Un peu de détente

Author: fraise

Friday 8 November 2013, in Cycling, La France

Cagnes in the morning sun

Another long weekend ahead of us here, this time for commemorations of the 1918 Armistice on Monday the 11th.

As I continue commuting to work by bike, a distinct pattern of experiences has emerged, one I never expected, and yet that is a wonderful balm for the soul. Children. I’ve always loved kids, and apparently have a face that shows it, since babies spontaneously coo at me even when I haven’t looked at them. It makes for fun surprises at parks and in public transportation: there’s nothing like getting on a crowded tramway, hearing “wheee! gaaa! heee!” then looking in the voice’s direction to find a giggly-eyed, happily-squirming infant meeting your gaze, who punctuates your eye contact with that pleased flop-the-arms-and-legs motion and a bubbly “daaaa!”

My commutes usually have some overlap with school opening and closing hours; I cross toddlers with their parents, grandparents, or friends’ parents. Without fail, little girls are delighted to see my bike. Boys love bikes too, many will make eye contact and share a smile. I nod and return the smile, and they turn back to their playing. Little girls, though… I’m a woman, I remember being a little girl and noticing early on that you don’t see many women on bikes. Even the cycling competitions that get broadcasted are overwhelmingly those with men. I remember being excited at Jeannie Longo‘s feats: here was a woman being awesome on a bicycle, something I too loved. And so, today, when little girls look at me, stop in their tracks, and stare, I get it. The little girl in me who grew up riding around her valley hills also smiles. I nod at them, as I do with all the kids.

The girls almost always widen their smiles into elated grins and respond excitedly:
“Le vélo ! Le vélo, le vélo !”
“Coucou ! Tu fais du vélo !! Du vélo !!”
“Ouaaaaaa ! Le vélooo !”
“C’est… v’zêtes sur un… un vélo !!!”
“Mamie ! Le vélo ! Le vélo !” This little girl yesterday paused for several seconds, taking in everything about my bike, until adding, entranced: “il a un CLIGNOTANT !” which means, “it has a BLINKER!” I do indeed turn on my blinky lights as soon as twilight falls. I call them my blinky-blinks. “Faut penser à mettre en route les blinky-blinks,” I remind myself before starting out on dark rides.

Another little girl yesterday evening, riding on her father’s shoulders, made an already fun commute even more so. I had just turned onto the last street before reaching my place and slowed for a yellow light. Next to me was a souped-up Citroën Saxo with windows open, blaring Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky“. I started whistling along, bopping on my bike at the red light, happy for the evening ride. I heard a tiny whistle nearby. I whistled again, and heard another whistle response; definitely a kid. I looked towards the whistling’s source: there she was, a little girl cozy in her puffy white winter coat, who bounced her arms and giggled as our eyes met. “Vélooo !” she said. I grinned, whistled a bit more, and father and daughter both smiled. The light turned green, I nodded to them and rode home.

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