As usual, I went for a bike ride after work, since it finally stopped raining. 13 miles out – the farthest I go before turning around – the front tire of my bike went flat. I walked over to the nearest gas station and proceeded to have an adventure.
I’ve fixed a flat tire precisely once, and that was with my Dad’s help. He made it look easy. I got two dollars worth of quarters from the guy behind the counter in the gas station (for the air pump, since my hand pump had fallen off my bike a couple days before and I couldn’t go back and get it) and then sat out front to try to get the tire apart.
It wasn’t as easy as Dad made it look. I struggled with the thing. A young guy walked up a few minutes in to this epic battle. He asked me what was up (flat tire) and said I picked a bad part of town to get a flat in. Then he took the tire away from me and said he could do it. I’d already skinned one of my knuckles pretty bad, and he seemed to find that pretty upsetting. (Way more upsetting than I did for sure.)
He managed to get the tire bead out of the track, and we got the innertube out. But then the next problem – the air pump didn’t work. That was the point where the nice young man started getting nervous. He asked if I had any friends that could come and get me, and made me hide my camelbak behind my bike.
He was also much more nervous than I was. I guess this makes me foolish. He was from around there, and he told me, this is the bad part of town. This is dangerous. You need to go home.
I called my coworker while he watched nervously and she said she’d come pick me up. I let him know, but he just stayed there, talking, looking more nervous. I could tell he wanted to get out of there; I told him it was okay, Ashley would be by soon, he didn’t have to worry.
Then he told me he was homeless and asked if I had a buck to spare, so he could get something to eat. I gave him $5 (the biggest thing I had on me) because he’d been really sweet. He seemed surprised that I gave him anything at all, and I told him to take care, and not to worry.
It took Ashley a long time to get there.
I stood around in front of the gas station, right by the door. As gas stations went, it was admittedly a bit to the scruffy side; everything was dirty, the nice guy behind the counter was basically in a plexiglass aquarium. It’s likely my own stupidity, but I didn’t feel scared. I spent a lot of time in Commerce City when I was an EMT, and there were some places there that scared the shit out of me. This didn’t even register, for all the nice homeless guy had seemed so nervous.
What did happen:
Four different people asked me if I needed a ride, if I needed to borrow a phone, if I was okay.
A lady with a shopping cart from the Fiesta came by and I offered to watch her cart while she bought cigarettes. She gave me a really pretty smile.
I watched a group of young men (one with a blue plastic comb sticking out of his hair) hug each other and joke.
I traded the guy in the fishbowl his quarters back, which he appreciated since he was almost out.
People said hi, and smiled when I said hi back.
A mosquito bit me on the knee.
Then Ashley and her boyfriend showed up and gave me a lift back to my apartment. I managed to get my innertube patched and put a tire liner in since I figured I might as well, since the tire was out. I had some ravioli with pesto and a beer.
I’d like to think wherever I end up, there’ll be a nice guy (or gal) who’ll see how I’m screwing up my repair job and give me a hand. I’d like to think that when you smile at people and say hi, they smile back. I don’t like the notion that I should be scared of other people as a default position.
So far I’ve been lucky enough to hold on to that.