Monday, May 1, 2017

Losing Air


The back tire of my bicycle was slowly losing air, so, today I tackled the job of installing a new tube and tire on the wheel. I am a big guy with a big ride, a 29-inch mountain bicycle. I could have just patched the tube and planned to do so until I noticed how worn the knobby tire was. It was down beyond the treads. Only a thin layer of rubber remained between tire and tube. I keep an extra tire wadded up in a shoe box along with some fresh tubes with Presta valves. (The old spring-loaded Schrader valves are harder to pump up).

Because the new tire had been so cramped up so long, it was difficult to make it round and receptive to a tube again. It is no fun giving a vigorous and seemingly fruitless massage to an inanimate hunk of rubber made in China. But, at length, I managed to get the flabbily pumped tube inserted into the more-or-less rounded tire. After struggling with the derailleur (it is a 21-speed bicycle) I got the wheel back where it belongs and pumped to 65-pound perfection—ready to roll, right? It was then I noticed how out of true my wheels were.

Out with the spoke wrench. Truing wheels is a delicate art and quite satisfying. First, one must mark the place(s) on the rim where the wheel leans this way or that while rolling. Then, tightening a spoke or two on one side and/or loosening one or two on the other side will bring the wheel into alignment. It usually takes me several stabs at this to get it perfectly true. I know they have more technical devices to guide them at bicycle shops, but I am a do-it-yourselfer.

As I made my wheels true, Truth broke through. I realized that there are elements in my life I should tighten up or loosen up to be true to myself. I thought of Polonius’ speech to his college-bound son Laertes in Hamlet. He advises that if the lad is true to himself, he cannot be false to anyone. I think that is generally true. Shakespeare’s irony is that Polonius himself is not true to himself or anyone else. His is one of those “do as I say not as I do” parental speeches. Leadership by example is the only kind that really works. Leaders should be exemplary. Things break down when people start feeling superior to their leaders.

Being true to myself means that I need to tighten up on my tendency to fictionalize. I am a little like William Faulkner, who said, “Being a convincing liar, I have trouble telling the truth.” Of course, sometimes fiction can be truer than fact, as in parables. Conversely, I need to loosen up on being so judgmental—of myself as well as others. I understand that if I judge too severely, I set myself up to get the same in return. Have you noticed the reciprocity of ethics?

Now, fully pumped and completely true, I shall ride off into the beautiful May sunset.

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