The kindness of strangers—even in Midtown Manhattan

it was almost 11 o'clock at night. i'd just come out of the goldfrapp show at hammerstein on 34th street. this was just half an hour ago. i went to my bike, which i'd parked at a bike rack right across the street. and i was so ready to ride home, because it feels so wonderful to have been in a theater of any kind at night and have seen a great show, and then to come out and get on your bike and ride home. not a big, purposeful ride that takes a long time and requires lots of concentration. just 10 or so minutes of pedaling and feeling the wind and observing manhattan at night, and then next thing you know you're back on your shelf.

so i got to my bike, and someone had locked their gnarly bike outside of mine, their heavy chain crossing over mine and to the bike rack, leaving my bike stuck in the middle. and this dude had parked his bike hard against mine, so that it was gonna be tough to get it out.

but i did get it out. i was so mad that someone would be such a jerk that i was determined to not let him win. so i was picking up his bike with one hand and trying to turn mine on its back wheel with the other. trying to somehow slide it out. and i'm in the middle of this—wearing a blouse and platform sandals, mind you—and a couple comes by, and the woman sees me and says, "let me hold the other bike for you." and her boyfriend starts helping too. and this was hard work. it's 100 degrees outside (or felt like it), no breeze, and these two strangers are mashed up against two dirty bikes, holding the tires, gripping the gritty frames with their bare hands.

i had noticed when i started the maneuvering, by the way, that there was a handwritten note on top of a nylon pouch attached to the jerk's handlebars. it said, "please don't lock your bike outside of other people's bikes. it makes it hard to get my bike out." this jerk had obviously done this before, someone had written him a polite note asking him not to do it again, and he was so nonchalant about it that he both left the note there and did it again.

so anyway, the jerk's bike is practically sideways now, and mine is on its back wheel but still caught. the friendly guy is bent over, holding the front of my bike up, and his hair's all in his face and he's sweating, while his girlfriend has now dropped her handbag on the sidewalk and is coming around trying to free up different parts of the bikes, and i'm holding the jerk's bike and twisting it every way i can and trying to wedge his chain down so i can free my ride.

at one point, a homeless guy comes by, sees us, and says, "what did you guys do? why don't you just use the key?" i looked at him. and he said, "i guess i'll just let you figure it out."

we finally, after lots of grunting and pushing and pulling and even twisting my seat sideways, got my bike out. the other guy's bike was upside down by then. and i left it like that. and i thanked the two lovely people approximately three million times.

so there it is: a real jerk does something that's so not cool, and then two strangers come along and are the loveliest people ever and make it okay. because there will always be jerks, and there's not much use thinking about them for too long. but the lovely people—they're worth dwelling on.