Summit County is a strange little world. Adding to the miniscule feel of the community itself — those of us that live here all year, for years — is the large size of its residents’ egos. Siberia’s Lake Baikal cannot contain the egos that exist in this county. Lake Baikal reaches an astounding depth of 5,784 feet at its most abysmal point, to give readers an inkling of just how voluminous Summit egos are.
One place the ego resides most fruitfully here is on the seat of an expensive road bike. A Summit County ego thrives best under a matching spandex “kit” — the complement of biking jersey, shorts, socks, wind jacket, toe covers and gloves in twin colors and patterns. Wave to the wearer of this costly garb and the ego will set up a wall of disdain. And a wave back? You’re more likely to hear Sarah Palin say something smart.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Remember, we are in Summit County where guys are like beetle-killed trees and girls are like the few Lodgepole pines that are still green and healthy (translation: girls are scarce). Furthermore, there are few girls that ride bikes. Now, we’re cruising up the bike path to Vail Pass. Spring weather surrounds us, birds chirp gleefully, rafters glide by on Ten Mile Creek to the right and the sun shines above it all. It’s a perfect afternoon.
Lo! A biker, just ahead. I eventually pull up beside him. I smile. After all, we cyclists are a community — right?
The man beside me is middle-aged and wearing a coordinated ensemble of white and blue. His eyes are fixated ahead with great intensity, as if by breaking his gaze he might cause the world to end — or worse, a stain might erupt on his snow white shorts.
“Hi,” I say.
He continues to ride, but a little muscle in his jaw twitches, betraying his annoyance.
“What a glorious day out here!” I say in the sweetest tone I can muster — like a spoonful of honey covered in Hershey’s milk chocolate syrup and candied walnuts, dusted with powdered sugar.
The jaw twitch resumes. This man is a hard nut to crack; I may never really know if beneath this spandexed husk there is a decent human being. Then I think, perhaps no one in his life shepherded him through the tricky waters of good manners. I wait on people daily who tell their kids to punctuate every sentence with “please.” Then, they turn to me and say, “I want a Coke.” I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Okay, well you have a grrrrrrrrreat ride!” I say, giving my best Tony the Tiger on four pots of coffee. I look over before continuing my ride — nothing, not even a pale shade of a smile.
Wow. Riding a bike is crazy stuff, man. It’s life or death, you or the pavement. It’s a fight to the death. You gotta get gravity in a headlock and not let go until it cries “Uncle.” You can’t waste an ounce of energy on salutations.
Funny thing is, I could put little Timmy over there — the weepy kid sucking on a lollypop, one shoe missing and all — on a bike, and he could probably figure out how to ride it. People, you haven’t cured cancer here; you are not even the first guy to throw a leg over a fancy looking bike. And biking does not make you hardcore. Biking with a running chainsaw would make you hardcore.
Another great thing about people’s astronomic egos is that an ego loves to listen to itself. I wait tables, so I basically listen to people talk and ensure their coffee cups are always brimming with liquid to lubricate their vocal chords. I am amazed at how adeptly many folks up here can wrap the conversation back around to themselves, like a boomerang with a vocabulary. For example:
“Hey, how you doing today? You want some coffee?” I say.
“Sure thanks,” he says. “How’s it going? You know, I finally got my truck all done.”
“Oh, cool,” I say, thinking, what truck? “And I’m doing great, thanks.”
“Yeah, I think I’m gonna take it out today,” he says.
“Looks like it’s gonna be nice and sunny,” I say, open-endedly. “I might go ride a bike or something.”
“Yeah I have a couple bikes,” he says. “Motor bikes.”
“Cool,” I say. “Be right back with that OJ.”
A few minutes later…
“That OJ is like exactly the color of one of my 4-wheeler,” he says.
“Sweet,” I say.
“Yeah,” he says. “I got a new snowmobile, too.”
Really? That’s amazing, dude. But there’s more. He precedes to tell me the make, model and just about everywhere he went with the new machine this winter. I nod as if I’m hanging on every syllable, like a scared skydiver clings frantically to the door of a plane. Really though, I’m basically asleep in the jump seat. I’m in a full-on day dream, riding my road bike over a giant hill that turns out to be his forehead.
Here’s a piece of advice for you ego types out there — borrow a hurdle and get the heck over yourself. There are, after all, a few chinks in your armor. The rest of us know that if you drive a big, huge truck, you’re probably short and/or worried about the size of your, um, lug nuts. If you ski by at Vail and are too awesome to crack a smile — or turn — you’re probably unemployed, single, broke or worried about the size of your, um, ski pole. If you ride your road bike like you’re heading into battle, you’re probably either secretly a really bad rider, or you’re worried about the size of your, um, ball bearings. You’re compensating. And we all know it. So take a big knife and slice right through your medium well BS burger.
Before you start hating, I’m not that cool either. I’m horrible at remembering names and I forget all small details. I would probably walk out the door naked if I wasn’t so cold all the time. I’m clumsy, too. I tripped over one of the runner mats at work last week and almost spilled three cokes on two innocent people waiting by the door (who said hello back, by the way).
Once again, I’ll defer to Mark Twain, who understands the problem with people’s preposterous self-admiration. He says:
“The trouble ain’t there are too many arrogant fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.”
Anyhow, I’m gonna go have a chat with Zeus, and we’ll see how fast you can ride that bike…