Taking matters into my own hands


A friend told me this blog needs more pictures. So I took the as-lazy-as-possible route, and you’re stuck with a shameless, makeup-free mug as I sit here in my pajamas and old glasses. Actually, the picture has a point: I went back to my college habit of cutting my own hair rather than springing for a professional. Apparently, the cheapest ladies’ haircut in Oxford is £22, at Leona’s. I’m a little fanatical about saving money where I can, even though I’m not exactly hurting financially. Moreover, I’ve always been happier with my own results than any hairstylist. Maybe because I’ve never gotten a £22 haircut, but I digress.

In other DIY news, I got the bright idea to fix my rattling bike chain by just, oh, tightening all those screws that were sticking out. Stop laughing. I seriously knew nothing about derailleur adjustments, not to mention knowing “derailleur” is even a word. Anyway, after riding around the block to check out my handiwork and finding out that I’d made a terrible mistake, I looked up some Youtube videos and read some overly complicated feedback on a bike enthusiast forum (yes, those exist, too), and tried again. The next day, my commute to work happened in a very noisy, rattly 2nd gear.

Not to be dissuaded, I took some time after dinner (3.5 hours, before I gave up) to try again. After a final check to make sure I could shift through all of my gears, I gave an optimistic nod to my handiwork and decided I’d be fine the next morning.

To make an already-too-long story short, my chain got stuck between my rear derailleur…thing, and the spokes of my back wheel, as I was climbing Rose Hill and shifting into a lower gear.

But wait! I was prepared this time, and pulled out my screwdriver to begin fiddling with the high and low limit screws (this may sound impressive, but I’ll be honest: I know the terminology, but not what they do. Someone zoomed past and asked if I was okay, but I figured I’d eventually get the chain unstuck and be on my merry way.

That didn’t happen. I didn’t dissolve into a crying heap, which sounds dramatic but isn’t an out-of-the-question reaction when I get frustrated, but I did regress to just staring at the bike and hoping it’d fix itself.

I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in things working out, most of the time. Luckily, this was one of those times– as if on cue, a nice older man pulled over and got off his bike to help this damsel in distress. I showed him the disaster, and offered my pointless screwdriver, but he whipped out a Swiss Army knife and began adjusting all of those little screws for me.

“This is really bad! These haven’t been adjusted properly at all, have they?”
“Uh, I might’ve tried to…fix it myself.”
“These screws are rubbish; there’s no stop mechanism.”
“Uh-huh.” I nodded as if I knew what he was talking about.
“So where are you from?”
“Ah, famous for its [mumbled] cream cheese.”
“Yeah, but honestly, I like your cheese better. Soft cheese, right?”
“Ah, no, I said grape juice. I have a friend from Philadelphia whose parents are grape farmers.”
“Ohhh, grape juice. Hmm, sure!” (Thoughts run through my head– Grape juice? Does he mean Welch’s? Are his friend’s parents the Welch juice people? What is he even talking about? Where were we?)

“So, where did you learn how to do all this?” I ask.
“When I was a kid. It’s just what you do. As a boy, though, mainly.”

This last comment brought back memories of Girl Scouts. Why couldn’t we have been learning how to do useful things instead of making clothespin dolls and dealing drugs? (I’m referring to the cookies. Those Thin Mints are addictive).

The happy ending to this story: my bike rides smoothly and quietly now. Of course, I can’t adjust the left-hand thing (front derailleur, right?) with any success; it just makes the chain rattle around and gears begin to slip. I think I’ve learned to leave well enough alone on this, though.

…At least until I procure a bike stand, immerse myself in more YouTube videos, and hope that another kind soul will pick up the pieces of my inevitable mess.