When I left my office after work on Monday evening, the pitch blackness of 5:30 PM was not far off and I was setting out without a headlight on my bicycle. I had almost forgotten through the course of the day that earlier that morning when I’d gone to re-unite the light affixed to the handle bars of my bike with its faithful companion, a rechargeable battery pack which I’d been charging via USB cable in my bedroom, something had gone horribly awry.In the dark morning’s lack of light, as I preformed the same procedure that I've preformed a hundred times: plugging the light into the battery pack (in exactly the same way I always do), I bent plug from my light so severely it would no longer go in the outlet of the battery pack and by repeatedly trying to jam the obviously ruined plug into the battery pack I managed to dislodge the “plug in hole” on the battery pack so that it was just kind of rattling loosely around. I had however, already made up my mind that I would be riding my bike to work that day because, due to weather and post-work engagements, it was the only day that I would actually have the opportunity to cycle to work last week, so I rode to my office in the predawn darkness and arrived without incident.
I was explaining this to my coworker Sarah, as I got ready to go home that evening and I was telling her that I was a little worried about one particular stretch of my ride because there were really no street lights to illuminate the road, but I figured if I pedaled fast enough and got passed that part I would be fine… and if I didn't it might be bad. Well, I didn't pedal fast enough, I came to the dark stretch of road about 5 minutes after it was officially a bad idea to be out cycling with no headlight.
I saw the metal fence post that slanted low across my path about 1 second before the front tire of my bike struck it and though I do enjoy being right about things, as I sailed off my bike, over the handle bars and skidded face first across the gravel towards a road with fast moving cross traffic, it was of little consequence to me that I’d been right about that particular stretch of road- It was in fact kind of dangerous to ride there with no headlights.
As a car zoomed by about 3 feet from my head, I looked over and saw my glasses laying on the ground half a foot in front of me. I felt a flash of pain shoot through my right elbow and my cheek stung from what I assumed to be a dozen or more tiny cuts carved out by the gravel that I could still feel clinging to my face. My right knee throbbed and my left hand burned with pain, and my bike laid flat on the ground behind me, but the thing that concerned me the most was my poor glasses. My beloved glasses. The glasses that framed my face better than any other pair of glasses I’d ever put on. That pair of glasses, that had survived a cold night alone in a ditch (after I’d stumbled and fallen into said ditch when I'd been drunk five months earlier), those glasses that I’d just paid $50.00 to have the arm welded back on a month prior, those glasses that I loved above any other material object I owned were laying covered in mud and gravel (and from what I could tell in the dark… without my glasses on) were now irreparably disfigured with deep scratches to the left lens and arms that were bent in opposing directions. I reached out and picked them up, gingerly brushing off the dirt. As I'd feared, the lens was indeed deeply scratched, but I was able to bend the arms back into the right position and as I put them on my face I found that they still fit and were still mostly usable – at least it was easier for me to see with them on than with them off.
I assessed my own injuries and decided that I had not injured myself badly enough to prohibit me from riding the remaining 5 miles home- assuming my bike was still ride-able. It was. The chain had come off, but thankfully, my bike had sustained no major damage. Once I had my chain situated properly, I jumped back on it and rode home.
As I was riding it occurred to me how lucky I had been. It had of course been unfortunate that I’d fallen and it was very very unfortunate that I would have to replace the lenses in my glasses, but judging by how badly my left side of my face stung and how badly the left side of my glasses were scratched, If I had not been wearing my glasses I might have needed stitches on my eye lid or something. My glasses, who had put up with so much abuse from me already, had actually saved me. They threw themselves into an onslaught of gravel and dirt and saved my eye from being cut open.
I've always liked my glasses, but I love these glasses now… being a 4 eyed nerd saved my face tonight! My helmet had a great assist too. I think I might have sustained a pretty bad noggin injury if I hadn't had that big Styrofoam and plastic head adornment. Also, if it had been summer time and I hadn't been wearing two layers of pants and a thick jacket over a long sleeved shirt and 2 pairs of gloves, I think I’d have a lot less skin right now, so all in all, I think that night I managed to really grind in a fairly important, albeit obvious, lesson about the need for a light when bicycling in the dark. In fact, my new bicycle headlight should be delivered to my office by Monday!