Shopping is a contact sport

I tried a new thing today. I rocked up on the doorstep of ALDI ready, on sale opening day, to score a splendid and affordable vertical bicycle pump. Does anybody do this? I wondered.

I arrived way too early (because almost nothing takes as long as I think it will in this fair city* - obsessively punctual, me.) At thirty minutes to blast-off, this was the sight.

Is she just going to stand there exactly like that for half an hour? I feel safe enough that I could run her over on my bike pump beeline to retreat to an outdoor location for my banana breakfast.

Upon my return, the crowd has grown to twenty-five. Two couples at the helm seem to have elected themselves authoritative ringleaders. They chat, seemingly amiably, but there's an undercurrent. Not a peep from me as their talk turns to which aisle it's best to proceed down, and where the bottlenecks usually occur. Shit, this is sport AND science.

By now the gathering numbers fifty. None of these oldies want bicycle pumps. Don’t be so sure. Next the chatty helms-folk discuss the bicycles themselves (male and female hybrids, by which I do not mean inter-gender) and then the accessories. Hmm. I wonder if I should try the ‘aisle-less-travelled’ option. I decide that this could just as easily be an elaborate decoy strategy, and that ‘bottleneck’ is fine by me.

The next ten-minute stretch is the slowest passing of time in living memory - and I recently went to the dentist! With a handful of minutes to go, punters white-knuckle-poised behind their trolleys, the bloke from one of the Pole Position couples starts hard-core looking daggers at me and muttering. The strong inference is that I have queue-jumped. There was no queue, just a throng. I had already decided I would not enter before these two seasoned teams - but just after! Such passive-aggression from Mr Dagger-Eyes could have made me go the other way and duck-and-weave in ahead of him. But, no - if you’re that competitive and petty, mate, I have no desire to earn your ire.

The scurry and flurry towards the bikes and bike-related booty is frenzied. There are enough pumps for my strategy to work (they’re well gone by now) but it's the paltry palette of pushies that folk are after – yes, and accessories. They all seem the type who’ve not had bikes nor bike-related paraphernalia since childhood. All set to revolutionise their Sundays with a gentle two-wheeled toddle, or perhaps just add to the shed clutter with more well-intentioned idealistic evocations. I would love to have photographed Mr and Mrs Dagger-Eyes (to be fair, she didn’t glare) awkwardly dragging bike boxes off the palette and hefting them into trolleys. And the others, gripping and grappling, then adding pumps, helmets, gloves, lights, clothes. I stuck to my game plan – just the pump - how disciplined! The other theme for the day’s sale is scrapbooking clutter-craft-related, so I have little need to sniff those items over (except to try to work out what they are).

I celebrate by supplementing the banana breakfast with traditional coffee and donuts, as the food court area rubs its sleepy eyes and gradually gets moving.    

Home via Vinnie's - all done before the sun even hit my deck, although clearly there is plenty of sun around.

While I’m on the bicycle round-up:

When last on tour, I checked my bicycle in to the bike-doctor for some needed surgery. I’d Googled enough on the topic of bottom bracket bearings to know that attempting that replacement myself did not appeal. Some of the tools required are as niche as piano tools, in their specific unusualness** (and uselessness in all other settings). I have no desire to kit up for this muscle-bound grease-monkey affair – happy to outsource and pay. If I bought the tools, I suspect they’d gather more dust than grease – just as I suspect Mr and Mrs Dagger-Eyes’ bicycles might – but perhaps I misjudge!

So, new bottom bracket (they’re all integrated units now apparently, so much of the YouTube material I viewed is outdated) and new brake pads. They were desperately needed, it had become impossible to stop a gentle glide with one brake while holding a camera (back lane filming shenanigans).

Perfect timing - I picked up my bike the day after arriving home from Lord Howe Island. I rode away, ‘squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak’. I rode straight back, ‘squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak’. It turns out the pedals (along with the bottom bracket) were the cause of me sounding impossibly comically squeaky – the threads were worn, ‘Something, something should-have-told-you.’

My usual strategy – something basic, certainly nothin’ fancy. So, they peddle me some pedals*** All up, I spent almost as much as if I had bought an Aldi hybrid push-someone-over-to-procure pushie. Nah, I don’t want martial arts training for shopping trips.

I am very happy to have rejuvenated my own trusty treadly, with its cut-down milk crate (readily available) and its Dutch O-lock (you can’t buy them at Aldi… for now!) I’m pleased, too, that my local bike shop did not turn up its nose at my simple steed and try to up-sell me.

Meanwhile, during yesterday’s cycle to a CBD venue-hire piano tuning, I noticed new painted signs on the shared loopy bit that leads from Pyrmont Bridge to the bottom of King Street. Honestly, ‘Advisory speed limit’? So I’ll just keep doing what I already do – dodge pedestrians at a moderate pace. Right you are, then. The last time I read such fluffy superfluous fine-print was below the line in the NSW Senate Paper – 110 candidates in all the loopy and not-quite-so-loopy parties, and don’t forget the ‘ungrouped’ group.

* With the exception of travelling to places like Hornsby – which are always seemingly just further up the highway than they were last time.
** Or should I say: 'unusual specificity' - quasi-Ruddster-style.

*** These words are constantly confused, it seems. Pedal. Peddle. Since they come up so much in both bicycle AND piano online reading, I get a double dose of irritation.