Team Lardbutt isn't the fastest team in the US, it isn't the best-equipped team, and we sometimes wonder if it exists at all outside the imaginings of Chief Lardbutt Greg Taylor. With Christmas - and the dreaded thought of thousands of car drivers in holiday mode - fast approaching, he relives a conversation with a guy called God from two summers past.
Touched by an Angel?
Nope - Whacked by a Hatchback
Frankly, you just don't ever know who you will run into while flying over the hood of a small Japanese car. Really. One minute you're out riding along on your bike, enjoying a nice sunny Saturday afternoon without a care in the world, and the next you're sailing through space while having a conversation with a guy who introduces himself to you as God.
"Hey, Greg... Gregory! Hi ho! God here. I need to bend your ear for a minute."
"What? Who's there? What's happening?"
"It's Me. God. You know, the Creator of the Universe. The Celestial Chief Executive. I need to talk to you. Got a minute?''
"A little sluggish on the uptake today, aren't we? OK, I'll speak slowly; try to follow along here. I'm God, and right now you're in the middle of having an accident on your bike. And I'd like to talk with you... "
"God? An accident!?
"Stay with me here, Gregory. A couple of seconds ago you were riding through an intersection on your bike when a 16 year-old kid driving a small hatchback blew through a stop sign right in front of you. You didn't have time to avoid it so you've nailed the side of the car. Hard. Right now you are in the process of flying over the hood. Momentarily you are going to land on the other side of the car in the middle of the intersection. Because your perception of time slows during an accident, this unscheduled trip over the handlebars will seem to take an eternity. So, seeing as you have some time to kill, I figured this would be a good opportunity for us to have a little chat."
"Wait! My bike! Is my bike okay!? Did that idiot hurt my bike?"
"Your bike? Your BIKE!? Gregory, you're poised on the edge of oblivion, actually in the process of (*ahem*) Meeting your Maker, and you are worrying about bits of steel and carbon fiber?"
"Well God, it is a brand new bike, and I'd sure hate to see it get dinged..."
"What the heck is it with you cyclists? Run these guys over with a car, give them a little face-time with the Creator of Universe to talk things over, and what do I get? Do they want Me to explain the meaning of life? Are they curious about Jesus or Buddha? Heck, I'd be satisfied with a question about whether Elvis is still alive. No! It's the same stupid question every single time! Gregory! Don't try my patience. I need to speak with you right now."
"Uh, sorry God. I didn't know that the "bike" question was a pet peeve of yours. Hey! Wait a minute! If I'm talking with you, God, does that mean that I'm dead?"
"No, you are not dead. You are going to be a little banged up when this is over, but you most assuredly are not dead. Credit for that small miracle goes to your bike helmet. Besides, I've decided to save something far more entertaining for your Big Exit than getting run over by a car."
"Well, that's a relief, I guess."
"Not to give too much away, but your Grand Finale involves a troupe of female gymnasts, lots of Jell-O, and a poorly wired hot tub. How does this headline sound: 'Septuagenarian Love Shocker: Gal Gymnasts Jolted In Geriatric Jiggle Fest.' You will become an urban legend on your way out. Cool, huh?"
"Hah! Gotcha! I was just kidding with the bit about the gymnasts. You might want to be careful around Jell-O, though. Frankly, not enough people are. Anyway, Gregory, I want to talk with you."
"About what, God?"
"Well, it's about this accident that you're having. I want your little aerial trip across the asphalt this afternoon to serve as a wake-up call. Think of it as an invitation from Me, the Creator of the Universe, to do a priority check on what's going on in your life."
"A wake-up call? Say, wait a minute... is this about me buzzing past those idiot joggers in the park, God? Man, I'm sorry about that, but those assholes are the spawn of Satan. They take up the entire bike path and then just dare you to hit them and... oops. Sorry about dropping the a-word there, God."
"No offense taken. I do know what you mean about the runners, though. Definitely not my best work. Actually, it's the dog-walkers who don't pick up after their pets that Satan claims as his own, but I digress."
"Okay, so where am I screwing up, God?"
"You're not screwing up, Gregory. At least not yet, anyway. What I want you to do after you hit the pavement is to take stock of what's important in your life, especially the people who love and care for you. You are going to find out today that there are a lot of them, a whole lot more than you suspect."
"Yes, really. Complete strangers will treat you with kindness. Your friends and family will rally around to make sure that you are okay. Oh, and the bicycle thing will get sorted out too, thanks to some very nice people that will be entering your life shortly. I have two words for you: Campagnolo Record."
"This sounds great, God. But how is the fact that all of these people will be treating me wonderfully supposed to give me a wake-up call?"
"Man, you must have hit your head a lot harder than I realized. The fact that these people will go out of their way to treat you so nicely when you need help should leave you a bit humbled by it all. So what I want you to do is to figure out ways of living your life that will return that kindness and serve the people around you: Family, friends, strangers."
"That's too easy."
"Just try it, buck-o. If it was that easy, we could have avoided stuff like the Spanish Inquisition and disco. Especially disco. The seventies were a very ugly decade, Gregory."
"So I guess that means that I should go easy on the kid driving the car that just hit me? You know, turn the other cheek and all?"
"I said be nice, not be an idiot. The kindest thing that you can do for this kid is to scare his pants off. Being kind doesn't mean being a pushover. He nearly killed you through his inattention. That's inexcusable. It will make him a better driver in the future if you make this incident especially memorable. Feel free to go and tear him a new one."
"Okay, got it."
"Well, Gregory, I have to be going."
"Oh, I nearly forgot. Keep riding your bike. I want you to keep it up, even after this accident. You're at your sanest when you are on your bicycle, notwithstanding the fact that, right now, you appear to be having a conversation with a disembodied voice in your head."
"Thanks God, will do."
"Ciao my son, and Happy Landings."
This story is dedicated to riders who had their short conversation with God turn out a bit differently.
To order this book
Greg's story first appeared in Stephan Wehner's Traffic Life: Passionate Tales and Exit Strategies, a collection of short stories, poems, cartoons and other art on the problems of modern-day transportation. Cyclingnews and Amazon have joined to bring this book to the rest of the world. To order Traffic Life, click on this link.