Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nothing like bike-riding to feel the love

Easter this year far surpassed last year. However the bar wasn't raised particularly high. Last year, I spent Easter Sunday working. My assignment: approach people at a Easter service on Phoenix's west side to ask them how they thought the Pope was handling the priest sex abuse scandals. Yeah...a happy Easter that was!

I was invited to spend Easter supper with my friend Tracy and her family. It was a real treat being around a family that really celebrates it. From the grilled lamb to the little chicks on chocolate birds' nests, it was a feast. Stuffed to the brim, I got home around 5 p.m. and decided to ride my bicycle. I had been sedentary long enough. I rode down the street past the home of the Stevensons, a family I've had the privilege to become friends with over the past year (See April 12, 2010 entry). The oldest child, Ella, 9, happened to be outside blowing bubbles. I ended up hanging out with all three kids _ playing freeze tag, blowing bubbles. Then the entire family invited me to join them for a walk around the neighborhood. They are white as can be. So, I probably looked like the Asian nanny. "One of these things doesn't belong here..."

I don't know anyone else who joins other people's families for strolls. That got me thinking how a few weeks ago, I rode around my neighborhood. Every place I stopped at, someone either gave me something or assisted me in some way. Before I even started, my next door neighbor _ who installed my dishwasher for me _ gave me souvenirs from his recent trip to Guatemala. Then I rode to this fishing supply store to say hi to the owner, whose cousin I know. He insisted on giving me a bottle of water. Then I rode by the automotive shop next door to the fire station that once helped me (see Aug. 30, 2008 entry) and said hello to the guy who runs it, Hanz. I approached him months ago in a quest for a man-about-the-street interview and he still remembered me. We made small talk and he offered to check my bike's tire pressure and pumped my tires. I then went to my friend's Japanese take-out restaurant and she gave me sushi for snack because I was clearly starving. I was really surprised at how "Mayberry" and small-town-ish the whole experience was.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. No matter what I may think about Phoenix landscape and weather, there are a lot of kind people out here. But sometimes I wonder if I get away with a lot because of my looks. And I don't mean I think I'm some sort of irresistible creature. HA! I'd be the first one to gag at that notion. What I mean is, let's face it...I don't look like a creepy person. Factor in my petite stature, my Asian looks and you have a not-intimidating person. If I were a guy, people might not be so open to me. No elderly grandma would invite me into her house. No guys might be inclined to take care of me like I was their grand-daughter or kid sister. And is it bad that I sometimes try to trade on that? If I really need someone's help, I'm not above looking the part of damsel in distress. Turns out I am very good at looking weak and vulnerable.

On the flip side, I hate to say it, but I'm wary as well of certain people when I'm out riding my bike. I don't really ring my bell and cheerfully wave as much as before. I look straight ahead if I'm about to pass a guy who looks a little scruffy or dodgy _ in my perception. Maybe that's not fair. But anyone who has read my last entry knows I seem to come across the strangest people. In fact, the other day, I saw a guy walking ahead of me. Black, young and walking around with no shirt on. Nothing but a cap, athletic knee-length shorts, sneakers and headphones. In this case, I did get ready to ring my bell so as not to startle him. As I approached, the guy suddenly stopped right there in the middle of the sidewalk. Before I knew it, he was breaking out into a whole choreographed routine _ all with his back still to me. Judging by his arm and hand movements, he thought it was "Hammer time." I frenetically rang my bell before I cycled into him. He finally turned around when I was literally a few inches behind him. Actually it was pretty funny and no pants were shed.

In the world we live in, we can't help but take shortcuts. When we look at people, we have to make snap judgments sometimes. Should I say hi to that person? Should I invite him to the party too? Should I stop and help him/her even though I'm by myself? Wish I didn't have to have my guard up at times. But hopefully, when I do let my guard down _ nine times out of 10 it will pay off.