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Day’?s Verse:
In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Acts 20:35
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I like my commute. Truly, I do: the six-mile bike ride, not so long I feel exhausted at the end but long enough to clear my head; the twenty-minute wait at the train station that allows me to wipe down my bike and stretch after working out; and the the half-hour train ride that gives me time to read my Bible and center myself before the day starts. But no commute flows smoothly all the time, and inevitably a hiccup in the schedule leaves me in a pickle.

The last two commutes — yesterday evening and this morning — constitute one huge pickle jar for me. Yesterday evening, arriving at the train station, I saw a sign informing me the train would arrive 30 minutes late. At the time I considered riding directly home; I know the route and I would definitely make it by 6:30. Instead, I decided to read my book and wait patiently. The train arrived at 5:45 and we left not long afterwards, putting us nearly on schedule (they have a 20-minute wait in Worcester from arrival to departure time). We arrived without issue at Grafton, where we stopped… and stayed stopped for several minutes. The conductor explained that the air-actuated brakes had lost pressure, and that his coworkers were working hard to repair it. Within 15 minutes, we had started on our way again, and made it halfway to Westborough (the next station) before we stopped again.

And there we sat. Time went by. Conductors made incomprehensible announcements; I read essays in Best Science and Nature Writing, 2005. I read about Easter Islanders and their culture, several essays about personality tests, an essay about the neuro-science of ethics, a slightly wild-sounding essay about the US space policy, and another one about atheists. At one point, the train completely powered down: lights, air, everything turned off. The silence stunned me: Normally the air conditioning alone blows so loudly you have to holler to converse with somebody. Then the air came on again, and I read an amusing article about scientific claims people encounter every day. We waited some more. Smokers became restless and smoked in the vestibule. A fellow bicyclist took his bike and set off cross-country to find his way home to Natick, and I seriously considered following his lead. The sun set and I watched its golden light move up the hill across from us. Clouds turned pink, the sky darkened, and night fell.

Finally at 8:00, the conductor told us that another train had arrived to rescue us. Twenty minutes later, the rescue train had been attached and we started moving, much to my relief. We stopped very briefly in Westborough, then proceeded to Southborough, where I alighted at 8:30. My slight hope that Ian might have come to meet me with the car was dashed immediately: Three cars sat in the parking lot, none of them our Prius. Resigned, I turned on my flashing lights and rode home in the dark.

I made good time, but even so arrived at home at 8:53. The night went downhill from there, as I showered and ate dinner and fell asleep later than usual. Morning came too early; Ian and I bickered and parted irritated with each other. I rode slowly and miserably, wishing things had worked out differently. Between one and two miles from the train station in Southborough, I rode over something that made a metallic slicing noise, which was followed immediately by the heart-wrenching hiss of air leaking out of a tire. My rear tire went flat in about 30 seconds, leaving me to walk myself and my bike to the train station in even deeper misery. I have a patch kit, but never having removed the rear tire on this bike, I hated to risk missing my morning train. So I walked, at exactly 4.5 mph according to my bike odometer, for 20 minutes along a route that takes me 4 minutes to ride by bike.

Along the way I saw a brave chipmunk dash into Route 85, where it was immediately hit a glancing blow by a car. The chipmunk survived almost whole, and it continued flailing is back legs in a futile attempt to finish its dash across the road. But its shattered front legs, curled up in against its body, kept it in place. I stood for a moment in horror, my hands involuntarily over my mouth. Then I kept walking, even more miserable. I would rather it had died instantly than suffered as I knew it was doing. I hope never to see another roadkill-in-action again.

The train, thank goodness, had not arrived in Southborough when I straggled in. It came on time, and I walked myself and my floppy-tired bike to work with a sinking heart. I can only hope that I can fix the flat myself, and that the quarter-inch slice in the tire itself won’t require me to replace that as well. I keep thinking that this experience is trying to teach me something, like don’t ride a bike over sharp metal objects.

[Update 1:20 pm] Success! I changed the back tire on my fancy bike with a maximum of wrestling, greasiness, and sweat. But there is a new, whole, unsliced tube in the wheel now, and the brakes and shifting still work just fine, too. As I say: Success!

KF quality

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