Friday, January 16, 2009

In Which I Learn To Sail A Bicycle

The company for which I work makes, let's say, bicycles. They hire many bicycle mechanics, mechanical engineers, and professional bicycle riders. The astute among you will note that this has nothing to do with bricks or the building trades in general. Therefore, I am being trained.

The first week was devoted to preliminaries. "These are the parts of a bicycle!" they said brightly. They showed videos of people riding bicycles, making bicycles, and competing in bicycle sports. There were sessions on where to buy a bicycle, where to find information about parts, and who to call should one's work-issued bicycle suddenly fall apart.

The second week, they sat me on a bicycle with two large wings attached to the frame, handed me a manual that began "Insert Wing A into Gearset B", and threw me into a very large lake. "Sail across! You have three weeks!" they said brightly.

Those persons who had worked on bikes before set their wings to a complicated paddle/ sail configuration, and are now halfway across the lake doing curlicues. My week was more like this:

Day 1: Begin to sink. Paddle with hands. Sink anyways. Read rapidly through manual. Understand one word in three.

Day 2: Convince wings to do a doggy-paddle. Half of co-workers have now made their bikes sail. Wonder why wings have frills on edges, and how to remove. Not in manual.

Day 3: Paddle frantically. Flip through manual. Sink to bottom of lake. Come home and cry for an hour. Consider career change.

Day 4: Get to work at 7 AM. Re-read manual. Re-attach wings eighteen times. Nearly sink to floor weeping. Very nice co-worker comes along, shows how to attach wings properly, then demonstrates backstroke. Make it a good 200 feet across lake. Consider kissing co-worker from enormous near-tears gratitude, but instead offer to bake cookies as otherwise, might frighten the nice man.

Day 5: Now only a full day behind everyone else! Wave feebly to instructor. Try to catch up.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Did I mention the part where I've been getting up at 6 every morning to finish writing my paper and thesis? Or the part where, despite my having completed all the requirements for graduation, my ex-boss will not let me set a defense date?

Or the part where I'm trying to decide whether to stick that fork in my eye or his?