A Bicycle Bell is practically Useless Downtown
by Morgan Martin

Not sure how to warn people who can’t hear me, its an issue.

They sally forth bleary eyed and deaf, zombie-like in almost every
detail except maybe the arms sticking straight out in front.  Ear buds are packed tighly in place, nestling them in some unknown audio world one can only guess.  I don’t know.

Oh look! She’s listening to Streisand while she jogs, you might surmise.
Maybe that blissful oblivious grin is produced by Cher at high volume.
I don’t know.  I don’t know.

Point is, I’m bicycling and I yell “ON THE RIGHT” or “ON THE LEFT”
half the time they have a cell phone pressed to their head or earbuds
and its really useless, what’s the point of yelling.  What’s the point?

Suddenly a bicycle bell is pathetic and feeble and I feel like an ant or
an aphid,who are the slaves of ants right? Is that right? Anyway, even
SMALLER than an ant.  I am suddenly a SPEC on wheels.  A rolling dust mite.

Other times, my little bell strikes absolute and sheer TERROR in the hearts of pedestrians, go figure.

Look! That one is definitely listening to Barry Manilow, the fanny pack is a giveaway.
This is not science fiction, this is real in 2009.  ZOMBIES ARE REAL!

You can yell extra loud while simultaneously slamming the hammer on that bicycle bell
or pounding a gong with a huge mallet, it doesn’t matter.

BIcycling with a gong in one hand was fun for a while and really did startle
on more than one merry occassion.  “OH… good, you heard me now did you?
EXCELLENT, ok, I’ll be riding by you at this time, on the right do I need to
ring the gong again? are we good?”

The other awful truth is that even when they are NOT deaf and wandering in
their own world “ON THE RIGHT” seems to translate into
“please DO step to the right”and POW I run them over.  Lettuce, turnips,
parsley, it all goes flying.  Or “on the left” could mean “step briskly to the left”
to them sometimes and they might SKIP to the left right into me like an
insane hopscotch move.  “Move One square LEFT!” is what they hear somehow.

You’d think “ON THE RIGHT” would always mean “I”M RIDING BY YOU ON YOUR RIGHT”
but seems to get translated into PANIC AND RUN AROUND IN CIRCLES SUDDENLY
to some pedestrians, which makes it all the more difficult to avoid running them over.

POW, oh, I’m SO sorry, here let me help you pick up those turnips and these beets…
oh my, these eggs don’t look so good now do they…oh my…

The collision itself has a particle trajectory like a linear accelerator shooting particles
on specific paths.  Turnip flies at 33 degrees longitude in a trajectory of tangent 125
and collides with lawn, Radish flies at 53 degrees longitude to 39 degrees longitude
in a graceful arc.  Eggs break, see attached report for fragment locations and
yolk impact sites are marked with a yellow star.

I should maybe yell (in every language imaginable)
“Please do CONTINUE your CURRENT trajectory, and do NOT deviate
to either side.  do NOT step to your left, and do NOT step to your right…
simply continue STRAIGHT forward please…do NOT be alarmed, and do NOT panic…
I am a BICYCLE, I am coming up behind you on your RIGHT,
above all, and most of all, do NOT step or otherwise drift to your RIGHT…

and if you hear me yelling THAT , it means very bad things.  If I am yelling
COLLISION IMMINENT this is not good.  This can only lead to very BAD
and painful things if I am yelling that.

I repeat, do NOT step to your right OR drift off in the starbard direction.
ok, and now in Serbo Croatian, for you Serbo Croatian pedestrians…

Please be AWARE that there is a BICYCLE approaching you on the RIGHT,
meaning, the BICYCLE is on the RIGHT, coming up on the RIGHT,
the bicycle that is, please DO pay attention and be aware
of this moving object which is now approaching, at this time.

I’ve taken to predicting the behavior that I will get when I ting
my quiet little bell meaningfully.

A group of chatty women are the most fun; they are truly in their own
world and often prefer to string themselves out in a line perpendicular
to the route of the path just close enough to each other to make it challenging
for a runner (let alone a biker) to squeeze through. Ring the bell for one of these
groups and you get your “panic and run around in circles” behavior in hyperdrive
and you have 4 or 5 circles all intersecting to form a sort of Olympic rings symbol,
so that gets complicated and dizzying, and you can even get a two-fer sometimes
and knock over 2 of them like bowling pins.  If you knock them ALL over, it is called
a STRIKE, and you leave a really pissed off pile of women behind in your dust.

Of course, then there’s the CORN guy squeezing and honking his bulbous horn
that sounds like a really LOUD duck, walking around the neighborhood quacking
all day, people get out of HIS way.  Who does this guy think he IS anyway?
What is it exactly about a duck quacking sound that makes people really pay attention?
I guess maybe in their minds they are thinking “DUCK CROSSING” and immediately
they are not only stopping, but now they are also buying a stick of corn having fallen
into the quacking corn salesman’s TRAP!  They don’t freak out or feel the TERROR
of a bicycle’s tinging bell.  I remember one old Chinese guy, LEAPED out of his SKIN like he was being attacked once and I was not even CLOSE to him, I felt bad, but…REALLY?

YES, that QUACKING sound means…..I SEE NOW! It means BUY CORN! ok! SURE!
Gimme one-a-them COBS quacking man!  Hell, I”ll take TWO if it’ll shut you up for
a minute with that damn quacking horn.  Hmm…maybe the quacking horn is the ANSWER!
Less scary, but gets their attention…I might have to get one of those.

The ice cream truck also turns heads in a hurry, people go running for it, covered
in smiles.  There’s no fear of the ice cream truck…no sudden movement to jump
in front of the truck…
but a bicycle bell is practically useless downtown.