The start of a new year is supposed to be a time for introspection, I'm told. All right, I'll give it a shot. Let me start by admitting that I'm not always the "greenest" person, though I do commute by bike a few days each week, and sometimes use cloth bags for groceries. And I hate to brag, but I even own a hemp hat (okay, only because I got a good deal on it, and hemp lasts a lot longer than cotton. Nothing wrong with being a tight-a$$). Still, I am informed that my "carbon footprint" is too big, which makes no sense at all to me since I only wear a size 10 shoe. Anyway, I admire people who try to minimize their impact on our environment.
The other day, it was my turn to cook dinner. Since we needed a few things from the store, I figured I'd take the bike. I have to confess, an unmistakable feeling of smugness washed over me as I pedaled along toward the Ralphs. I'm pretty sure I had that same irritating expression I see on those self-satisfied folks riding a scooter (or worse, car-pooling in an electric car) -- to yoga class. So smug did I feel that I rode right past Ralphs and headed a few miles farther to the Sprouts store, where the true Yodas of smug do their shopping. Things got even worse when I opted for the organic Granny Smith apples. Okay, I also bought pork chops and brandy, but the first step to mastering the whole smugness thing is learning to ignore such trifles. The triple plastic bags I requested did harsh my mellow for a brief moment, but be reasonable; I'm sure not going to ruin my nice bike bag with porcine blood. Seriously.
Bike-surfing the rolling hills on the trip home, I spotted a twenty-something cyclist in my mirror, about a quarter-mile back. You're probably thinking, "there's no way he could tell the guy was in his twenties from a brief glance in a bike mirror." Self superiority endows one with greater visual acuity. This is well known. Yes, he was most definitely a rider in his prime cycling years, and was piloting a carbon fiber Bianchi, I'm fairly certain. And he was fast -- looked like a Spanish road racer, maybe even Belgian. (I have a really good mirror).
Well, I'd been off the bike for about three weeks, on account of being sick, workload, etc. But I couldn't let this presumptuous Category One pro (I had just cleaned my mirror) upstage me and ruin my ride -- and my artificially inflated self worth. We were on a downhill run and I knew that the added weight of a full brandy bottle and four pounds of loin-cut pork chops hanging off the back of my seat would give me added momentum for the last hill. And it did. No way that upstart Tour de France stage winner (see above comment about excellent and clean mirror) could have caught me -- even if he had not turned off halfway up the hill.
What a great ride.
Of course, my faithful dog (who is smart as a whip and as thoughtful as the day is long) always has a way of bringing me back to earth. She didn't disappoint this time. While I was out saving the world and reasserting the dominance of middle-aged cyclists everywhere, Shadow was taking a satisfying steamy dump right in the middle of my living room carpet.
That brought me down a little, until I remembered the foresight I had shown in getting those plastic grocery bags, which very neatly contained the mess. Try that with renewable cotton.
Is smugness a venial sin?
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