Friday, February 18, 2011

what the hell do you think you're doing?

For those not in the know, it’s cycling season in Cape Town. Enemy number one when cycling is the wind. In Cape Town they call it the Black South Easter and when they say black they don’t mean black as in LBD or Black Eyed Peas. No. They mean black as in the depths of hell, black as in the exorcist, black as in viciously hateful. This wind is not to be trifled with.  You may ride like a domestique stallion when there is no wind, but trust me, the gale force South Easter will reduce you to a piece of snivelling overstretched lycra.

When there is no wind, however, enemy number two is of course the traffic. Now just to clarify for those who live outside of crusty old SA, South African’s have what’s called The Second Grader’s Approach when it comes to driving. In other words: they do it, so I will too.  We’re a curious collection of people who continually discuss crime levels in the country yet are quite comfortable with exceeding the speed limit whilst talking on our cell phones in the traffic.  Go figure.

Most South African’s see a speed limit sign and imagine that they also see small print that says “Not You, Just Everyone Behind You”.  Solid white lines – for the same drivers who are able to read the small print on the speed limit signs – actually imply “Go ahead, Overtake on Me”.  And finally, if any South African driver has to slow down – or heaven forbid, brake - for a cyclist, they form a support group and write a book, which I believe is titled “A Cyclist Ruined My Life”. 

Which brings me enemy number three and why I found myself seeking out an isolated route where there are no psycho drivers. I was cruising along just fine, making small talk with some hitch-hiking mama’s who were sharing my side of the road, and gearing down to start climbing in earnest when I felt someone’s hand fiddling around in the back pocked of my cycling vest.  I think that it might be the mama’s warning me about a snake in the road, or needing the time or something.  The pocket fiddling gets a bit more insistent and by this stage I’ve been pulled off balance and am now at a complete standstill. 

I turn around to face a young man. We just stand there staring at each other for a moment.  It takes another moment for me to realize that he is not in fact flicking off a rogue grasshopper from my shirt.  He’s trying to rob me. 

I trawl the folds of my brain to find some useful anti-robbing information. Firstly, I recall reading that if think you are being attacked, you must make a really loud noise. I yell as loudly as I can “What the [profanity] do you think you’re doing???!?!?” This is rhetoric of course. I notice that my voice no longer belongs to me. It has been taken over by some demonic Balrog.   

Secondly, I remember that you should put up a good fight. You know, make it really hard for them. They don’t want a thrasher. I consider screaming at him “I’m a 3rd Dan, Black belt Karate” but am concerned that in the confusion he might think I’m actually saying, “take my hand let’s party.”

What ensues is us playing a game of intimidation tag.  I scream at him, vowing all kinds of evil actions on him and his family. He screams at me, coming at me like a, um, robber.  A fierce one. I scream back at him, bluffing that I am actually able to fight and telling him to come closer (closer??!?! WTF?) so that I can give him a belting (I think my cleats may have given me some kind of Dutch courage, I realize that now.) 

Our unholy yelling and profanities have drawn enough attention for people to start coming out to see what all the hoo-ha is all about. Thank the pope, this makes him run back into the blasted bushes from whence he came.

Of course, there’s nothing like a bit of unhealthy introspection to really turn you into a basket case, so here’s why I’m peeved.

Firstly and mostly I am freaked out that I am the kind of frightening sight that I have the ability to chase off a drugged up robber. Am I that Amazonian? Must be how I look in cycling shorts.

Secondly.  Clearly, I’m built for fight not flight. This is very disappointing news.

Thirdly, I’ve had to change the playlist on my iPod to mostly serious rap and hard-core hip-hop.  The un-edited, lots of swearing, 8 Mile kind of stuff that gets you all agro.

Lastly.  It really is very uncomfortable riding in karate clothes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

hang ten...

I have a buddy who took up surfing a while ago.  She kept telling that I’d have to join her for a session because she was sure I’d love it.  I find it encouraging, really, that people should invite me to do sporty things with them.  It must mean that they think I have that sporting potential. The other possibility, of course, is that they’re secretly filming me for YouTube (e.g. woman makes idiot of herself on bicycle)

I decide to join her.  She assures me that paying R100 for the lesson, rental of surfboard and wetsuit is a good deal.  I can’t help but feel that they should in fact be paying me to get into the arctic water, but decide that being hardcore, grungy, surfer dudes, they won’t see my point.  Alarm bells go off when I spot the rental wetsuits.  Red with yellow sleeves.  Anyone who has any respect for anyone, should know that when performing any kind of sports activity - especially when it involves tight clothing and water - the accompanying kit should be nothing other than black.  I’m absolutely certain they won’t have a suit to fit me but they tell me that the tighter the better when it comes to wetsuits. Riiiight.

By the time we reach the changing rooms I’m seriously edgy. I’m going to have to get my buddy to hold the wetsuit open while I clamber up to the top of the changing booth.  Pin-dropping into the blasted thing is the only way around it.  I finally get my gear on and after not too long feel pressure around the top of my shoulders, as if a heavy toddler is sitting on them.  I realize that it’s the shoulder part of the wetsuit that wants to move closer to the body part again.  I can barely lift my arms to my sides and wonder how in heaven’s name I'll be able to paddle.

I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to face the people in the surf-shop and notice that as I walk, I hear a sandpapering sound.  Ah, I think, they’re doing maintenance on the building somewhere.  It’s very curios though, because the sandpapering sound is only there when I walk, and it stops when I stop.  Are the sandpapering men stopping to stare when I stop walking? No. It is in fact my thighs that are rubbing together and short of walking like a cowboy (even more conspicuous) I realize that I’m just going to have to talk loudly or whistle to distract people from the  sandpapering noise.

Navigating a long board in the Muizenberg wind is nothing short of dangerous - I see people scatter as I am allocated my board.  I notice that it doesn’t look anything like a pro surfer’s, which is a little disappointing. After dislocating my shoulder and decapitating a few passers by, we get to the beach.  

Here the drill starts with how you have to go from lying prone, to jumping (jumping?) up onto your knees first, and then from your knees, jump up (from your knees?) up onto the board into standing position. Mmm. We practice.  Stroke one, stroke two into the imaginary wave and then jump one, jump two and we’re up. Seems easy enough, on land of course.

We hit the surf.  To me it looks nothing like pipeline, which is a good thing, because I’m not really a pipeline pro after all, now am I.  It’s IguaƧu in flood, with one wave doubling up on the next.  I barely notice the frigid water, so occupied am I with staying on my board.  The instructor has cottoned on to the fact that I’m cheating. Apparently you’re not supposed to grip the board with your instep and big toes. Understandably really, considering the cramp that I now have in both feet. 

My heart is in my lungs and my lungs are in my throat and just as I feel my soul leaving my body and moving toward the white light, we hit the back line.  I’m out of breath and glad that I left my dignity back in the change room or else it would have drowned for sure in the ocean, never to be recovered.

A new wave (excuse the pun) of panic hits me has I hear the instructor yell at me “OK, your wave! Quick, paddle one, two”. I want to scream back “Are you completely [insert profanity] insane??!?!” but instead, I pull off a very convincing hippie-surfer comment... “hey man, I’m gonna like chill for a bit on the back line and enjoy just being out here, like”.

I eventually catch a wave (on my knees) and then a few more (on my stomach) and by the end I'm so wiped out that I don’t know which way's up, down, front, or back.  The highlight?  My mate saying to me “er, I think your board’s the wrong way dude”. And now I have to go to that beach in disguise.