By Tim Hayes
It had to be one of those cosmic coincidences. Somehow that December, the planets aligned in just the right sequence, and the gods of parental Christmas gift decisions decided to blow our collective pre-teen minds.
I and my best friends in the neighborhood all found new 10-speed bicycles next to our respective Christmas trees that year. Far out! We felt luckier than Greg Brady, Keith Partridge, and Donny Osmond – put together.
The 10-speed bike in those years stood unchallenged as the coolest piece of equipment a 13-year-old boy could own. You’d never in a million years use all 10 speeds, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that you had 10 speeds under your command, right at your fingertips. Combine that with the racing handlebars and silver shiny hand brakes, and you immediately became the Evel Knievel of your block. Untouchable. Irrefutable. You basked in 10 speeds of neighborhood glory.
So, once the warm weather returned, me and my fellow cool dudes decided there was only one thing to do with our new, un-road-tested 10-speeds. We needed to pedal out to South Park.
Now, South Park stood about 15 miles from our neighborhood, over some of the hilliest roadways of Pittsburgh. None of us had ever ridden a bike anywhere near 15 miles at a stretch, certainly never through city traffic, and absolutely not up and down the steep slopes between home and South Park.
But we had 10-speeds, man. We had the hardware, baby. Evel would do it. So we were riding to South Park, doubters be damned.
Well, I’m here to tell you that we actually made it that day. It took hours. It took everything we had. It took sweat and tears, but no blood, thank goodness. We rode past the giant sign reading SOUTH PARK, rolled our 10-speeds onto the grass, and collapsed, exhausted, totally spent.
It’s human nature, I suppose, to want to make the most out of new toys. For me and my buddies, it took the form of riding our new 10-speed bikes to an outrageously inappropriate destination. When you grow up, it can be making every slide on a PowerPoint presentation spin or fade in or rotate or bounce, because you can. Or shoehorn use of a new technology into business practices or classroom curriculum for no good reason, just because it’s there.
I served as a judge of a college public relations class team competition a couple of years ago, and was equal parts appalled and amused, because virtually every PR campaign cooked up by the students pivoted on heavy use of Facebook and Twitter. This included a campaign promoting increased applications for an assisted-living facility for senior citizens. Not sure Grandma and Grandpa live by the Tweet, kids.
Just because you have a shiny new toy doesn’t mean it should become the be-all, end-all option for every possible application. That’s all I’m saying.
My sweaty, exhausted friends and I learned that lesson in no uncertain terms one very long, very hot and sunny day during my 13th year. Yeah, our 10-speeds got us the 15 hilly miles to South Park. But after we found a pay phone, our Dads had to come out and drive us and our bikes back home.
Copyright 2013 Tim Hayes Consulting