I used to ride my bike to the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps
) unit at The George Washington University
from my place at Georgetown University
. I rode with a guerilla bicycle courier
-like intensity, and at least once a week, I did so in my whites
. In my never ending quest to get more sleep, I had whittle
d down the mile long ride to about ten or fifteen minutes, as long as I ran through all the red lights and took sidewalk shortcuts
Since I usually left before 7:00 am, I never even saw people, let alone menaced them with my fast moving hunk of metal on the sidewalk.
Except this one morning. I was already sweating as I rounded the corner of M street and Wisconsin Avenue. October's thick Indian Summer air dragged at my shining white uniform as I pedaled hard through the turn and bunny-hopped up the curb by the old Riggs Bank building.
Through detailed scientific examination, I had determined that the fastest way to the other side of M Street (where I wanted to be), was down the north sidewalk until I could catch a break in the traffic and shoot across to the south side of 'M'. After that, the ride was smooth and hassle-free--except for that particularly nasty Washington Circle.
I travelled past Riggs, Ben and Jerry's, Old Glory, and a famous hamburger place whose name I don't remember (any DC folks please /msg me), and was really beginning to pick up speed. I was concentrating on the street, searching for a bicycle-sized opportunity to dart into traffic, when I saw a flicker of movement in the doorway of a store I thought was closed. A portly lady in a voluminous flowered mumu stepped out the door and right in front of me.
I locked up my brakes but was too startled to make a sound. She must have heard my tires scratching desperately for purchase on the cement, because she looked up in horror. Our eyes locked, and I decided that my body would be softer than my bike so I leaned forward in the pedals.
I have hit people harder--on the football field or the rugby pitch, but never have I crashed so hard into another human being right on the street. She shuddered and went down like bag of cement tossed out of dusty pickup truck. People emerged from other doorways, yelling obscenities. I looked down and realized that not only was I wearing my whites, but also my nametag. Oh, dear.
I was not a credit to the naval service that hot autumn morning. I looked down at her dazed, heaving bulk and said,
"Are you ok?"
She nodded, briefly. At least I was pretty sure she nodded. I glanced at my watch. I had seven minutes to get to class. I had to go.
Also, there was a small mob forming, and I was particularly conspicuous in my bright whites. I looked out at the street and saw my bicycle-sized opportunity. I jumped into traffic, accelerating to full speed much more quickly than usual.
I got to class almost on time, and I never rode on that portion of M Street's sidewalk again.