Have you ever spent years knowing someone through reputation and perhaps email, only to finally meet them? It’s anxiety provoking, isn’t it? Will they look the way you think they look? How will they talk? Will you even like each other?
Almost four years ago I collided in the Internet way with Steve Carre. A rider named Robert Hyndman had died while descending Las Flores Canyon, and I blogged about it. The ride had left from Steve’s shop, Bike Effect, and so it was natural and inevitable that we talked and exchanged some emails.
But we never met in person, even though over the years Steve’s reputation has swollen to that of a titan in the world of bike fitting, and I can’t count the number of people I know who’ve gotten bike fits, shoe fits, lumbar replacements, and cranio-tibial adjustments in his workshop.
Yesterday I was in Santa Monica for a meeting, and after the meeting had a date with The Sherri and Duran, Duran scheduled for 7:15 at Porno Burger. Yes, that’s really a place, and I suppose the name comes from the obscenity of charging $16 for ground up dogmeat slopped with grape jam and called a “fig burger.”
However, I came early (a recurring theme) and had some time to kill. That’s when I realized I was caddy-corner from Bike Effect. Should I go by? I wasn’t shopping for anything. Would he remember me? I’d only said fuckity-fuck-fuck-damnit-shit three or forty times when we spoke on the phone four years ago. Would it conjure up bad memories? Robert’s death had scarred us both.
When faced with this type of dilemma, my solution is always the same. Just Fuggit. So I pushed open the door and stood there like a dork in my suit, holding my briefcase, looking like a semiconductor salesman.
“May I help you?” asked a very beautiful woman.
“Uh, duh, um, yes, please,” I stammered.
She had that look of “You can relax, I’ve dealt with salespeople before. I’m sure you’re a fine person but we don’t need any more semiconductors today.” She smiled, waiting.
“I, uh, was, um, duh, looking for Steve.”
“He’s with a client.”
“Oh, uh, well, duh, er, could you tell him I came by?”
“Of course. What’s your name?”
“Uh, duh, Seth.”
“And you’re a friend of his?”
“Uh, yeah, I mean, duh, um, no, you see, well, duh, we are friends kind of but we haven’t, duh, er, uh, you know met ever.”
She smiled kindly, the way people patiently wait for the village idiot to quit eating his boogers before they tell him the king’s coming through town so please go home. “Do you know him through cycling?” she asked even though it was obvious that I wasn’t a cyclist.
“Yes, exactly, well no, not really, kind of it was an Internet thing, duh.” Swallow booger.
“Okay, what kind of Internet thing?” She was a very patient interlocutor.
“You see, this dude died and … ”
She got very serious. “You knew Robert?”
“No, no I didn’t. But I wrote about him.”
She smiled that pretty smile again. “Okay, now I know. I’ll tell Steve you’re here.”
A moment later I was ushered into the fitting chamber, which, with its four banks of Snap-On tool cases and laser-guided mass spectrometers was a cross between an old-school filling station and the Fermi Lab. He smiled, finished with his client, and shook my hand warmly. He was even kinder than I’d imagined he would be.
We immediately began talking shoes, and before I knew it he had me on a stool and was measuring my foot’s length, width, angular momentum, and infra-metatarsal droop. “Do you mind taking off your sock?” he asked.
“Last person who I did that for had a concussion and nightmares for a month.”
He laughed and briefly examined the twisted and corroded state of my mangled feet. “There’s a Chinese proverb,” he said.
“Only one?” I asked.
“That says ‘We die from the feet up.'” He finished spraying DDT on my feet and then gave me some simple things I could do to reduce the excruciating, unbearable, agonizing pain I feel every time I even look at my Bonts, a shoe engineered according to the concept of “If it hurts, hurt more!” and “Stiffer than concrete but not as comfortable.”
“But they’re very stiff,” I said, feeling like an idiot.
“Yes, they are.” He gave me more information, made some suggestions, and would have done a full callus analysis if I hadn’t glanced at my watch and seen that I was ten minutes late for Porno Burger, and since The Sherri never goes anywhere without her Glock, late arrivals run the risk of being met by a hail of gunfire. “Come in when you have some time and I can take a closer look at your foot situation,” he said, peeling off the gas mask. He shook my hand with the gentle firmness of a bricklayer, that handshake that exudes formidable strength but has no need to use it on your ballet fingers.
“Thanks, Steve,” I said. “I will.”
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