Sunday, May 16, 2010


When I was in high school I participated in a talent show. We were a costumed jazz band, made up of fairly decent musicians. I wore a cleric’s collar, and, since I had a saxophone solo mid-song, we were called Pastor Baxter and the Holy Rollers. We came in second place to a couple of morons who hopped around on crutches.

That’s why I think my two friends were less interested in participating the next year. I wanted the three of us to dress up in spandex and lip sync to a new Bee Gees song. No doubt my pals just didn’t want to suffer the ignominy of coming in second place again.

That, or they didn’t like the whole idea of a spandex and falsetto gig. Our plans fell apart, and I never got the chance to wear form fitting stretch fabric again . . . until this year.

This year my exercise regime has morphed from primarily running to primarily bicycling, and it turns out that when one has a nice bicycle and one rides a lot of miles, one is better served with proper equipment. Water bottles, flat repair equipment, a helmet, stuff like that. Oh, and padded spandex shorts.

My first thousand miles passed in late April, exclusively in my regular shorts. Not bad for thirty minute rides, and passable for sixty, but once I hit three or four hours in a day, and fifty or sixty miles in a row, the seat was molded into my shorts and, through them, to my flesh. I had to practically peel myself off the saddle.

It came time for me to buy some real bicycle shorts, and I could only do that at a real bicycle shop. A guy in a foreign accent said the padded crotch was normal and, no, I wouldn’t need to wear underwear. I assume he was a salesman. I hope he was a salesman.

Whoever he was, he eyeballed me in a not too uncomfortable way and estimated my size. Then I was directed toward the expensive racks. When he turned his back to fawn over someone else, I did what I could to save some money. I found mid-priced tighties and slipped into the dressing room.

It took a surprising amount of upper body strength to drag the shorts up my thighs. They were very clingy, and suddenly I knew what Peter was complaining about when he had to dress up for the Brady Bunch Variety Hour. There’s nothing wrong with glitter and rhinestones and yards and yards of day-glo Lycra, but at some point having a layer of clothing that is closer than your own skin is unnatural.

With this fashion atrocity surgically attached, I eventually headed out on my favorite bicycle trail. It felt weird at first, but eventually the padded butt certainly started paying dividends. It didn’t feel like I was sitting in my favorite Barcalounger, but I was no longer astride the rock that is the modern professional bicycle seat. Fifteen or twenty miles with a little extra tush was breathtaking.

The one thing that didn’t change on my bike rides was my indifference to my fellow citizens. I am as oblivious on the trail on a bike as I am when running. I don’t run into or over people, but other than making sure I give them a wide berth I don’t really pay attention to them. Thus I don’t recognize people when they call my name. Or wave. Or smile.

Why, for goodness sake, would someone smile at me just because I am passing them on a creek trail? Just because of my form fitting shorts? Seems like a nice waste of facial muscles.

Oh, maybe they recognized me. Parents and kids from the schools where I teach, neighbors and coworkers, or people I see on a regular basis on the trail. All of them are just trying to be nice. Maybe that’s not what I easily recognize, the phenomena of being nice. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Hmm.

Or being tightly packed into shorts. Not used to that, yet, either.

So I have decided to take my newly adopted clothing style and be a newly friendly person out on the open roads. I will look more people in the eye and nod at their acquaintance. When they smile, I will smile in return.

It is what my wife and others have been talking about. The sociability of Matt. A work in progress—tight shorts notwithstanding.

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