Inner Tube, Inner Peace
by Harriet May
I’ve just walked my bike, Beyoncycle, with a flat rear tyre, up the hill from Battersea to Clapham, so already I’m not impressed. Because it’s my lunch break I’m in a rush, and in Evans, a cycle shop where no one seems to care what you are, cyclist or customer or otherwise. But on the phone they told me they had the inner tube I need, so here I am.
A man, wearing an Evans T-shirt and the same expression as my brother’s when being talked at by our parents, asks me what I need, glances at my bike, and hands an inner tube off to someone else. This someone else has a “trainee” badge and a permanent look of confusion.
“Is this all you need?”
“Uh, what size is that? I’m not sure that’s right.”
He glances, for the first time, at the small black box in his hand.
“700 x 18-23cm?”
I don’t know as much as I should about my bike, considering I cycle at least 18 miles a day, back and forth between Hackney, which is littered with chicken bones, and Battersea, which is one ginormous construction site. Well ok, I don’t know anything, but I do know how to read the numbers on the side of my tyre.
“That isn’t correct.”
He looks at the inner tube box, then me, then back at the box.
“Is there someone you can ask?” I try to use my most encouraging tone of voice, the way I used to talk to my dog Ninja during thunderstorms, but my patience is wearing thin. And he doesn’t have Ninja’s eyes, or her imagination.
The man who had guessed my inner tube size in the first place pops back up, and actually looks at my tyre this time. “Nah, we don’t have it,” he says, shrugging. He doesn’t look at me. He walks away.
I grunt angrily and exit the store. I know there is another cycle shop just across the road, Apex, but I had called them too and they didn’t have my inner tube, either. Not sure what to do, I think perhaps the man I spoke to on the phone will at least be receptive to my rantings on about the incompetencies of his local rivals.
When I walk through the door I’m met by a warm, bearded man in an orange polo shirt. Flustered, I don’t even know how to begin, but he says hello like he’s been expecting me. “You called about an inner tube!”
“I did have one, after all,” he says, plucking a small box from the shelf. He wheels Beyoncycle to the back, where they don’t mind changing it for me because I’m not confident enough to do it myself. “Ten minutes!”
“You’re not the first person to say that,” he responds when I tell him how awful my experience was across the road. “They had one good person work there, ever. He works for us now!”
At 5:30pm I’m glad I’m able to cycle home, rather than abandoning my bike at work and getting on the tube, with all the other sweaty, dissatisfied commuters. I see a man in a navy blue suit on a Dutch city bicycle run a red light and get pulled over by two policemen on horses. And then on the final stretch home I find myself trying to keep up with a man who has a slice of pepperoni pizza tattooed on his right calf and think, that’s good motivation, I wonder if he did that intentionally? There’s so much you see when flying through the city streets. I’m glad I’m a cyclist.
40-42 Clapham High St, London SW4 7UR
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