Saturday, April 09, 2016

Mr. Mike, Can You Put Gas in My Tire

A bike shop that existed in 1900 not 50 feet from my shop today
Next door to the bike shop sits the Bradford Block, the oldest commercial building still standing on Main St. in Springvale.  It beats out my building by maybe 5 years or so.  Both were constructed and put into play in the 1870's.  In my building there are 4 tenants, two commercial at street level and two residential up stairs.  The Bradford Block next door houses one restaurant and a family of 7 who inhabit the huge apartment above the restaurant.

B and his wife bought the building I guess 4 years ago when he retired from the Army.  At the time there was just he, his pregnant wife holding an infant and a rugrat already breathing and running around..  While they were renovating the building, they lived with his father and mother somewhere near by.  The building was completely gutted and rebuilt on the inside.  B installed a brick wood fired pizza oven, an all new stainless kitchen, walk in freezer and a brand new apartment upstairs for he and his bride to begin the next chapter in their lives.

Then B got busy making more babies.  His wife has been pregnant for at least 3 of the 4 years I have been acquainted with them.  I only point this out because in today's America, a family with 5 kids is not the norm.

From the back door of my shop, I have had the distinct pleasure of watching these little tackers begin to get a tentative grip on the world around them.  It has been a hoot.  I have always enjoyed watching children at play.  I have always enjoyed interacting with them.  Yeah, I think kids are very cool.  Their laughter, screams of delight or anger, whatever noise they come up with is music to my ears.

The oldest three call me Mr. Mike.  Not sure which parent came up with that, but I hazard a guess it was Dad.  When the three oldest come home from St Thomas school in the afternoon, they all seem to be carrying their latest school child effort in their hands.  Images on paper scrawled in colorful disarray, or paper-mache sculptures carelessly dangling from stubby hands.

During a brief warm period a couple of weeks ago, the second oldest, J, was out back messing with his bike.  I think he was waiting for me to make an appearance at my back door.  As soon as he saw me, he began to squeeze his rear tire with exaggerated intensity.  "Mr. Mike, can you put gas in my tire?"  All the while he continues to squeeze that tire hard with his small hands as if to make sure I understood his dilemma.

"J, I tell you what.  You wheel that beast over here and I'll fix you right up."

J stops squeezing his tires.  He looks at his bike and then looks at me.  "Mr Mike, this is not a beast, this is my bike."

I smile at his literal world.  Nuance has yet to make an entrance.  "Are you sure?"

Now I have him guessing.  He looks at his bike, squeezes the rear tire again and looks at me.  "No, it is my bike.  It needs gas."  He was not going to be detoured from his original mission.

"Wheel it on over and we'll get some gas in it for you."

He just looks at me.  I assume he is mulling over just what the term "wheel it on over" means.  He resolves his dilemma I guess based on my hand gesture beckoning him in my direction.  J grabs the bike by the rear wheel and drags it out of the bike rack near their back door.  He gets turned around and bears down on the handlebars to push it in my direction.

Inside the shop, I take over.  I place the little 12 inched wheeled beauty near the air hose next to my bench.  As I reach for the air hose I realize now why he wanted "gas" for his tire.  In his short time on this planet filled with something new everyday, he was finally starting to organize the repetitive actions he had become accustomed to.  Mom or Dad would pull into a gas station, get out and put a pump nozzle into the gas tank opening.  J had also watched me many times use an air hose to put air in bike tires.  The two must be related.  What Dad put in the car must be the same thing I put in bike tires.  Both used hoses with really cool looking doodads on the ends.  The funny thing is, J is not wrong.  I do put gas in bike tires, just not the same kind of gas his parents pump into their vehicles.

I remove the valve cap of the flat tire and hand it to J.  "Hold this.  Don't drop it."

J cradles that valve cap carefully in two hands and keeps his eye on it.  I knew that valve cap was in capable hands.  I put air in the soft tire and asked for the cap back.  J carefully handed it to me.  I screwed it back on the tube.  I then removed the valve cap on the front tire and handed it to J.  No further instruction was needed.  He took his valve cap care seriously and again cradled it in both hands.  After I filled up the front tire, instead of reaching for the valve cap, I said, "Would you like to put the valve cap on yourself?"

I made that kid's day.   His face lit up and he smiled, "Really Mr. Mike?"

"Yeah, go for it".

Watching him struggle and then succeed with something as simple as screwing on a valve cap made me realize that as an adult I often fall into there is nothing new under the Sun mentality.  Yet, right here in front of me was something new under the Sun.  That had to be the very first valve cap J would ever screw onto a tube and I got to be part of it.

That made my day.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ..............................................


Tom Harper said...

The family living in Bradford Block sounds sort of like my own situation (minus the rugrats). In 2004 my wife and I bought a small commercial building -- 2 shops on the ground floor and some offices on the second floor that had been vacant for years and years. We had the second floor remodeled and converted into a huge apartment. We've been living here happily since then.

Unknown said...

That's a good story.

That kid is going to tell people stories about "Mr. Mike from the bike shop" when he is older.

(Had to delete my first attempt. I can't tolerate typos.)

yellowdoggranny said...

that was so sweet...Mr rock.

robin andrea said...

Mr. Mike, you are the best neighbor a kid could have. Love this story!

The Blog Fodder said...

Sounds like those kids have good parents and a good neighbour. We will expect more stories of their doings as they grow.

okjimm said...

every tiime I get gas in my tire.....some rolaids seem to help.