Sunday, May 24, 2009

"I think you have a bicycle problem."

Four of us, two men and two women, all from my Creating Happiness Seminar group, are sitting around the table having lunch at a friend's house last weekend. The conversation turns to bicycling--one of those present being a lady with considerable experience and expertise in racing mountain bikes. She and I talk about the bikes we own, have owned or want to own. Each of us has several. At this point the other man at the table speaks up. "I think you have a bicycle problem," he says to me. I'm reminded of the old line that you don't have a drinking problem as long as there is something to drink. Immediately both of the cyclists start explaining that we have different kinds of bikes for different uses. And the guy who made that comment is a motorcyclist who never learned to ride a bicycle, so we offer to teach him to ride a "real" bike. But the comment remains in my mind. Do I have a bicycle problem? To start with, "a bicycle problem" is a story about how many bikes one has. I know people who have hundreds of bicycles, more than they can possibly ride. Some are in the used bike business simply to get rid of the surplus (many antiques dealers got started the same way). An obsessive need to collect more of something than one can possibly need or use is a recognized disorder, particularly when it interferes with the well-being of the collector. I would consider having 500 bikes to be a bit of a problem--if one has them merely to have them. Of course, when what one collects is something most people would like more of, and generally approve of having more of, such as money, art or real estate, it's not generally recognized as a problem. And it's a fine line between focus and obsession. Bikes are easy to collect. They are easy to transport and they take up relatively little space. They are relatively inexpensive compared, say, to classic cars, which also need a lot more space and upkeep. There are plenty of interesting bikes around. In my case, I have no particular desire to amass a bike collection. These days I am reducing the collections of stuff I had already amassed--books, records, whatever--to what I actually use enough to be worth keeping. I like my bikes. They're all different and they're all useful. But if I find I'm not riding one, it's probably going to someone who will.

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