That’s the thing about this city; is not eco-friendly. And has no bike lanes. The traffic is horrendous. Many families have like two cars, at least. One for him and one for her. Why should they use public transportation with all kinds of smelly dudes when they can go to the office with a car? Even if they stay at least one hour in the car for just 6 kilometers driving distance.
This is one reason this city is in top ten of the most polluted in Europe. But living here is a necessary evil because here I can make a decent living. I am talking here about money, of course. The money I will spend later on trying to treat the diseases inflicted by this polluted city.
Good thing we can’t afford two cars. So, I use a bike to do my deliveries. I work for a company where people order things through an app and I deliver them. A cubic box is flapping gently against my back as I pedal, zig-zagging next to pedestrians on the sidewalks (and they curse, most of the time), or among the cars (and they honk also most of the time).
My wife is using our car for her job. She is a massage therapist and I won’t expect for her to carry the massage table on a bike. Right?
Now I arrive in a residential neighborhood. Duplex houses with a small backyard, and ornate cement tall fences upfront, the house of choice for the emerging middle-class. Usually, these guys are good tippers. I drive slowly now on the narrow street to find the number of the address. Okay, riight there. Still on the bike’s saddle, I push the button of the intercom. A female voice blares, “Yes…”
“Good day, madam, I am here with your order,” I say.
“What order?” she asks, a bit bored.
Gee, how many things these guys are ordering at once?
“Your apple pies order, madam,” I specify.
“Why don’t you say so?”
Tzzank! The metallic door lock is released, and I open the door leading to the front yard. I also drive the bike inside. I can’t know for how long this lady will keep me inside and if I let it on the street for sure someone will steal it. Even in this pleasant neighborhood. I don’t trust people anymore in this city. This is my third bike. The other two “left” me for some slicker masters.
A middle age woman exits from the main entrance of the house and her face is not happy at all.
“Why have you brought your bike inside? Nobody will steal it in this neighborhood!”
Good thing it’s a sunny summer day and my bike doesn’t leave muddy traces behind. One scolding less for me to hear today.
“Sorry, madam, but I don’t know well this neighborhood so I can’t be sure of anything.”
“Yeah, right. You, young people, don’t know good values anymore. Just drunkenness and stealing, that’s all you see and do all day!”
Oh, man! I have to endure this too. For sure she will not tip me.
I unstrap the box from my back, unzip it, and hand over to her two cases with the pies. The payment was already done, so I move backward slowly to the exit, keeping eye contact with the grudging lady maybe, just maybe, she will tip me.
Oh, Lord! It’s a miracle. She digs her hand in the pocket of her house robe and hands over three small bills.
It comes to my mind that joke from some movie “Gee, now I can go to college!” but I take them anyway, and say “thanks” with a small voice, followed by “have a nice day”.
Exiting the duplex neighborhood, I am greeted by larger boulevards flanked by taller buildings. This time I cannot ride among the pedestrians, so I use the right edge of the asphalt road.
At some point, a red station wagon Ford is passing by my side being in a hurry. But suddenly it slows and goes again in front of me on the first lane. The bus lane. I see a bus coming from behind, so I speed up to pass alongside the red Ford. Just when I am near it, the driver abruptly stops and opens the door. I was looking back, worried by the approaching bus, so I miss this reckless move. The collision with his side door is unavoidable. I fall down, my knees are all an open wound, also the left side of my face is scrapped. I am in pain, and I hope I didn’t break a rib too. The plastic helmet protected somewhat my head. My bike glided partially under the car. And my delivery box is still strapped to me but is creased like hell.
“Look at you!” exclaims the driver, a guy in his fifties with grey hair and a significant belly. “What came to you to sneak in like that?”
“You’re the one to speak?” I ask, boiling with rage. “When you are the one who stopped so suddenly and opened the door in my face?”
“Okay, let’s not get wind up here! I’m sorry, Okay?”
“And what good that makes to me?” I ask, trying to stand and evaluate the status of my delivery box.
Fortunately, the pies I just delivered earlier were the last for the day. Otherwise, now I would have to pay for my cargo as well.
The man, driven probably by a shred of guilt, helps me recover my bike from under his car and offers, “Let’s put your bike on top of my car and get you some band aid on those wounds!”
“Ah, so nice of you to take me to the hospital,” I retort ironically.
“Nah, you don’t need a hospital. Just a woman’s hand. Let’s go to my place. It’s not far and my lady is expecting me and she is a nurse of some kind. She will patch you up. Hah? What do you say?”
I look at him cautiously. He doesn’t have a face of a serial killer and I was confident that my thirty years will overcome his fifties if situation may arise. My riding pants are a mess, same is my T-shirt. And the blood keeps dripping from the wounds at my knees. So, I accept.
“But you will repay me for my torn clothes,” I demand in a serious tone.
“Sure, how much can they cost, anyway?” answers the magnanimous driver.
If the wheel is not spinning, the money won’t flow, says a colleague of mine. But it seems that for me today the wheel will not be spinning anymore. And for sure the bike will need a check-up at a bike shop I frequent in my neighborhood. This guy must pay for the trouble he caused.
“Wait just a tiiny little moment while I go to that liquor store to get something,” continues the man. “That’s why I stopped here, anyway. I wanted some champagne for my lady, if you know what I mean.”
Great! Because of his bacchanal celebration, I am in such a mess?
But what can I say? I put my bike on the metal supports on top of the station wagon and fasten it there with the locking cable, while my box goes to the backseat. I stand in the passenger seat and use some paper tissues to tend my bleeding knees.
The man returns pretty quick with two champagne bottles and hands them over to me. I guess those are safer in my hands since I am sitting on the passenger seat.
“I am Dan, by the way,” he said, starting the car.
“Mircea,” I reply, not so happy about getting to know new people this way.
Dan is a chatty guy and his mouth almost never stops while he drives to his house, that proves to be an apartment into one of those tall buildings.
“Let me tell you from the start,” he says in a conspiratorial tone. “The lady I am speaking about, is not really my wife. My wife is out of town. This one is a dear of mine. She says she’s a massage therapist, but she does everything if you know what I mean.”
My heart sinks into my stomach.
“Please, God, let it not be my wife!” I say in my mind. It will be a disaster for our marriage and a too much of a coincidence.
“Here we are!” says Dan after driving for a few minutes.
The bike is locked on top of his car and my box is still in the car so I follow him slightly limping to his apartment, with a raised pulse and waiting for the moment of truth.
The elevator is leaving us on the seventh floor. And soon Dan (Dan, the Man!) opens the door of one apartment yelling, “Honey, I’m baack!”
And he takes the champagne bottles from my hands and puts them on the coffee table in the living room.
“Honey” is a young blonde with a naughty nurse outfit and everything. Her massage table is forgotten in a corner of the room and she stays relaxed on the sofa. I let out a relieved breath. She’s not my wife. It’s Alina, her good friend.
Wouldn’t have been nice for this city to have dedicated bike lanes?