February 17, 2002
The Good Morning People
miles to go: 1,950.01

The Good Morning People were out in full force yesterday.

"I just want to SLAP them," I grumbled, as David and I paused for a dried-fruit-and-bottled-water break at the stone boat on Bay Farm Island. We had been riding for less than an hour, and already I'd deflected four "Hi how are yous," a handful of "Beautiful day, isn't its?" and half a dozen "Good Mornings."

"Look," David said. "When you're out in public on a sunny morning, wearing buttercup yellow" -- and here he waved a hand at our jackets -- "people are going to want to be friendly. It's only natural."

He's got a point.

Dressed in our matching yellow jackets and our Tootsie Pop red helmets, we do convey a sort of goofy good cheer that other people apparently find irresistible. Joggers, dog-walkers, stroller-pushers, fellow bicyclists: they all seem compelled to hail us when we pass each other on the trail.

I doubt that we would be eliciting the same friendly reaction if we were dressed in camouflage and his-and-her "Kill 'Em All And Let God Sort It Out" T-shirts.

David always responds cheerfully to the Good Morning People. Yesterday, for instance, we were getting ready to pass a group of senior citizens as they power-walked along the shoreline. David called out, as he always does, in his sonorous Radio Announcer Voice. ("Two bicycles coming: we're going to pass you on your left hand side.") One of the women turned around, as we approached, and playfully said, "What's the password?"

"Swordfish!" David shouted. It earned a big laugh from everybody within earshot.

From everybody but ME, that is. I just sort of nodded grimly, at nobody in particular, and kept pedalling.

I can't help it. The Good Morning People annoy the hell out of me. Not because I'm crabby and curmudgeonly and antisocial by nature ... although I am, more often than not. And not because saying 'hello' interrupts some critically-important flow of concentration ... although it does, more often than not. Bike-riding is the perfect sport for people who enjoy spending a lot of time inside their own head.  If I'm, say, busy composing a *FootNotes* entry in my head as I'm topping the crest of the million-dollar bike bridge, the last thing in the world I'm going to want to do is stop in mid-thought-process and exchange mindless pleasantries with strangers.

But that's not why I hate The Good Morning People, either.  Mostly I hate The Good Morning People because they catch me out of breath, more often than not.

I'll be doing battle with a stiff wind  --  beet-red, chugging along in SERIOUS pain, praying that my heart doesn't explode before I have to upshift again  --  when all of a sudden another cyclist will appear out of nowhere, cruising along effortlessly in the other direction, singing out a jaunty "Good morning!"  If I attempt to say anything at that moment  --  if I so much as open my mouth  --  the only sound you'll hear is the sound of two lungs collapsing. I can't risk that kind of embarrassment, especially in front of a superior cyclist. So I just keep my head down and pretend I didn't hear them. Or else I'll be coasting down the side of the Moraga Hill, still huffing and puffing from the effort of the ascent, thanking god for downhills and 13% Spandex/Lycra, when I'll suddenly encounter a couple of elderly dog-walkers at the bottom of the hill, eager to tell me to "Have a nice day!"  Half the time it's all I can do to simply remain vertical until my upper respiratory system is functioning normally again. An actual verbal response is out of the question.

I don't care if they see me sweat. I just don't want them to see me HYPERVENTILATE.

Still, I suppose that it wouldn't kill me to at least make an effort to be nicer to people. David is working very hard to teach me the rules of the cycling road -- always call out when you're passing someone, always carry a spare tube, never turn a blind corner, never tell somebody that their dog looks like a toupee with feet (even if it does).  A lot of what I'm learning from him, I'm learning by example. If he can be unfailingly courteous and considerate of people we encounter on the trail, maybe *I* should, too.

Or maybe I can just start running over them.

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