Saturday, June 19, 2010

Life's little victories*

(*Acknowledgment to the works of Keith Knight.)

To put things on the table, let me first confess that I'm a bit of a bike nerd. And when I first started riding again, several years ago, I found that it was easier to get back into shape if I got an odometer/computer and logged my data on a spreadsheet. (Hence "bike nerd" rather than, say, "bike enthusiast.") The counting rituals and number games were motivators. The same was true when it came time to get ready for my first Cycle Oregon a few years later. It's just the way I'm wired. Deal with it. I have to.

My Cat Eye cordless FR7CL has gotten on in years; and the once-waterproof seal around its control button started letting a little moisture in during the rain (which has been pretty much all the time around here lately). So I've gotten into the habit of unclipping it from the handlebars and pocketing it when I lock up the bike outside.

At some point yesterday morning I realized that I hadn't replaced it on the holder, and it wasn't in my pocket. I rode back to the coffee shop (where DLers Carla and Roy and I had our traditional Friday morning sit-down). It wasn't under the table where I'd been sitting. It hadn't been turned in at the counter. So I began backtracking -- where else had I been that morning? No luck. Even went to the place I'd been the evening before, after convincing myself that perhaps I wasn't sure I'd put the computer back on the bike at the end of the night. Nada.

(I should mention that, since I log all my stats regularly anyway, I would only be out the replacement cost, the ten minutes it would take to install and set up the new model, and -- here was the painful part -- the inescapable knowledge that the logs would now be wrong because the time spent backtracking couldn't have been recorded. See above, re: "bike nerd.")

By the end of the day I had convinced myself that I was out of luck. I'd even gone around to the local bike shops to start pricing a replacement. But on the way home it began to nettle me: It was gone, yet it wasn't anyplace I had been. It would be of no use to anyone who didn't happen to have the mounting hardware, sending unit, and spoke magnet it needed to work. A magpie might have carried it away, but otherwise . . . ?

Sherlock Holmes famously said:

It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

But Dirk Gently, Douglas Adams' holistic detective character, raised a convincing objection to Holmes' maxim:

The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.

Explaining the improbable often requires a concatenation of several statistically unlikely events to occur, while solving an impossible problem may simply require one missing piece of information.

I parked myself in a comfortable chair, closed my eyes, did some relaxation exercises -- and realized that I had not lost the computer at those earlier places; I'd had it with me then. Only self-doubt had talked me into considering those other false leads. I had to have lost it at the coffee shop, shortly after which I first noticed it had gone missing. Warm.

If I lost it at the coffee shop (perhaps I accidentally dragged it out of my vest's side-pocket when I reached in for something else), then either it hadn't landed where I looked, or I hadn't looked where it landed. Warmer.

Yesterday was one of the rare mornings when all the tables at the coffee shop were taken when I got there at about 8:30am. Carla had arrived even earlier, so she was sitting in one of the low, padded faux-leather chairs by the front window, laptop steadied on her knees . . . and I had sat back in the matching two-seater. I had forgotten that detail because it was a departure from the routine, and once a table had opened up we colonized it and the routine was restored. And the earlier in the morning it is, the more I am all about the routine.

The shop's padded furniture sits so low, in fact, that your knees would be higher than your pelvis, and your pockets would be tilted back at a spill-encouraging angle. Warmer still.

It was by then about nine o'clock, and the coffee shop would be closed. But I realized two things right away: First, the idea that I'd lost it had been irking me all day, even when I was busy with other things. Second, even though I couldn't test my hypothesis until this morning, I knew last night that it had to be right, and for the first time all day, the irked feeling that had been buzzing around my head like a mosquito disappeared.

This morning, I went directly to the coffee shop, politely asked the person minding his own business in the two-seater to stand up for a moment, and immediately plunged my hand down behind the cushions. It took two or three dives before I found it, down there amid the ancient dust bunnies and other things, older, fouler, and best left unnamed and unimagined, that lurk beneath coffee shop couch cushions. I pulled it up, dusted it off on my shirtsleeve, and held it before my eye like a pearl of great price. The uprooted customer just stared at me like I was a daft conjurer.

As Holmes once explained to Watson in connection with a different case, I knew it was there because it could not be anyplace else.

So I have the computer back, and I not only didn't have to replace it, I recovered it mainly through the exercise of the little gray cells (if I may switch literary-detective allusions). Shame on me for doubting the LGCs in the first place.

As Keith Knight would say, "Yes!" Ah, life's little victories.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to log yesterday morning's numbers, incomplete though they may be. Of course, the log will never be 100% accurate again. But that's a mere detail.

Really. Doesn't bother me in the slightest.

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