I had a good birthday. Shirley gave me daffodils and chocolates; Walt gave me comb honey from his hive; Peggy’s parents gave me their usual $25; others sent cards; and I got word that my new bike was ready. I didn’t pick it up until Saturday (my birthday being on Thursday), because I wanted to take my first ride without getting rained on. This bike “feels” the pavement more than my other one, and the vibration puts my hands to sleep. I took it back today for some modifications, but the problem wasn’t eliminated, and I anticipate it being even worse when I go off-road. I can get my money back within thirty days, but I am loathe to ask for it. Although I went to lengths to make a prudent decision before I ordered, I obviously failed to go far enough, and for that I feel badly. On the other hand, I’m not about to eat $1,700. My hope is that further handlebar adjustments will remedy the problem.
While I was at the bike store today, an elderly couple arrived to pick up their new bikes. I spoke with them for a long while, and the man said he and his wife have been tandem enthusiasts for years, but that Parkinson’s has made it unsafe for him, forcing them to return to “beginners’ bikes” as he scornfully called a regular bicycle. I know nothing about tandems, but thought he looked ready for a trike. I considered saying as much, but since he was already indignant about his “beginner’s bike,” I bit my lip. I felt sorry for his wife who quietly endured his bitterness, and I felt disgusted with him for ruining what might have been a joyous occasion. Later, I realized that his unhappiness might not have been entirely a result of selfishness. He might have also felt remorse that his failing body had deprived his wife of something she loved. I know the feeling since I can no longer hike with Peggy.
I went to the monthly neighborhood peace vigil last night. We had fourteen this time, which was about double last month. I also went to the federal building today to stand with Peg. She was in the twelfth day of a two-week fast, and confessed to feeling sickly. I caught her at her second of three demonstrations today. The first was a sit-in at Congressman DeFazio’s office. She said that people were arrested, but that she was not among them. “We take turns,” she explained. Since no mention of these arrests ever occurs on the news, I don’t know what the point is.
I have observed that the spiritually oriented protestors (like Peg, who is a Quaker) act on the basis of what feels right rather than on what seems pragmatic. This causes me wonder if the point of their protests is more to feel good than to do good. Since I am out there with them, I am forced to ask myself the same question, and I can but offer that I support them because their dedication makes me ashamed to do otherwise, and because of my hope that, together, we can inspire others to join us until our numbers become great enough to end the war. If nothing else, our efforts might bring more thoughtfulness and compassion into the lives of those who see us. For this reason, I would never knowingly demonstrate with anyone who planned to use harsh words or destructive behavior. To paraphrase a Quaker admonition: When you work to end war, be sure that you are free of the spirit that causes war.
Right after her daily stint at the federal building, Peg crossed the street to protest with “Women in Black.” True to their name, they all wore black. I biked home, sick as always from exhaust fumes. I asked Peg if the exhaust doesn’t bother her, especially in her weakened condition. She said, “I worry about it, and many people have had to stop coming because of it, but I always think about how much worse the people in Iraq are suffering.”