You may recall that Dr. Paul Dudley White told the nation a few years ago the way to prevent heart attacks is to get aboard a bicycle.
Dr. White coupled his advice with some pretty stern words on the general torpor and flabbiness of the older half of the population. In fact, he made them sound a good deal like the whales, another of his interests. My wife and I decided then and there to get a pair of bicycles and start pedaling. After all, doesn't everyone remember childhood bike riding with pleasure? Why not start it all over again, especially when it will look so good on the electrocardiogram?
This is to report, after a proper interval of years, that Dr. White knew what he was talking about. We haven't had a single heart attack. Neither have our dogs, who run alongside when we cycle.
But this is only one of the multitude of benefits flowing from the decision to pedal regularly. Others that come to mind quickly include a much better understanding of the workings of traffic laws; a clearer realization of what human nature, especially in our neighborhood, is really like; a firmer knowledge of the streets and byways of our area; and, above all, an appreciation of how a comedian must feel when he brings down the house.
It is generally agreed in medical circles that laughter is healthful, and on that basis our cycling has not only improved our own health but that of an entire neighborhood.
Bicycling has also given me a perfectly splendid new front tooth and an impressive scar across the left hand that can be mistaken at cocktail parties for an old war wound.
Our adult bicycling careers started badly. We entered a bicycle shop on a Saturday morning shortly after reading Dr. White's pronouncement. We learned something at once. If you are old enough to remember seeing a Blue Eagle in a store window, you are too old to enter a bicycle shop on a Saturday morning. That is the time when the prehot-rod set gathers for learned discussion of hand brakes, racing chains, elevated handlebars and the proper way to deliver papers squarely in the middle of rose beds. Outsiders are a nuisance during those discussion periods, especially outsiders who appear to be senile.
An attendant who eventually broke loose to wait on us, an elder of 15 or so, said there had been a lot of-mature people in looking at bikes lately (he didn't exactly say 'mature,' what he said was 'older'), and there was a special imported bike just for them. Something about his tone made it sound like a wheelchair. However, the bike turned out to be a beauty, chromed to the last spoke, with a choice of speeds, a lighting system a Model T would have envied and a price tag that would have better fitted a small lorry.
Remembering Dr. White's scathing words, and remembering also the going rate for heart specialists, we paid the young merchant his price and departed. A bit later some grimy urchins, led by our son, gathered at the curb to watch the unloading of our purchases.
They volunteered that the bikes were interesting examples of a type no longer manufactured and we probably wouldn't mind the fact that the handlebars were too big and the brakes usually failed on downhill runs. With that we shooed them away and mounted.