Funny how some thoughts release you whilst others imprison you.
School is a thought that tends to lock me up. It always has done. So why, oh why did I ever become a teacher? Because I thought it would be good to call myself a professional. It would be safe. I would have a pension for my dotage and security. I would be part of the collective and not excluded from it. This is where cycle helmets come in.
I am sitting in a Year 10 examination, invigilating, watching and writing. An art teacher is here having warned me earlier that she may experience a panic-attack and have to run out of the room. She has haunted eyes that stare into the middle-distance awaiting something; reptilian-angst traced in sharp movements; mental illness once again. The world is full of it.
Lots of ex-patriots come here to escape. It’s not just the beach escape, a race to the sun, or a cultural inhaling. No, it’s an escape from themselves and their fears, the ones they remembered not to pack but which mysteriously came along anyway.
I counted my Prozac tablets this morning and was relieved that there were almost enough to see me through my time here. I have been purposely skipping some of the daily dosage in an attempt to accustom myself to the time when my dependency will cease. I ought to be one of the lunatic fringe, on the run from my own personal defects, but I’m not. I came out here, not to lose but to find. And I have found. I found my reasons and beliefs that I once held so dearly. And it’s not about swimming around in a pool of turgid drug-induced indifference, it’s about this-writing, thinking and not procrastinating.
The art teacher has just rushed out of the room and I think it is probably an episode that she warned me about, truly. Sweet Lord, what does that to a person? That particular person is never coming back.
Brodie is never coming back either. He now resides in a nebulous world in which his constantly evolving chains of thought are the only absolute certainty that he can cling to. That’s the cycling helmet philosophy for you; if a driver, high on drink and drugs, or just some massive dose of indifference, ploughs into you on your bike, you are likely to be, most probably, dead. A bit of moulded plastic is not going to separate you from your Maker, regardless of how much you wish to believe that it will. You will be a doornail. Or find yourself in a vegetative state, intravenously fed and externally evacuated. All the while, the driver can continue with a clear conscience, believing that even though they had probably killed you, or turned you into a cabbage, it was meant to be.
You were wearing a cycling helmet and that, somehow, will help to salve their culpability – there was really no other way out; FATE! Somehow the cycle helmet worked.
The great placebo of life is that magical cure for all ills. Get a job. Get Married. Get a mortgage. Get a pension. Get children. Get a dog. Get a cat. Get holidays. Get stressed. Get Life assurance. Get promotion. Get sleepless nights. Get a doctor’s appointment. Get time- off work. Get medicine. Get better. Tell the people and ideologues that are polluting your life to get stuffed. The great placebo of life is a myth that we all buy into in order to assure ourselves that it all makes sense. One day. One sunny day, it will all have been worth it. No more work. No more mortgage. No more pollutants.
And then… no more you.
So, I looked at my cycle helmet this morning and felt the need to wear it for my trip into work. I stared at it for a long time. Back home, I almost always wear it; the missus makes sure of that. She reminds me of the fact that I am a husband and a dad and that if anything should happen…well. I have tried telling her about the great placebo of life, but she will not listen.
“Would you throw yourself out of a plane?”
“It’s not the same.”
“Yes it is. Either way you would be dead!”
There is a logic to that which will not be denied by plain reason. Anyway, the helmet stayed on the ironing board and I pressed on with my journey to work.
In Mallorca, there are bikes everywhere: tourist bikes, mountain bikes, electric bikes and the type of bike that I ride, a road bike.
Now, all the bikes that are not road bikes can be ridden without the affectation of a cycle helmet. Even on cycle paths, where there are no cars, it is expected that a cask is worn. Otherwise some serious berating will ensue. When my cycling friend goes cycling with me, we are both caskless; and aren’t we made aware of it?
The other day, I was attacked by a woman with a bottle for cycling on a designated cycle path, after just being told that I needed to wear a helmet by a German guy who was dropping his wife some distance behind in a bid to prove his manhood. A few days later, a group of tourists, no doubt having benefited from a few after lunch drinks, almost fell off their bikes whilst uncontrollably heading in my direction. They had no helmets either but that was okay.
The great placebo only matters for some and not for others.