Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hot wheels!

The dust quickly joins with bicycle grease to form an unpleasant grit with each rotation of the pedals. Riding on loose gravel at low speeds is recipe for capsizing; zipping through the layers of unsettled rock at high speeds denotes wanton disregard for exposed skin.  Tires become flat soon after every weeklong search for a working bicycle pump.  And still, possession of a bike is elevation to Iraq nirvana.  The heat, a little less hot with a breeze on a bike; the mile ride to the BX, a simple jaunt on two wheels.  The late night call to the hospital - diminished to a few breaths, pedaling in the night.

With the exception of a few long term American contractors who spend the money to bring Trek, Specialized or Gary Fisher mountain bikes, most of the bikes are cheaply made knock-offs with a very limited shelf life. The BX does sell very overpriced, low quality knock-offs, but the majority of the two wheeled fleet here is from the recycle market (and usually, just 2-3 recycles before the desert does them in).  Anyway, as part of some unwritten, and frustrating, rule, bicycles (as well as other accoutrement) are handed down from replacement to replacement.  That is to say, when the pharmacist leaves, he betroths his goodies to the next pharmacist; when the orthopedic surgeon leaves, he betroths his Iraqi belongings to the next orthopedic surgeon.  Even my buddy the radiologist didn't offer my his mini-fridge (a prized possession) as he was passing it to the next radiologist coming here - who he barely knows!  Needless to say, I am not part of a rich tradition of inheritance here, and breaking into the nepotistic black market is not child's play.

First, I tried the public announcement - an advertisement: "Man seeking bicycle."  This returned only greedy offers from charlatans to sell bikes for $100-150 which they themselves were given by their predecessors, gratis, as part of the heretofore mentioned nepotistic inheritance practices.  Every subsequent attempt to find a bicycle after this was met with some variation of this response: "Sorry man, I am saving mine for my replacement."

So, it is, the sweetness of now finally having acquired my own wheels - along with headlamps and repaired bicycle helmet (which reads in big black letters over duct tape: "Combat Oncologist") - all divined for a handshake alone from a generous realist who has similar opinions of the bicycle hand-me-down cliques.

With aplomb, I ride through the HMMWVs (humvees) and MRAPs, over curves and into the sea of dust and unsecured rocks.  I avoid the 20 miles of perimeter road for the random peashots that may come from outside the wire; but the protected guts of the installation are mine to roam.  At least until the bike gets stolen, and passed down through another set of undeserving replacements.

No comments:

Post a Comment