Last night I did something on a whim. Actually, some plans I'd made were cancelled by the person with whom I'd made them. I had mixed feelings about that: On one hand, I lost some money, though not a fortune. On the other hand, I would have been doing something that, when I think about it, I realize I didn't particularly want to do: I would have been working with a high-school kid who is preparing for statewide examinations. There was a time when I could regard such a test as a "game" to win, even if I opposed the test in principle. However, I no longer feel that way. Plus, I have the feeling that the parent would have been more difficult than the kid.
As it happened, I had been riding, and had just stopped at Recycle-A-Bicycle in DUMBO, Brooklyn when I got the message. I was looking for a part, which they happened to have--and the price was reasonable. The funny thing was that the young woman who helped me mentioned that volunteers were coming to their shop last night to help with dissassembly of donated bikes. I asked about some of their programs and volunteering opportunities; after describing them, she asked whether I might be interested. I said I couldn't help them last night, as I'd had a commitment, but I'd keep them in mind.
After the kid's mother cancelled the tutoring appointment==The kid had an allergy attack--I turned around and offered to help out at Recycle-A-Cycle.
Now, I haven't worked in a bike shop in close to two decades. Since then, the only bikes on which I've worked have belonged to friends, family members or me. But everyone seemed so relaxed; most of the people there were just learning how to fix bikes. I worked in a group with a young fellow named Darren, who was giving hands-on instruction to two other volunteers.
About half an hour in, he said, "You know what you're doing!" and I found myself co-instructing with him. One of our "pupils" was another young man named, who was about Darren's age; the other was another woman who was somewhere between his age and mine but who grew up working on machines with her father and brother.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that I was taking on the role of instructor as I was helping to strip bikes down. When the young man was pulling a V-brake arm off a a badly neglected bike and the stud on which the brake is mounted came off the frame, he thought he'd done something stupid or wrong. I assured him that he'd done neither, and that he was in a "guilt free zone." As for the woman: She has mechanical skills, but she had never worked on a bicycle. I pointed out that she was progressing well, and that she was doing more in her very first attempt at working on a bicycle than I did in mine--which, by the way, is the truth.
Anyway, I think I''ll continue to volunteer with Recycle=A=Bicycle as long as my schedule allows. I also want to ride, and work with, WE Bike, a women's cycling group I encountered at the New Amsterdam Bike Show.