Last week, while riding my bike to meet a friend for dinner, I got hit by a car. My initial thoughts, upon seeing a behemoth BMW SUV inexorably bearing down on me was that this was it. The gig was up, and I was on my way to join the bleedin’ choir invisible, a reverse BMW logo indelibly stamped into my forehead.
Then, a blessed surge of relief when I realized from my perspective on the ground that I was not going to be flattened after all. Concerned people gathered around, all firing away questions in Dutch, which at this point I was not understanding at all (my Dutch comprehension is pathetic at the best of times). Finally, when I was able to calm down enough to speak, I was able to say in Dutch that my command of their language was abominable, and as is usual here, everyone switched immediately to English.
They helped me off the road, and the woman who hit me asked if I was ok or if I felt dizzy at all (she says she didn’t see me, though it was only late afternoon and she should have had a perfectly clear view of me from the direction from which she was coming). It was only later that I realized she hit me because I expected her to slow down at that intersection, as every other vehicle does, because that intersection has a blind corner. To ensure someone coming from the street to the right is not smooshed, a car has to at least slow down significantly, if not stop. Though not speeding, she had sailed through there like Harry and Meghan on their wedding day.
Mentally checking to see if anything was broken, two people helped me to my feet and I was able to get out of the middle of the road. Astoundingly, I seemed ok, apart from the blow my knees and a shoulder had taken.
My bike had been moved to the side of the road. Looking at it, it did not seem terribly bent, but the back wheel was decidedly wonky. It took real effort to get it to turn.
That bike had been my faithful companion for the last 14 years. I bought it new in Paris soon after moving there. It wasn’t terribly expensive, but I rode it everywhere. I bought a quaint wicker basket lined with a green-and-white checkered cloth to hang off the front, in which I could put my market purchases. Everything from fromage du chèvre to cheap Tati wine glasses were transported on that bike.
My trusty old Meteor had been my constant companion, and I cycled it all over Paris, from the Champs-Elysées to the Sunday puces (flea market) at Vanves. It was particularly handy during the frequent RATP strikes, when a bus or metro could not be found for love nor money. Despite there being no dedicated bike lanes in Paris during those years, I never had a problem with safely navigating the roads along with the car and bus traffic.
So this morning, while I listened to the bike repair guy explain how it would cost far more to try to repair the bike than to buy another equivalent used one, I felt something akin to when taking one’s beloved pet to the vet, suspecting there is something terribly wrong. Not quite the same level of anguish, of course, but still.
The guy at the used bike place was friendly and did a good job at assessing my requirements. Finding a bicycle for my diminutive size in this country of giants I expected to be no easy task. But he emerged with one that, while larger than my Meteor, was a manageable size. I gave it a test ride, and it felt pretty comfortable for a strange bike and it had smooth ride — in some ways smoother than my old one. Life sometimes literally hurls us into change.
As I left the shop with my adopted bike, I gave my old companion one last lingering glance, grateful to it for all its years of good service. Yet one more link to my years in Paris is gone. That’s ok, makes more room for new memories.