Martin, my colleague, said, “Your bike is so ugly, I want you to ride at least 100 yards away from me so no one knows I know you.”
“It’s not that ugly,” I said.
“It is that ugly,” he replied.
We were twenty years old, living and working in New York, and bikes were our only means of transportation. After my previous one was stolen, I bought an ugly girl’s three speed that was stuck in third gear. It only cost $6, it was never stolen, even when I didn’t lock it up, and, most importantly, it always worked.
Sometimes trying to get it moving with it in third gear was a challenge. If I started from a full stop, I could hardly press the pedals. But I found out that if I ran alongside of it, and then jumped on, I would have enough momentum to get it moving more easily.
This embarrassed Martin even more, and I found that he did try to ride a good distance ahead of me. When we would end up being stopped at the same stoplight, intersection, or the like, and then be ready to start again, he would try to take off quickly so he could put some distance between us. He continued to tell me how ugly my bike was, and I continued to tell him it wasn’t that bad.
The first Sunday I rode it to church, I left it leaning against the fence, as usual. One of the members of the congregation came into the meeting we were attending. “I think I have just seen the ugliest bike in the world,” he said, “and it has been abandoned by the church fence.”
Without disclosing that it was mine, I asked, “Why do you think it was abandoned?”
“Well,” he replied, “I’m sure no one in their right mind would ride something that ugly, and we are a church, so someone probably left it as a donation to charity.”
“That’s not a donation,” Martin told the man. “That’s Howard’s bike.”
Later that week, Martin and I had a meeting with other young men and young women our age. We arrived early, and Martin suggested that I park my bike on the back side of the building so no one would see it. I reluctantly agreed, and took it out back. I leaned it against the fence near where the dumpster was sitting.
Just before our meeting started, one of the other young men came in. “You wouldn’t believe what I saw out back,” he said. “It has to be the world’s ugliest bike. Someone put it by the dumpster. Apparently, they wanted to throw it away but couldn’t get it up in, so I did.”
My heart started to pound. As I ran to save my bike, I heard Martin laughing as he called after me, “Howard, it is that ugly!”
I climbed into the dumpster and lifted my bike out. By the time I climbed back out myself, my clothes were less than sanitary. I dropped to the ground, turned around, and there was the whole group. Martin had led them out to see my bike.
“Howard, don’t tell me you ride that bike,” the guy that threw it away said.
“It’s not that ugly,” I replied.
Martin nodded. “It is that ugly.”
Later that week, Martin and I were out working. A little child, who was about eight years old, came up to me. “Hey, Misser, did you buy dat bike or steal it?” he asked.
“I bought it,” I replied.
“How much did you pay for it?”
“I paid six bucks,” I told him.
He shook his head. “Man, you need to go home and let yo’ mamma slap you. You got ripped off.”
Martin grinned and said, “It is that ugly.”
© Copyright 2013 – Daris Howard. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.