You may know that my Dad is in the ridiculously crazy process of attempting to ride his bike across Canada. Diagonally so it’s harder. What you may not know is that not many people want him to or think he can. Oh sure, there are some that have faith but he’s largely on his own with this one. For starters he’s old, 81. He has many health issues that individually would keep you and I on the couch complaining and watching the Golf Channel. Also, Canada is an enormous and potentially dangerous place.
Before Dad left, my sister Janet and I tried to talk him out of it. We had both been support for him last year in the far north of BC for part one of this ride and saw his challenges up close and personal. The Parkinson’s symptoms make regular daily activities like unscrewing a tube of toothpaste or zipping up a jacket a big time-consuming often frustrating chore. The disease also makes his speech quite difficult to understand, especially on the phone. He ended up in hospital more than once last summer with dehydration and needed to alter his Parkinson’s meds.
We had a dinner together a week before he set off and pleaded with him. “Dad, what if you break down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere”? “What if you need a doctor and you don’t have cell service”? “What if you’re just cold and too tired to continue and you’re in the middle of Northern Ontario with no civilization for miles”? We worried out loud about him being taken advantage of, robbed or God forbid squashed like a bug on the side of the road. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, then with a little twinkle in his eye answered in a whispered, somewhat shaky voice “people are nice”. Wait …what? That’s your fallback position? That’s your big survival plan? “People are NICE”? You see, from what we knew at the time, Dad was attempting to do this ride solo with little or no organized support. Out there in the wilds skirting the shoulder of the Trans Canada Highway would be pedalling a very determined skinny old man.
He gave us examples of people who had been very kind to him last summer. Generous, open-hearted Canadians who offered him food, drink, good conversation or help when he needed it. The seniors centre where they scrounged him up some pie and a game of cards. The small hotel owner on the Prairies who called home for him to let us know he was fine when his phone gave him trouble. The truckers who would swing wide to make sure not to knock him into the ditch with their powerful draught.
So yes, that was his plan. After 81 years on this planet, many travels and adventures including his fair share of scrapes and mishaps, Dad’s confidence in the positivity general all around goodness of the human race was a gamble he was willing and pleased to take. People are nice. This idea, this concept was so refreshingly un-sceptical is knocked my on my ass. I was dumbfounded.
Was it fair to expect people you’ve never met to buck up when you really needed help? Would fellow humans take time out of their busy lives to contribute the well-being of a total stranger? If you saw a grey haired man fumbling with his water bottle or a flat tire on the side of the road would you stop to check on him? Dad seems to believe completely that they will. Who am I to tell him he’s wrong about that. He’s older and most likely wiser.
People are nice. Let’s go with that.