From Used Bikes to Fresh Beans…

…and a dose to insomnia to finish off with.

I knew I wasn’t going to be the first in line at the queue for old bikes at the Bike Library. It’s a student town after all – and sure enough, the first person had been there since 6.30am (they open at 10am each Saturday, for just four hours).

I counted up that I was ninth and with forty minutes to wait, stood by the door in the shade. The first in line soon reminded me that she was the first – politely – and I replied in the same spirit that I was number nine, just getting some shade, and having lived in London for six years, knew about the sanctity of queuing.

While we waited, nearer to 10am, in line by now, I heard the guy in front of me had a cultured English accent. We got to talking: he had a bike, he was there for his wife who was with him.

What was he doing here? Teaching at the Writing Programme, of course. Me: the IWP. You’re from New Zealand – do you know Emily Perkins? Yes I do. So I asked, “What’s your name?”

“Geoff Dyer”. Oh my goodness! I was so excited, I gushed, “Congratulations!” and shook his hand. “Your books are great!” Poor guy – comes out to buy an old bike and gets slavered over by a groupie who should know better.

Turns out they got the last bike, and I missed out – but as he likes New Zealand film (“Patu” was mentioned in dispatches), I recommended he check out “Boy”. I got his email to send the details, and we parted with him saying, “Our paths will cross again, no doubt”.

No bike, Geoff Dyer: bargain! The Farmers’ Market was right next door, so I circumnavigated that cornucopia of Iowan produce a couple of times – lovely veges – and bought a souvenir T-shirt for a measly $7.00.

That was better than buying an overpriced yellow and black Hawks T-shirt for the local team, who were playing arch rivals Iowa State that afternoon. The town was awash in grog and yellow clad fans, a bit like being in the middle of a sunflower colony within sniffing distance of a brewery. The whiff of ganga smoke too, here and there – but I did not inhale.

I escaped to my room back at the hotel and later checked out the fate of the Hawks on TV. They bombed it 9-6, sorry guys – which later had a bearing on the insomnia mentioned earlier in this piece.

After a full and fulfilling day and a precious Skype call home with Jeanette, I hit the hay (it’s a farming state, folks) about 11.15pm. I was just drifting off when the hall outside exploded with noisy calls and laughter.

Some of my slightly inebriated writer friends, perhaps, returning from a party? No, turns out it was three more than slightly pissed Iowan women using the laundry next door and talking fit to bust. I stood it for ten minutes, well aware that if I got up to ask them to hush up, I would wake up.

Bugger: that’s what happened. My reasoned if somewhat testy request was met with, “It’s Saturday night, we can party!” – or similar. I reminded them that this wasn’t a party zone, it was hotel, and the dryer used at this hour of night was an unwelcome noise disturbing many of us.

“I’m an adult (etc)…”, was the next attempt at reasoning with me. One of them fled up the hall as the Party Adult advanced towards me, swaying. I told her if they didn’t cool it, I was going to get the guy on the front desk to come up.

“Go ahead, call the Desk if you want!” said Party Adult. By this time, I knew it was time to leave, before I let loose a number of expletives in a tone of voice once used in shearing sheds by all the crude males I worked with at that time (and me).

Back in bed, adrenaline pumping, sleep was a non-event for another hour and I woke at four a.m. The roisterers departed soon after I spoke to them, but the damage was done and I know I wasn’t the only one on Level Two disturbed. Watch this space – it ain’t over till this grumpy poet gets some sleep.


About paparoa

Writer and researcher.
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