Sunday, October 14, 2012

Riding on the Rims

They were probably around 10 years of age - a group of boys in scruffy clothes, who had gone into one of those Discount Stores at a local shopping center, leaving an assortment of push-bikes, skate boards and scooters on the footpath outside.

We were coming out of the nearby Fruit and Vegetable market when they exploded out of the store, snatching up their various modes of transport and charging off in such haste that one of them knocked over a display basket on the footpath.

Now I guess we were both expecting someone to come rushing after them, shaking a fist and threatening to kick their backsides if they came back again – but it didn’t happen. Either we misjudged them and they were just full of youthful exuberance or their transgression went unnoticed.

What didn’t, and absolutely couldn’t, go unnoticed was the awful racket they were making as they fled. The noise was obviously coming from the beat-up cycle ridden by one of the bigger boys. I quickly saw, and pointed out to Pete, that there was no tyre on the back wheel. The boy was riding the bike on the bare rim – the metal scraping and grinding against the footpath.

I saw it in my mind’s eye – it’s school holidays and the ‘boys’ are off out and about – probably to the skate park – or wherever the local kids choose to hang out. But this boy, let’s call him Scott – his bike is missing a rear tyre.  It can’t be patched any more, Dad says. The rubber is perished – just plain worn out. We’ll have to get a new one – but not this week, Scott. We just don’t have the money.

Well next week the holidays will be over. He needs his bike right now. It’s just too bad if he ruins the wheel completely by riding on the bare rim. It’s just too bad if he cops a serve from Dad when he finds out. All that matters to Scott at that moment is having fun with his mates.

When we are very young we simply live for the moment. We really don’t have the ability to look ahead and consider the consequences of our actions.  But when we’re much older we see things differently. We are so aware of the risks – of all the little things that could go wrong and the damage that could be done by that brief moment of hedonistic impulse.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, Pete decided to take us driving down a narrow winding track through thick rain forest. All I could think of was the fact that we had no reception on our mobile phone. What if the car broke down? It was raining. We were miles from anywhere. It should have been an adventure – a bit of fun on a Sunday afternoon – but, for me, it was all quite nerve wracking. I couldn’t relax until we were back on the bitumen once again – with a couple of bars showing on the phone.

How nice it would be to find that delicate balance between the impulsiveness of the young and the caution of the more mature? We don’t need to go riding on the rims.

©Lyn Murphy 2012

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