Monday, December 2, 2013

The Best Test of Friendship

Every once in a blue moon, I get the opportunity to add an amazing person to my life.

I was born into a whole herd of them...if you can count three as a herd.

I had a fortuitous encounter with a mud puddle in my rec soccer years, earning the love and adoration of the Jacobsens for years to come.

I shook the hand of a fellow sixth grader, which was the rocky start to a life long friendship with my best friend, Erika (she thought I was crazy for offering to shake her hand...and I was thoroughly unimpressed with her handshake - seriously, limp fish, anyone?).

I inadvertently hit on my dear friend, Jamie, after moving to a new state and looking for new friends. I have to say, as a woman, it's truly awkward to ask a girl for her phone number. "Hey, you should give me your number...um, I mean, we should hang out...I mean, not like that...not that I have a problem with that or anything. It's totally cool if you're...but...I mean...(awkward cough)...what I'm trying to say is that you're cool, and I think we could have a good time hanging out in a non-sexual way." (That's right people, Suave is my middle name)

And those are just a few of the fortuitous moments when some of the coolest people I know have walked boldly into my life....or I have stampeded awkwardly through theirs, as it may be.

But THIS post, is not about adoring your friends. It's about ramming them off their bicycles, and that brings me to my good friend Jake.

To give you a little back story, Jake and I recently became coworkers. After discovering that we both enjoy running, we got in the habit of going on lunch time runs to break up the work day. If you're not already picturing two people running joyously through amber waves of grain, then I'm not telling this story right.

Now, in my defense, Jake had early warnings that being my friend was precarious, and even sometimes dangerous. On our very first run, a drunk, homeless man was on a bicycle wobbling all over the sidewalk, and managed to b-line straight at me, well, as much as one can b-line while wobbling.

My first course of action? I took one step backward and one step to the right, effectively putting Jake between me and the cyclist. Mind you, the real trick to my success and to assuring my personal safety, was that after stepping behind Jake, I put my right hand on the right side of his ribs.

Had Jake made the decision to bail out of the way, he would have had to fight me for the first right to do so. Naturally, Jake has taken full advantage of every opportunity to remind me about this minor effort to throw him in front of the cyclist to save myself.

That being said, despite my best efforts to do him harm, Jake has continued to show incredible resiliency and fortitude that I can only ascribe to good genetics - that is if you don't count this thyroid thing (don't mention it, he might cry). More importantly, however, he has also continued to show himself to be a true friend, even in the face of danger.

And that's why we still hang out, and it's also why he suggested we go on a bike ride one weekend.

He showed up at my house one morning promptly at 10:00, only to find me sitting on the floor in sweats and an old t-shirt hand-painting a dresser. He waited patiently for me to get ready, and as he had nothing to do, I put him to good use filling up the air in my tires. (If you don't give engineers things to do they start to try to fix things - next thing you know, you walk into the kitchen and half the refrigerator has been taken apart).

In no time at all, we were out the door, and on our way. I let him take the lead as we ducked down into the bike paths that Boulder is popularly known for, and we eagerly zipped through the tunnels and around the curves like happy kids on a Ferris wheel. That is, until we hit the headwind.

It was the first headwind I'd ever encountered on a bicycle, and I can safely say, short of a zombie apocalypse or a surprise tornado, it will very likely be the last. Jake noticed that I was struggling, and he gallantly let me draft behind him for the majority of the ride (thanks, Jake).

Finally, after what felt like miles and miles of excruciating headwinds and mild upward grades, we made it back to the bike paths, and with the exception of one wrong turn, Jake seemed to know exactly where we were going. So I cruised up right along side him so we could have a pleasant conversation for the remainder of our pleasant ride on the pleasant Sunday morning.

And, truly, everything was pleasant until Jake missed the turn.

I assumed that since he lead the way out, he knew the way back. In retrospect, this was a poor decision, and one that I probably should have discussed with him before acting upon my assumption. Which, by the way, was incorrect.

Unassuming Jake was enjoying his pleasant ride on the pleasant Sunday morning, and likely marveling at his good fortune of having survived yet another outing with me. Even more surprising that I hadn't even made an effort to throw him in harm's way.

Jake and I both learned a lesson that day. Assumptions are very very dangerous things.

I was anticipating the turn, and expected that Jake was as well. It was coming up on us quickly, and he didn't seem to be making any indications that he was going to turn, but I was confident he would. He's pretty directionally sound. Our opportunity to turn was rapidly passing us by, but in an effort to be polite, I didn't want to say anything that would suggest I didn't have faith in him or his directional capabilities. Fortunately, just when the last opportunity to turn was about to pass us by, Jake's bike twitched, ever so slightly to the right.

AH-HAH! I knew he was going to turn!

I cranked my handle bars hard with enthusiasm and vigor that could impress a gladiator, and promptly rammed my front tire directly into Jake's spokes - effectively t-boning him from point blank. We both tried to correct, but that's an impossible endeavor when one person's tire (mine) has lodged itself between the other person's spokes (Jake's). Both our bikes stopped on impact, and we went tumbling over the handle bars in an assortment of flying Ws and face plants.

The concrete met us with it's usual inflexibility, and in a clamor of clattering chains and vibrating carbon fiber, we rolled to a stop.

"Uugghh," Jake said, "Are you okay?" (Do note, his first concern was for the person who just rammed him off his bicycle)

And I was...I was more than okay. I was laughing so hard I was on the verge of tears. Jake, however, couldn't figure out quite why I thought it was so funny, as, from his perspective, I, arbitrarily decided to ram him off his bicycle. Which he probably did not find all that unbelievable - given that our ride had been so successfully mundane and uneventful, it wasn't all that surprising that I would choose to spice it up by t-boning him with my bike.

"What happened?" He asked, getting to his feet and looking at the road and my bike to figure out why I had so abruptly run into him.

And I could only reply with, "I thought you were going to turn." The look on his face was priceless, and with his typical good humor, Jake burst into laughter. We rode the rest of the way home with blood streaming down our bodies, giggling like kids who stole the cookie jar.

It was a great ride. But more importantly, it was a great lesson. Truly, how many people can you ram off a bicycle and still expect them to be your friend?

Not many...not many at all.

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