The Bee and Me

This new-old story dates back to August 2011.

With 35-odd years of rich life under my belt, I have experienced a few stressful situations. With each incident the assumption is that I learn something, and so rather than staying shaken by the event, my confidence seems to improve. Sadly, however, the “learning” eventually seems to slip away, while the confidence seems to remain.

I was biking home from work along the bike path and approaching an underpass for a bridge that joins parts of the Calgary Zoo across the Bow River.  I was hot on the trail of another cyclist who I was trying to reel in. The path dips under the bridge which puts it  at eye level as you approach, blocking your view of the path on the other side. I had been steadily gaining on the other cyclist but she had momentarily disappeared out of sight into that blind spot. I slowed as I approached the bridge and rang my bell to alert anyone coming from the other direction. I passed under the bridge and seeing that I had no oncoming traffic to worry about, I stood on the pedals to power up the other side and recover speed in my bid to catch the girl biking in front of me.

I was pedalling hard and then **thwack!!**, I got hit in the forehead by a large bug. No matter how many times this happens to me, it always catches me off guard and the initial surprise is followed by an instant and intense anger – as if the bug has been planning out a precision and targeted air strike against me for weeks. They are so small, but the impact feels so big. This time it wasn’t instant anger that I felt after the impact, but an instant pinpoint of searing pain. The bug – a bee or a wasp – had bounced off my forehead, ended up inside my sunglasses, and stung me right above the eye. I was filled with panic, my instincts took over, and my right hand came off the bars, violently swatting at the source of the pain. My sunglasses and helmet were in the way, but I was overwhelmed with a single-minded goal to get this bug away from my eye and I forgot everything else, including the need to steer my bike. At this point either I closed my eyes, or became blind with panic. My bike veered sharply to the left and slammed hard into the railing on the other side of the path. My front tire hit the lower rail, absorbing a good deal of my momentum, and then my left bicep hit the upper rail, bringing to an abrupt end whatever forward motion remained. I unclipped, finally managed to rip my glasses off and angrily swiped the bug out of my eye. My eyebrow felt hot and was already pulsing and pounding in reaction to the sting. My upper arm felt somewhat numb, and a rug-burn like feeling was creeping into my bicep.

I must have made quite a racket; perhaps it was the thud of flesh against steel or the whoosh of air leaving my lungs, or maybe it was a high-pitched scream. The cyclist I was chasing was about 100 metres ahead of me but she had heard enough through her headphones to alarm her. She stopped her bike, pulled out an ear bud, and looked back at me with wide eyes and a good deal of concern. I was immediately embarrassed and tried to gather my wits enough to tell her I was fine, that I had just been stung by a wasp or a bee. I did my best to be nonchalant and cool about it. She gave me an empathetic “are you sure?” with her eyebrows, but I waved her on. She cycled away and I began to gather myself and try to piece together what had just happened.

As I took stock I realised that my front wheel was now pointing in a distinctly different direction from my handlebars and stem. I pulled up my sleeve to find that my arm was already bruising. I tried to assess the sting site in the reflection of my sunglasses but it was hard to make out enough detail. I pulled my phone out of my backpack to snap a picture so I could take a better look at it. As I was doing this, another cyclist passed me surely wondering why I was taking close-up pictures of my face at that exact point on the path. This made me smile, and as my adrenaline subsided, I began to see the humour in what had just happened. I decided this would make for a great story so I also took a picture of the scene and a picture of my arm, so I could use them in the re-telling. After straightening my bars I even took a look around on the path to see if I could find the bug for another crime scene photo, but to no avail.

Other than an itchy and slightly swollen eyebrow, the rest of my ride home went well. I had faced another stressful situation, and thankfully come through it okay despite my panicked reaction. Thank goodness the railing was there, as I would have tumbled hard down a slope and ended up in the river otherwise.

This is a perfect example of a situation I should learn from. I like to think that next time I will recognise the non life-threatening nature of the situation, keep my eyes open, stay calm, hang on to my bars and come to a controlled stop before causing a life-threatening situation by smashing into something really hard or careening headlong into the river. I would like to think so. I really would.

Looking back on the scene of the crime

The bee sting, just over and to the inside of my left eye

My bicep after the collision. Not sure whether to call this the 'before' or 'just after' picture.

The bicep a few days later. Luckily not as painful as it looks.

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How (I think) This is Going to Work

Full Disclosure. Hi. I am a brand spanking shiny new blogger. I have no experience at this end of blogging – on the keyboard that is – and have really only dabbled as a reader too. I suspect that the focus of most blogs is on current goings ons, but my ambitions centre as much on sharing my bike related stories of the past as the new stuff, so I intend to include both. After all, it was upon reflecting on just how many of my favorite stories from the past thirty-six years include bikes, that I decided to do this in the first place.

Shaking Hands. This will most certainly be an evolving entity, but I thought I would start with an introduction and at least a loose framework. I am not going to take this thing public until I have at least some basic content on here so you can read a few posts and pages and decide very early on if this might be of interest to you. If it won’t be, I am absolutely okay with that. I am writing it as much for me as for anyone, so if my readership quickly becomes limited to me, I’ll still think that’s okay. That said, I do sincerely hope that someone will read it, and that at some point I will be able to bring at least a hint of a smile to at least one corner of their mouth. In the worst case, maybe I’ll help someone kill some time during the odd Friday afternoon, with an activity that is at least slightly more palatable than the job they are being paid to supposedly do. I plan to have three posts (not including this one) and a functional site by Christmas time, at which time I will pull the plug, and let these words slowly drain out into the public space. I will wait until the New Year to actually inform those around me, however, as I’d like to have a fighting chance they will read it at least once, and Christmas is not a good time for that. So, if you are reading this, then I am off to a good start. Feel free to poke around and I hope you like what you find.

Frequency. I am more excited about doing this than I get about most things. I am, as they say, all abuzz. As a matter of fact, I am entering my third hour of fiddling with this, despite having a ton of other stuff I should be doing. But I have the bug, and for now, I just can’t stop. I imagine at this point it would be very easy for me to spew forward in ten different directions, get overcooked, distracted, and then fizzle out in quiet shame. I intend for this to be fun for me, though, and I want to give it a good shot, so instead I will try to take it slow. I am thinking a couple blogs a month or so. Maybe a weekly vignette. Short, simple, and hopefully easy and fun to read. Accompanied by a photo or ten when possible.

Past Stories. I am quickly falling in love with this WordPress blogging platform. It is free, intuitive, and fun. One of the many features that caught my interest is the ability to back date posts, because a lot of mine will be old stories only published for the first time now. But I don’t want my new-old stories to get lost in the archives, so I have opted to just give some clear indication in each blog about when it really happened, and label it with the “new-old” category. This will keep my newest content up front and accessible.

Format. More static information that is not really a story, such as my biking bucket list, will be found in “pages”. Stories, musings, vignettes, and updates will be found in “posts”. The items along the right side are “widgets”. Among them I have decided to post my biking stats and my weight, which I will update manually when I see fit, and which brings me to the next point.

Motivation. As I hope I have made clear, I am doing this for fun, and I will only continue to do so as long as it remains fun. I hope it will also entertain you in some fashion. But I also mean to use it as an extra motivational tool to seek good story-begetting biking adventure, and to get, and stay, in good biking shape. Weight is an important consideration in cycling, for even a recreational weekend warrior like me. I have come to love climbing hills and I have noticed that each pound I drop adds incredibly to the ease and enjoyment with which I can cycle. So hopefully publishing my weight and stats will help keep me on the straight and narrow and progressing towards my goals. Not to worry though, I am fairly comfortable in my own skin (or spandex, as it were) and if I didn’t lose any weight I would still bike and I would still be happy. I promise.

Style. I use a lot of punctuation. I throw hyphens, commas, parentheses, brackets and the like around with great and reckless abandon. Like most aspects of my life I prefer comfy to formal, and I feel the use of these handy little tools allows me to write in a more relaxed and conversational style. I am trying to share a story, not author a scientific paper. I also tend towards some run-on sentences, which I will try to keep in check. I will endeavour to keep my posts to less than 1200 words so as to not lose focus and wander too far off into the forest. Clear, concise, and correct; just like my technical writing instructor at college fantasized about. And finally, you will see that I often start my sentences with words that I suspect I shouldn’t, or at least at times that I shouldn’t. Maybe it is right, maybe it is not, but it is most certainly going to happen.

My Polite Appeal. I believe that blogging is not only entertainment, but a very legitimate form of communication and writing. And I hope to get better at it. I am absolutely open to constructive criticism and any sort of well-intentioned feedback on my writing skills or content. I will welcome it with grace, consider it, and thank you for taking the time to help me improve. But I am doing this for fun so no unnecessary bashing please. I bruise easily.