Sunday, April 13, 2008

I enter the foothills to a strange encounter.

March 25th.

Amelia made me pancakes to start my journey. Real pancakes. Not crepes. Not savory skinny cakes. Real thick pancakes. Dan was amazed that I kept eating them. She just kept bringing them out, so I ate 14. After that, it was 100 km of flat road to the foothills past the town of Stratford upon Avon - the name of the town I lived in when in England growing up - the original, and birthplace of the bard, Bill Shakespeare. I stopped in Bairnsdale after two flats. This was the town that connected the beaches to the mountains.

I went into a used book store where a lovely lady sold me three books for a $1. She noted my bike gear and asked about my trip. Her pleasant friendliness contrasted with the creepiness of a Hobbit of a man with formal shirtsleeves, shirt buttoned up to the neck, too tight beige corduroys and muddy socks pulled up and over the edges of his pants. I don’t like to judge, and he approached me and asked briefly about my bike. I am happy to talk about what I’m doing, but he had a strange note of over-kindness to his voice. My warning bells went off when he implied that the lovely lady with the bargain books was intrusive and nosy by asking about my bike trip. I laughed and said “no, I didn’t think so.” He then proceeded to ask me if I was a Christian. I smiled and vaguely replied that I came from a Judeo-Christian background. He then asked me if I was married, and when I laughed and said “no,” he asked, “why not?”

Now this little Hobbitey man was looking a little bit more Gollumish to me and was starting to piss me off. I replied, with as much kindness as I could muster, that I wasn’t ready. I don’t think this got through to him. He then invited me to come stay at his place. I said that I was quite happy staying in the bush. I was thinking that if I went with him that I might get offered the old “koolaide.” He then asked for my address, and inside my head I made the game day decision to be nice while lying to him, and I wrote down a fake name and address. He proceeded to tell me that President Bush was part of a conspiracy to kill all "real" Christians, whatever that means (probably not me), and in his attempts to save me, he (despite my protests that I didn’t need another book to carry) tried to hand me a book. I was now pissed off at myself that I had not told this guy to bugger off and had instead lied to him. He insisted I take his book, "Mark of the Beast," and when handing it to me, scratched his head and said, "there’s usually a suggested donation of $14.95." I handed it back to him firmly, but he refused.

Later, I tried to read part of the book anyway, but it seemed full of unsubstantiated fear, and was hard to read. I can’t seem to bring myself to throw away any book, but I did not want to be encumbered by a tome of fear and guilt, so I left it in a public bathroom for some other poor, unsuspecting soul. It was a strange situation, and I could have handled it better. I spent the last part of my ride angry at this little man, but more so at myself and my handling of it. Live and learn.

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