The glo­ries of be­ing out-of-date

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By James “Cranky” Ram­say

I’m not dead yet

It’s the worst time of year to be a cy­clist. In fact, it’s the worst time of year to be a Cana­dian, un­less you’re one of those wrong-headed peo­ple who ac­tu­ally en­joy win­ter.

Yes, I know that I’ve claimed in past col­umns that I love rid­ing down ice-cov­ered roads, my tai­lored tights flecked with salty grime and my mous­tache frozen solid. But I was ly­ing. Once the charm of the first snow­fall has faded (about 30 min­utes af­ter it stops fall­ing), I hate win­ter. I con­tinue to hate it un­til the last of the spring runoff has trick­led down the storm sew­ers.

So what do I do at this time of year? I spend in­or­di­nate amounts of time on­line, brows­ing hither and yon, look­ing at bikes I can’t af­ford and don’t de­serve to ride, check­ing the prices of wa­ter­front prop­er­ties from Palm Beach to Lake Como, and in gen­eral fall­ing prey to the in­cred­i­ble time-wast­ing pow­ers of the In­ter­net.

For all my time spent on­line, how­ever, al­most none is de­voted to so­cial me­dia. Any­one who has tried to look me up will find scant ev­i­dence of the full and merry life I lead. A few years back, when I started writ­ing this col­umn, I did join Twitter. I sent a to­tal of two tweets, and within a cou­ple of days I had eight fol­low­ers. This is more peo­ple than I know in real life, so I con­sid­ered the ex­per­i­ment a suc­cess, and I never sent an­other tweet.

For rea­sons I can’t re­call, I joined In­sta­gram last year but I’ve never looked at it, so I should prob­a­bly can­cel my ac­count be­fore some­one hi­jacks it and dam­ages my good name by post­ing the fal­si­fied ad­ven­tures of Cranky.

Like­wise Face­book. I joined in 2012 when my kids were born. I posted oc­ca­sion­ally for a cou­ple of months, but the nov­elty quickly wore off. Th­ese days, one post ev­ery two years would be a gen­er­ous es­ti­mate of my ac­tiv­ity.

A few weeks ago, a long-lost cousin of mine from the U.K. was in Canada on short no­tice for the week­end. I haven’t seen him since we were kids, but I was de­lighted when he con­tacted me through Face­book Mes­sen­ger. I replied. The next day we were across a ta­ble from each other at a Chi­nese restau­rant, sharing a large plate of Gen­eral Tao chicken and catch­ing up on the past 40 years. The chicken, I must say, was de­li­cious.

“It’s great to see you,” he said be­tween bites. “Though I have to say, you look a bit older than your pro­file pic­ture.”

Cheeky blighter, I thought to my­self, while con­ced­ing that he was right. My pro­file photo is an im­age of me on the start­ing line of a bike race in 2012, when I was fit­ter, thin­ner and far more full of the op­ti­mism of mid­dle-age than I am to­day.

Then he said some­thing more alarm­ing.

“I looked at your Face­book ac­tiv­ity and I saw that you last posted in 2017. I did ac­tu­ally won­der if you were – well, if some­thing had hap­pened to you. Then I de­cided that some­one prob­a­bly would have told me if you were dead.”

“Some­thing did hap­pen to me, matey,” I replied. “And some­one should have told you. I had kids and stopped en­gag­ing with t he out­side world.”

He nod­ded, scooped up an­other piece of sticky fried chicken. The con­ver­sa­tion moved on to Brexit, the Royal Fam­ily and a long dis­cus­sion on the restora­tive prop­er­ties of the York­shire pud­ding.

But his com­ment – that he thought I was dead – stuck with me, pos­si­bly be­cause I j ust t urned 52, and I re­al­ize that I’m more than half­way through my life and I’ve achieved none of my as­pi­ra­tions (aside from be­ing pub­lished in this mag­a­zine, of course). Or per­haps I won­der whether I ac­tu­ally am alive if my life is not vis­i­ble through so­cial me­dia. Maybe

I’m like the tree fall­ing in the for­est with no one around to hear it.

Th­ese are deep philo­soph­i­cal mus­ings, and I’m cer­tain I won’t find any an­swers be­fore the end of this col­umn, so let me turn my at­ten­tion to a more prac­ti­cal mat­ter: the fact that my Face­book photo is so woe­fully out of date.

I should change it, so why don’t I? If I’m hon­est, I want to be­lieve that I’m still that mighty masters racer, poised to cap­ture glory in the top 30 places of a lo­cal On­tario road race. And if that’s what the world sees of me on­line, then that must be re­al­ity. So I will choose to pro­tect that re­al­ity, how­ever steep the price – even if it means never go­ing out for Gen­eral Tao chicken again.

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