Realigning At Kraynick's Bike Shop
I'm walking my bike down Friendship Avenue on one of the last warm days in December—walking, not riding, because the new hand pump I bought at Target is not filling the tires with air. This is a thirty dollar investment, five dollars more than I spent on my last bike, and I’m about to find out why, though I suspected the customer who desperately begged me and my manager to buy the bike one night at ten o’clock wasn't telling a true story. We know what “bus money” means here, really, though I still wonder about his supposedly deceased wife, if she shared his lanky frame and coercive voice, or if he had only recently become that way.
No matter, he left us with what I had been wanting and planning to buy anyway: a good road bike. We checked Craigslist’s “Lost” posts and contacted Bike Pittsburgh to see what they’d recommend. No leads or claims, and it was taking up space in the back room, so I paid my manager thirty dollars and took it home. “It might need new tubes,” he suggests.
Halfway to the bike shop, I smile and greet a friend outside Seeds of Hope. We had worked together in 2008 at their summer program, partners in counseling middle school girls, which helped introduce me to the neighborhood after UPMC spat me out like Jonah from the whale, and we talk briefly about who is where now. (Now I'm getting flashbacks to kids’ faces, the gym where we played basketball and led Bible studies, to our tennis lessons, dancing to Tye Tribbett, racing through Friendship Park, sitting in classrooms and navigating constant arguments and attitudes and questions: “Miss Kristen are you a virgin?” which helped me learn to be like Jesus and answer a question with a question that gets to the heart of the first one.)
My friend says everyone says good things about the bike shop, Kraynick's. I haven't been there before and tell her as much. Happy to have reconnected, I continue to pursue the question of what is wrong with my bike.
Kraynick's is having something done to its front window when I walk up, and I don't recognize the owner among the three men under the ladder as I awkwardly lift my future ride up the front steps and into the shop’s narrow path, lined with parts that, as a novice, I cannot name. He quickly enters behind me and asks what I need, then if I plan to work on it here or leave it for service.
“Maybe both, depending what we find!”
“Fair enough.” He takes it up on a stand and starts to remove the rear tire, observing the brand and value of the bike and offering to do a full safety check.
“Can I watch, or will I be in the way?” I wonder aloud, and Rocky—I’ve learned his name—reassures me he’s happy to teach. The shop isn't busy. He inspects the tubing and quickly identifies holes in each. It won't cost much to replace, and my rear brake wire is rusted. I get to learn how to replace a tire and reattach the wheels while we talk about his family, how we each veered off medical career paths, who we know at Whole Foods, and how everyone loves Todd.
Suddenly I hear a familiar voice call my name across the room, look up and see my friend Daniel walking his bike in for repairs too.
The men joke about the price of everything going up now and I’m laughing at their obviously regular banter before Rocky wonders, “How do you know each other?”
“We went to the same church when I first moved here.”
“Wait, how come everyone who goes to the Chinese church isn't Chinese?”
We all laugh. “They're really kind,” I offer.
Daniel finds a stool for me to sit on, and we go back to tending our bikes. “She knows my language,” he says as I try to recall the two phrases I memorized for my trip to Ghana over ten years ago. “Wo ho te sen” was kind of already covered in the conversation, so I smile and mumble my ignorance, remembering how we’ve enjoyed talking about the cities my team had traveled.
Time to true the wheels, then take the bike for a test ride. I go back to pay and on my way out, Daniel wonders if I’m going to be safe. It's getting dark, but I assure him I don't have far to go. “Okay,” he relents. “Tell Josh I said hello.”
On my way home, I realize one reason for this “steal” of a bike: the rear wheel is still a little imbalanced. I couldn't hear it until I was away from Penn Avenue traffic, the brake pad catching with each rotation.
As I write this now I'm reminded how sometimes it takes silence to recognize what needs to be realigned. Sometimes we need a friend or two.
Sometimes we ask for one thing but what we really need is a deeper question, and life will answer that too because that's how Love rolls.
Going to Kraynick's reminded me what my community has become over a decade in Pittsburgh: a beautiful blend of churches, neighbors, gyms, jobs, family and now a bike shop.
I'm already looking forward to going back.