When I was ten, or eleven, or twelve, or sometime, I got a pair of Bushnell binoculars for Christmas birthday. My dad had a pair of Nikons.
I already had my geeky nerd license because I rode a ten-speed to school and took flute lessons, so this made me a black belt. My dad and I would go birdwatching and get confused, although he much less than I. He had a copy of Roger Tory Peterson’s bird book. It had a green cover and the plates were randomly dispersed among the text. You thought you had an ivory-billed woodpecker or Bachman’s warbler but it was probably a house sparrow, but you couldn’t be sure because by the time you flipped to the plates it was back in Ohio or along the Pearl River.
The most exciting thing you can do in field biology is discover a new species. Since I ditched my car, I’ve discovered a new one: humans.
They are funny and interesting and unpredictable. This one set of humans I ran into on the train were coming back from San Diego with their bikes. The guy had a respectable gut and Rudolph nose, and he was as cheerful as a rat in granary.
His wife was petite and she was cheerful, too. I hooked my bike up to the bike rack and took a seat.
“Do you ride for fun or only for work?” he asked. Their bikes were nice, full carbon made of 100% carbon.
“Riding for work is plenty fun,” I said.
“I’m sure it is,” he said. “It’s just the work part at the end of the ride that sucks.”
“Now a young feller like you, what kind of work could you possibly be doing that requires a bicycle and a train?”
I told him. The lady sitting across from me was completely different from the cyclist and his wife. She was in her 80’s and looked like she going on a thousand. She was so overweight that she’d required two porters to help her step up into the compartment and carry her two modest bags.
She puffed for a couple of minutes, sitting. She then took out a large lunch bag and started eating the first of four, four, yes, four sandwiches.
The cyclist guy talked and talked. And talked. “Me and Dixie ride twice a week from Anaheim to San Diego, hundred miles, then take the train back.”
The lady across from me sniffed. “It’s all easy enough when you’re young.”
“Yep,” he said with a lot of satisfaction.
“But when you get old like me it’s not quite so easy.”
“Is that so?”
She inhaled another sammich. “Oh yes. You have to scale back. And be careful. It’s dangerous out there.” She glanced disapprovingly at the bikes.
“Is that so?”
“Indeed. You’ll see one day. Enjoy it while you’re young.”
“How old are you?” he asked.
“Eighty-two,” she said proudly. “And yourself?”
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