In one hour and ten minutes, I will post whatever it is I’m about to write. Then I’ll read it online and make a couple edits: usually adding a parenthetical joke or two, usually adding a few paragraph breaks.
Then I’ll get on my bike and ride to work.
The truth is, at this moment I’d prefer to drive to work. It’s cold, dark, and raining outside, and it’d be nice to just say, “forget it, I’m driving” today.
But I’m going to ride, because I don’t have a Perfectly Good Excuse for not.
The Importance of Excuses
Really, I’m a little bit embarrassed that I don’t have a good excuse for not riding today. In the past, I’ve generally been able to come up with something that sounds pretty convincing whenever I needed it.
Why do I need an excuse at all? A couple reasons:
- Others: I’m noticing, as winter progresses, that an increasing number of people at work are asking me whether I biked in each day. (I’m beginning to suspect that an office pool has been started on when I’ll stop.) If I don’t ride in, I need to have a reason why I drove, or they’ll think I’ve given up. Somehow, if I give these people a good, compelling explanation of why I didn’t bike that day, I expect I’ll still get credit for being a cyclist. Now that I articulate that thought, I realize how completely boneheaded it is.
- Myself: More than convincing others that I’d be biking if — darn it! — I didn’t have this Perfectly Good Excuse I cooked up, I need to convince myself. This allows me to be a slacker without being a quitter.
The Anatomy of a Good Excuse
So, in order to avoid the dilemma I find myself today — riding into work when I feel more like hibernating than exercising — I need to replenish my stock of Perfectly Good Excuses.
This is not as easy as it seems, because an excuse is nothing but an excuse unless it meets the rigorous entrance criteria necessary to become a Perfectly Good Excuse. These are:
- It must be unique: An excuse that you have used within the past several days is no good. If you use the same excuse frequently or two days in a row, people will think you are just too lazy to fix the problem.
- It must seem to have caught you unawares: The excuse needs to be something that came out of left field. If you knew it was coming, you could have probably planned for it and found a way to ride in anyway.
- It must be convincing: The excuse must be good enough that the person you are using the excuse on agrees: he or she would also not ride into work under those circumstances.
- You must sorta-kinda even believe it yourself: This is the tough one. If you know that your excuse is an outright fabrication, you’re not going to have much luck making yourself believe it’s true. You need to have a component of truth (no matter how small) in your excuse.
Perfectly Good Excuses Under Consideration
In order to avoid finding myself in today’s dilemma — biking into work when I really just want to go back to bed — I am currently developing a new stockpile of Perfectly Good Excuses. They are:
- General Achiness / Approaching Illness: I don’t ever feel great first thing in the morning. In fact, if I went strictly by how I feel about the world in general when I first get up, I could probably make a case for calling in sick on any given day. The thing is, though, I know that this “blugh” feeling (a medical term) passes on its own within about five minutes, and I’m not very good at nursing it into a sense of impending illness. Plus, there’s the problem of my theory that when you feel sick, a ride is more likely to cure it than make it worse.
- Can’t Find My Helmet / Shoes: This is actually a really good one; there’s no way I’m going biking without my bike shoes or helmet. And with the forgetfulness that seems to be accompanying middle age, this is an easy one to pull off, too. It just takes a little planning. If I put my helmet or shoes down anywhere besides the space I have reserved for them in the garage, I will not be able to locate them the next time I want them.
- Broken Bike or Part: As long as you’ve got only one bike, this one’s bulletproof. It’s been a long time since I have had no serviceable bikes, though.
- Need My Car: This is a good one — if you’ve got to go pick someone up at the airport during the day, there’s nothing you can really do about it; you’ve got to drive in. The problem is, these excuses generally don’t coincide with days I don’t feel like biking. In fact, they seem to most often happen on days that a ride sounds really, really good.
- Rest Day to Avoid Overtraining: Oh, this is a fine one indeed. Not only does it give you a reason to skip riding that day, it carries an implied boast: “I skipped riding today because I am so fit it’s dangerous.” (Interesting note: did you know that “overtraining” is something that only very few pro-level athletes are even capable of? 99% of the people in the world couldn’t overtrain even if it was their fondest desire.)
- Weather: Since most people won’t ride their bikes if it even looks like it might rain, you can almost always use the weather as an excuse. The problem is, the weather is a slippery slope. If you use it as an excuse today when it’s drizzling, you’ll wind up using it tomorrow when it’s raining again. Soon, the season’s over, and all that’s happened is you’ve become an expert on rain. (It’s entirely possible I’m fixating on rain for some reason. I wonder what that reason could be.)