“That sounds like a really dangerous thing to do,” my wife Kara said, ending the sentence without expressly forbidding me to do it, so I naturally assumed that we’d just reached an agreement.
“She’s letting me do it! Glad that’s settled,” I thought. Rather than test our fledgling accord by risking additional verbalization, I went back upstairs, satisfied that my husbandly communication skills had once again won the day, like that time that I, well, I’m sure there are many other great examples.
A few minutes later, I came downstairs, toting my big hiking backpack.
“Okay, I’m off to the grocery store now. Text me if you think of anything else we need,” I said.
“You’re bringing your backpack? Are you seriously still thinking about riding your bike there after we just agreed that you weren’t?” she asked.
Apparently, she hadn’t been paying attention to the part where we’d stopped the prior conversation just before it had gotten to that inevitable point.
I’d spent the prior two weeks staring at Google Maps, charting a bike path from our house to the grocery store, toying with the idea of actually doing it. Not the grocery store right down the street, with the annoying customer loyalty card, wilting produce and six-dollar ice cream, but the good one, a few miles further, with the shorter checkout lines, happier employees and enhanced wife-angering capabilities.
Back in college, I’d bike everywhere, which was perfectly safe, because drivers back then hadn’t yet realized how much more efficient their lives would be if they texted while they drove. A few weeks ago, we dusted off our bikes for our tenth-anniversary trip to Block Island, and rediscovered how much fun it can be to locomote like ten-year-olds.
Shortly afterwards, I hatched my bold plan to actually accomplish something useful while riding my bike. I’d be like a caveman, venturing forth from our dwelling and returning with sustenance, using nothing but my cunning and my club (or its modern-day equivalent, the credit card). I’d go at night to avoid traffic, and return with tired legs and frozen pancakes. I’d use my new bike headlight, which was bright enough, if pointed upward, to summon Batman. It was a great plan.
“This is a terrible plan,” Kara said.
We discussed it for a few more minutes. After ten years of marriage, during which Kara and I have successfully negotiated at least two or three minor disagreements, it’s possible that I may have failed to learn a few obvious lessons. For instance, when your significant other says, “Well, since you’re going to do it anyway, you might as well just go ahead and do it,” that doesn’t actually mean, “Just go ahead and do it.” That means, “For the love of all that is good and/or chocolatey in this world, DO NOT do it!”
But since I was going to do it anyway, I went ahead and did it.
Biking at night gives you the chance to notice so many things you’d miss if you were in your car. The chirping crickets. The reflection of the moonlight off the pond in the distance. The feeling that every approaching vehicle might be driven by a teenager playing Angry Birds, and that maybe wearing a Styrofoam hat doesn’t make you invincible.
After locking my bike to a signpost in front of the store, I pulled out my phone and texted Kara: “Sorry you married a stubborn person. I am at the grocery store, alive. Hopefully that’s good news.”
She reluctantly agreed that this was good news. In general, though, if you’re going to do something after your partner says, “Since you’re going to do it anyway, just go ahead and do it,” it’s probably best if you keep a helmet handy.
You can pass Mike Todd on the left at firstname.lastname@example.org.