Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law No. 17: You are certain to get a flat tire the one time you forget your bike pump.

Part of my bike ride to work takes me through Golden Gate Park. The 3 miles through the park are the best part of this urban, asphalt-rich, traffic-dodging commute. I enter near 46th Avenue by a small playground where I exchange “Good mornings” with a group of Asian seniors doing tai-chi. Traffic is usually light, and the air is often cool and misty.

Today, half-way up the bike path on the border of Speedway Meadow, I got a flat. Well, I know flats happen, but I still let out a quick “#$%@” before getting to work. But when I want to lightly inflate the new tube to get it set inside the tire, I let out another “#$%@” when I see only the holder for the frame pump, empty, no pump. The mind starts racing backward. Did it fall off sometime on the ride? Is it lying on the ground? Where the hell is it!

I’m pretty anal retentive about being organized – I was a Boy Scout, after all – so I was suddenly less bummed about the flat and more irritated about my carelessness. Well, somebody has to come along, right? I pass a fair number of bicyclists on my morning commute. Today, of course, they all decided NOT to use the bike path. Today, of course, everyone decided to ride their mountain bikes with Shrader valves. So, it’s back toward 46th Avenue – on SPD-clicking feet – to catch the 18 MUNI bus back home.

But lo, an angel appears in the distance. He or she is clearly on a bike, and looks hunched over as if riding a road bike. “Please-oh-please, have Presta valves!” I pray. The Good Samaritan not only does have a pump, but he offers to pump the tire up for me. Everything is fine, and I’m ready to get back on the road. But then I need to decide: Do I take the chance to ride to work and risk another flat – I’m thinking about all the broken glass I see along Page Street – or ride a few miles back home. Even if my pump is not there, I can grab the Ultraflate I never use. I opt for home.

On the way, I continue to think what happened to my pump. It suddenly hits me. Once or twice a month, I give my bike a thorough cleaning, removing the bottle cages and everything…including the pump holder. Yep, I forgot to reattach it a couple days ago. Sure enough, the pump is sitting on the work bench next to the container of Wet-Ones, degreaser, brushes, and disposable gloves.

Eventually I got to work, a bit later than usual, and with the resolve to always check to make sure the pump is attached before each and every ride. And to buy some Kevlar tires!

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