Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Indignity of April Fools' Day: Giant Packages

(The new Scattante, complete with disembodied hand.)

Today, of course, is "April Fools' Day," and it's a day on which it is customary to play "practical jokes." (Practical jokes are like regular jokes, only with panniers.) This custom is observed in other countries as well, though with slight variations. For example, the French have "Le Poisson d'Avril," and instead of playing tricks on humans they play tricks on fish. Also, in Ecuador, everybody wears fur and speaks Finnish for the day in order to confuse people visiting from abroad. As a result, there's a global sense of levity today, despite the fact that our collective existence is as bleak and miserable as it is during the rest of the year.

Cycling websites are no different, and you will find japes aplenty there as well; VeloNews had one about bicycle touring (believe it or not, the Contador one was real); Cyclingnews had it's customary smattering; and even Felt Bicycles got into the spirit by pretending to market this comically trendy "fixie." I, however, will not be participating in any April 1st thomasfoolery (apart from sharing the spurious Scattante at the top of this post, with which I had nothing to do but by which I was amused). Frankly, all these pranks make the world seem frightening to me, and I don't know who to trust. It's too much like being under the influence of a strong hallucinogen--at least according to what I've seen in movies. I've actually never tried hallucinogens myself, except for many, many times when I was younger. (And technically, I was younger when I typed up this post than I am right now, so you can conclude from that what you will.)

Given my fear of April Fools Day, I awoke in a state of paranoia this morning, only to find out it was completely justified when, gripped by the spirit of the day, my helper monkey Vito replaced my customary bowl of Froot Loops with a kick to the "pants yabbies." (His sense of humor has a distinctly simian lack of artfulness.) Then, my door knocker sounded, and I opened the door only to be greeted by a nonplussed-looking UPS man bearing an enormous package:

At first I thought this too was a practical joke (judging from the size of the box, I suspected it might actually contain a large human idiot), but I soon realized that, while a Surly Big Dummy may indeed be practical, I had actually agreed to try one in some hallucinogen-induced haze. Just to give you a sense of how large this box is, here's my Japanese monster creature holding my Cochise Rodriguez button and piece of Vladimir Karpets's tire (both gifted to me by the proprietor of Cycling Inquisition) and standing at one end of it:

And here's how tiny he looks from way down at the other end of the box:

I should point out, by the way, that my Japanese monster creature is actually 14 feet tall.

Anyway, it should be interesting to see if the Surly Big Dummy will allow me to join the ranks of those smug cyclists who regularly carry unwieldy items by bicycle, and I'm also taking a special interest in their behavior in the same way the shiny NĂ¼-Fred studies the grizzled messenger. As it happens, yesterday evening I found myself on the Brooklyn Bridge for matters of business with which I will not trouble you. (Let's just say I was selling drugs to tourists.) As I've mentioned before, there are some cyclists who will yell wildly at the sightseers who inevitably wander into the bike lane (dazzled as they are by the glistening skyscrapers above and the pungently unctuous Big Skanky below). As frustrating as this can be when you're riding, I've never really approved of such behavior--it's kind of like screaming at a dinner guest because they sat in the wrong chair--and it was even more shocking to me as I stood among these friendly people with their strange blue jeans and comical accents.

Eventually, though, my business was done (I was all out of drugs) and so I took up behind a gentleman towing a trailer and ringing a bell wildly as he cut through the herd:

His wide payload created a perfect wake for me, and I was able to ride unmolested by tourists. As a soon-to-be Big Dummy borrower, I scrutinized his package (infer from that what you will) but could not figure out what it was:

My best guess was that it was either a Geiger counter, or else one of those Havahart rodent traps. I then backed off a bit lest the trap open and I get attacked by a raccoon. Fortunately, this did not happen, and I thought no more of it until I came across this story:

Apparently, Central Park is now bunny-free (though any local racer will attest that it is rife with squirrels). While the article blames the raccoons, I suspect that the person I was following may indeed be trapping the bunnies and smuggling them into Brooklyn in some sort of rabbit-running operation. Then again, it could simply be that the rabbits are getting picked off by the hawks:

Or, they're just totally over being rabbits, and are now "down" with the whole freestyle ducking thing:

("All You Fakenducks Suck My Epidydymis")

This is not to say that my ride behind the rabbit smuggler was without incident. There was a frightening moment where both he and an oncoming guy with a basket rang their bells furiously at some straggling tourists, who then recoiled in horror against the guardrail:

Again, I maintain this is not the way we should behave towards visitors to our city. Instead, we should at least make them feel welcome and then gain their trust before completely screwing them over. Also, if we mistreat our tourists who choose to see the city on foot, they may return enraged and in cyborg form:

"Touren mit segway" indeed. It's one thing to push some docile tourists in soccer sneakers around; it's quite another when those tourists are standing on 100lb rolling dork podiums. Imagine an army of tourists all on Segways, taking over the Brooklyn Bridge in some sort of horrific and nerdy hybrid of Critical Mass and "Robocop."

By the way, we may be closer to this fate than we realize, for European nations are undoubtedly angry at us already for exporting our ridiculous "fixie" culture. A reader in the Netherlands, for example, forwarded me a link to the television show "TV Draait Door," in which a news clip on fixed-gears goes horribly awry. From what I can tell, the show features "fails" (or what were called "bloopers" further back on the Dachshund) from other shows, and here's the Euro-disheveled host setting it up:

Here's the "fixter" demonstrating his "skidzzz" right in a crosswalk and presumably explaining his Zen-like connection to his "tarck" bike:

And here he is crashing in front of a minivan and almost dying:

Much to this woman's delight:

Yes, it won't be long before a coalition sends an army of Segways to lay waste to us--even if many of us are abandoning fixed-gears and moving on to "p-fars," as in this photograph forwarded to me by a reader in Denver:

I hope that bridge has adequate clearance.

Speaking of clearance, you'll also need plenty of it if you plan to "run" an automotive rearview mirror mounted on what may or may not be a golf club, as spotted by a reader in Vancouver, WA:

Objects in mirror may be dorkier than they appear.