Tis the time of year that I remember a certain, sad period in my old bike shop daze...
The sneaking feeling had been with me for a few weeks now. The phone calls. The worried look on Tom's face he couldn't hide anymore. The whisperings of "the bettys". All could not hide the fact that something was seriously amiss. Still, I was getting paid and "officially", I hadn't heard anything.....yet!
Then came the morning in early October, 1996, when Tom made it all clear to me. Advantage Cycles was going to shut its doors. When exactly, it wasn't made clear, and there was some small hope that it wouldn't happen, but things weren't good. I didn't dig for answers, since I was kind of stunned by the news, although I wasn't totally surprised by it. I soldiered on at any rate, although "the weirdness" increased as the days wore on.
First off, "the bettys" disappeared. They were two female employees of the shop, and roomates of Tom's by this time. They "played for the other team", as Tom used to say. They were a couple, and that was that, as far as he was going to reveal. There was much speculation going on about that situation, but for the purposes of this story, their disappearance from the goings on of the shop was another ominous sign to me that all was not well. Then Tom all but disappeared as well.
I would come in, open up shop, work all day, (we had shortened, Fall/Winter hours), and then close up shop and go home, all without seeing Tom at all. For days on end. He would obviously come in after hours, clear out the till, and issue checks to me on a continually irregular basis. But I was always caught up, always paid in full. Tom never failed me once in that.
The other thing about this time of year was that it got really slow. This October seemed to be a particularly slow one. I built up a couple sets of wheels, just because. Then I struck upon an idea. I bought a pumpkin, and in a kind of pitiful way, I celebrated Halloween at the shop by carving a face of an old man into it. It took a few days to perfect it, but finally I finished it, and displayed it proudly on my shop bench for all who would come in to see. That wasn't very many folks.
It was a small thing, maybe. But to me, it was my way of dealing with the heavy situation going down around me. I was heading into one of the worst winters of my life with prospects of my job withering away, no vehicle that worked to call my own, and nobody in my life to share any of it with that meant a hoot to me near to hand. That pumpkin was kind of an act of defiance, I suppose, against all the depressing stuff happening then.
I took a bad Polaroid of it. I still have it hanging up on my bench at work to this day. If you ever see it, now you'll know the story.
Bike Shop tales will return again next week...........
The Sweet Stop - Preston, MN
6 hours ago