Biking to St. Paul in the Rain

dandelions

dandelions

About an hour before I have to be at work I am already leaving my apartment. I like being early. Most days I will arrive early at the approval of my managers and the bane of my coworkers. It’s so fucking easy to be punctual. It takes zero effort. So naturally, I am absolutely reliable, always—when I want to be. Even if there is a rainstorm spinning hell overhead I will be on my bike charging off to work at least an hour early, promise. I usually end interviews by making this an objective point.

The extra fifteen minutes I allot myself before my regular scheduled shift affords me the time to walk past patrons at the computers and refill my Nalgene bottle near the reference material, or go to the student break room and try to hopelessly solve the inordinate riddles scrawled on the whiteboard. I will step in the building, look at the clock, look at the desk, say “hey”, think, set my backpack down, think again, talk to myself, clock in and walk around doing odd jobs that I need to do to feel accomplishment or fulfillment as a normal person, perhaps disburthen myself, in order to get my human mind ready for work. Yeap.

Today was like any other Midwestern day except for the fact that it was mostly wet out. Rain had started in the night to cause a dew that never Aufwiedersehened, puddles that kept making circles of droplets, and cars, trees, and sidewalks that would never dry. I noted this on my early morning run. Today I had freedom until 5pm, and then it was work until Midnight. The ride in, pray tell, on my Schwinn Caliente, would be nothing I couldn’t handle.

A half an hour before I was about to leave, which was about 2 hours before I had to be at work, because I wanted to coffee, Jess called to see what I was up to. Of course I was lazing about all morning sipping coffee, harassing the cat, writing, typing, reading, listening to the No Agenda Podcast, and preparing for what would be a wet misadventure to work.

You see, the clouds were looking just as heavy, if not heavier than earlier, and pins and needles were gathering in my stomach—for reasons unknown. She offered me a ride to work over the phone. I let her know that it was unnecessary. I regretted this decision the moment I made it.

I was out the door reluctantly. You know when you are lazy all day and you have to do something, the last thing you want to do is that one thing you have to do. That sort of day befell me in awkward fashion. I locked the door and checked it five times, as always; I went in checked the faucets, checked the backdoor, made sure the cat was in place, closed the blinds, and repeated. I am not sure if I actually have “OCD”, but I do this regular. My house is a fortress for my obsession. I attribute it to being cautious, as I have had my car stolen twice and my house robbed once. It’s unfortunate, but we learn from experience.

So, I locked up the apartment and walked into the basement, unlocked my bike and hauled it up the backstairs. My bike weighs about 50 pounds too much, but she is reliable. I am broke right now, so it will have to do to get me to work to make more money to buy a new bike. Logic follows.

After getting to the top of the stairs I observed the parking lot, no change. It was the same scene as it was this morning after the run; the wind hollowing and pinging inside on the windows had told it all. Fuck, the puddles were circles of circles of rippled circles, splashing waters. Bugs were at the beach. There were ant-sized Great Lakes. They were saying “fuck you” to the drought in California and to what would normally be a pleasant ride to work.

Once on my bike I said to myself: this isn’t so bad. I lied. I kept repeating this could get worse, or this is a good idea. When I biked past the bridge over 35W north I stopped to put my phone in a Ziploc bag, as I was prepared. My backpack was possibly fucked. By this time my legs were saturated, and I was unsure as to if I would bet money on my raincoat. A wet cat would fare better.

I had been through two raincoats in the past couple of years. Either it never rained on the old raincoat, or the quality has steadily gotten worse for raincoat manufacturers. These shit raincoats came from some Spring or Fall outdoors convention at Midwest Mountaineering. Where floor staff sells beer to sell you more product—they get you while you are impaired I say. Yeah, I had a few. Whatever.

Anyway, I like a sturdy outer shell, nothing flimsy, and nothing that leaks. While walking Jess to the bus one morning I discovered a leak in my old raincoat, great! It had let cold rainwater down my backside and into my briefs. Of course I decided to get the same exact one. Unfortunately for Marmot things had changed, the quality was shit and the new coat hardly lasted through the Minnesota winter. Ninety bucks burnt a hole in my wallet and the guarantee on the coat was as good as the guarantee on a gumdrop. It just doesn’t happen.

So, after the 35W bridge zip-up, I found myself maneuvering up Como Avenue in this raincoat. Como Avenue is interesting if you like to bike directly next to cars, and terrifying if you don’t. In the rain, in my Ray-Bans, here I was biking up the open road. I kept looking back for the next car, or the next bus, or God, or the next sign of clouds parting. The sun was out, bright enough to wear shades, but weak enough to permit clouds, fuck. I kept pedaling up the avenue to the incline, where Minneapolis turns to St. Paul, and where, abruptly, St. Paul turns to Falcon Heights, just over by 280. A bus passed me slowly, there was no reprieve. Metro Transit waited at the light for a moment for me to get ahead and I biked onto the sidewalk to let it pass—I know that buses crack human femurs like chicken wings at the local dive, so I moved clear. I became more saturated waiting, a man getting off of the bus nodded with a smile. I was a fucking joke.

At this point people were either running along the sidewalks, or in raincoats in bus ports, or on buses, or just nowhere to be found. I was on my way to get coffee just at the top of the hill at Dunn Bros, nothing special, just hot caffeine. There was only one hill in my way.

I huffed up the lengthy hill, slowly in some low gear that almost felt like backwards, pulled to the side of the street across from the blue and white and red Mobil, and locked up. Bending down I let accumulated raindrops soak my inner garments. I was not sure if I was wet from sweating, or wet from the raining. I walked inside with fogged up sunglasses, a helmet slicked with water, and pants that clung to me as taffy to its wrapper. I was extra cool in extra skinny everything, fact. I’ll take an Americano, medium, room.

My coffee was up and a mild-hot and I wanted to stay. I had to leave certainly, but when? I knew if I waited too long I would become accustom to almost-dry and not want to leave. I looked around at the crowd, sitting behind MacBooks and thick-framed glasses, some familiar man locked eyes with me. I thought about where I had met him—the library, I knew. I hate talking to people. I left immediately.

Walking back to my bike was a bit depressing; the coffee was not as hot as last time (though last time it burnt my fucking hand to touch the cup) and all day had looked like this—grey, sepia, shit. It had looked as though we were stuck in a constant dusk. I unlocked my bike and carried my warm coffee, with the Kryptonite and wire slung over my shoulder. I walked past my ephemera (Local Poetry, blah blah, blah, no one reads…) and back the way I had biked.

I took a right on Doswell. I walked a bending peaceful upscale community street past College Park, past dampened and wilting Honeysuckles, and past telephone poles and a wet Labrador with its master. My feet became soaked, the left one more so than the right one. I could feel the holes in my shoes, the patches I used to repair them had failed. My coffee splashed and splashed on my hand.

Around 3:45pm I walked the last steep inclined street to where the connectors meet at the St. Paul Student Center and locked my bike up in front of Magrath Library. My coffee was half gone, and somewhat diluted with urban rain water. Everything was stuck to me, I had become a magnet of sorts, or the killer in I Know What You Did Last Summer—shitty movie. Going inside seemed useless now—almost, I would have to carry this with me, this wet. I went in. I didn’t get my requested books right away. I walked downstairs and outside and then back in again. It can wait. I went into the basement bathroom of Magrath and took a piss, and then I took off my coat. My sleeve ends were soaked on the inside but the rest of me was not so bad. I must have just felt the sweat building up from the hill. My pants were drenched though, and my shoes were the beginnings of trench foot. I washed my hands and looked up.

The person in the mirror looked friendly, and smiled, so I decided to go dry off in the pressing wind under Bourlag Hall’s massive cement awning. I found a wooden bench and relieved myself of tattered Chuck Taylor’s, low-top socks, a wet shell of a coat, and my dripping black bag. My possessions sat on the ground watching me, and I sat on the dry wood below my ass. There was a chill in the afternoon air. I wrote some things down in my notebook, and then took off to the Veterinary Medical Library to scan books. It was an evening shift to begin and a bike ride which could have been worse. The coffee had turned a stagnant and tepid.

Still I stand soaked, but now I know the only cure for wet is dry. Oh, and always accept that offer of a ride to work.

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About Terry Scott Niebeling

Hello, My name is Terry Scott, a human being with flaws. twitter: @sirterryscott Buy my ebooks: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/191-4788099-1818040?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=terry+scott+niebeling
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