not only was this man taking public transport, but he was on foot. Literally. He'd totally eschewed shoes. This was a man who felt the ground beneath his feet and who was greener and healthier than I.
I tried to mock him in my mind, but I was too impressed. He was a man among men, a stout walker among cyclists and motorists. In short, he was a weirdo.
I sat on the train reading my book, with my bike safely stowed in the bike racks at the rear. At the far end, I picked up my bike, jumped on it, and then headed out of Paddington towards my gig. I was pushing myself and my bike. I was alive. I even stopped to pick up a newspaper from a free newspaper seller, who offered it to me as I sat at the lights and then couldn't believe that I was going to accept it. I quickly stashed it in my bag. I could use the paper for the topical material bit of the gig. I was on form. I was being green and healthy and... what was that snapping feeling and noise?
A few hundred yards from Paddington and my bike was grinding to a halt. Something had fallen off it. I bent over to pick up the piece and my newspaper fell out of my bag. I picked up the pair of them and got off the road. The bike was, in short, fucked. I played around with the chain, which had one link bent out of shape, and I looked at the fallen off piece - the derailleur - I knew what to do with that. Slowly and carefully I walked the bike to the nearest bin and binned the bit that had come off. I wouldn't be needing that again. The chain had been loosened enough that the bike would wheel without the rear wheel locking. Essentially, though, it was no longer viable as a means of transport.
I wheeled it back to Paddington and walked past the man with no shoes. He seemed even more saintly, like a cross between Jesus and an Open University lecturer. I thought I might have a tantrum about this turn of events - my race to the gig by bike converted into a broken bike and a change of plan. My inner child wasn't stamping its feet, though. I was instilled with a zen-like calm. To be honest, I know nothing of zen, I just like it as a word for scrabble. I had an alternative plan forming and so I just followed it. It was simple.
Step 1 - park the bike. A quick enquiry at the information desk and the Paddington bike racks were found.
Step 2 - clean up and get some food. I'd not eaten since breakfast and my cycling on empty was clearly not going to continue. I always thought I'd break before the bike, but clearly not. So, I went to the Sainsbury's within the station and bought some baby wipes and some sushi.
Step 3 - Get the tube. It was on the tube that I started turning my oily hands into cleaner hands which smelled a little of Aloe Vera.
Step 4 - Get off the tube, fed and ready to walk the last few hundred yards to the gig. Self explanatory.
Unfortunately, there was Step 5 - discover the absence of audience and Step 6 - dismiss the comedians with many apologies for wasting their time. I gave the headline act a contribution towards his expenses from my own pocket. I've had various comedic ventures thrusting money I don't need into my hands of late, and I would rather give that to someone for whom comedy is their livelihood, than sit on it and grow avaricious and evil.
Thus my night unfolded as a poor impresssion of the plan. I ended up back in Reading with a broken bike, getting a lift to the bike shop from my friend. I chained the bike up, threw the key and a note through their letterbox and will leave the rest up to them and the local criminals - depending on who gets to the bike first.
Today left me in reasonable spirits. Bizarrely, the misfortune of the bike and the gig were probably good things. Over the course of the working day there were various not-so-good things to do, along with a couple of really positive things, which I enjoyed achieving - a small workshop I ran being one of them. I hope that I imparted what little I know in a constructive manner. However, work has that name for a reason and I needed to unwind. It was the bad stuff happening this evening - pulled gig, knackered bike - which kind of helped.
I like laughing at misfortune, even if it's my own. It helps if it's minor misfortune. Irritation and inconvenience are easily laughed off. Fundamental biggies, like life, love, home, work, are harder to laugh off. A silly bike breaking is actually a hoot. I chatted to a friend during the train journey home and managed to wind myself up into a near hysteria of giggling. This was caused, in part, by the ability to release the day's tensions with silliness, and it was compounded by the fact that I knew I had a guy eavesdropping on my conversation and occasionally giggling away himself at some of the funnier turns of phrase I came out with. Consequently, I did my best to make it funny for me, my friend on the phone, and the eavesdropper.
I'll admit. I lost it. I got hot, sweaty, giggly and unable to speak through the laughs at points. This broke many of the moods I've been feeling concurrently over the day.
Don't worry though. The dark clouds haven't lifted or disappeared over the horizon. They'll be raining on me again tomorrow. Life doesn't just heal. However a good bit of laughing can cover a multitude of bad patches.