Remember those little bells on your bicycle handle bars, that kids just love to ring? The ones where you could keep your hands in place while your thumb stretched over to push the lever on a simple, mechanical bell?
Gloriously, they still exist!
When my children were young, we frequented what us Southerner’s call the “Redneck Riviera” along the Florida Pan Handle. These beaches around Destin are probably the prettiest and whitest in all the United States. They provided a big, beautiful sandbox for our kids to play and were within driving distance of our home in Arkansas. But in the off season, with their temperatures reaching 100+ in the summer and dipping down to 40 degrees in the winter, this area is not much of an escape from Arkansas’s own weather extremes.
Now that the kids are grown and gone, I can fly anywhere I like which, most recently, was Miami; where the weather is consistently mild because of the warm Caribbean jet stream off the coast that keeps the temperature (before global warming, at least) between 70 and 90 degrees, year-round. That is why migrating northerners, famously called snowbirds, spend their winters in Miami. And not just northerners, but every kind of person you might ever want to see, does too.
Just north of Miami is the city of Hollywood. It is so nearby that, when driving in the congestion, on Highway 1, you do not even realize you have left Miami proper. Hollywood, Florida is one of my favorite beach towns to visit because of its white sand, wide beaches, palm trees, and 2-mile-long “Broadwalk.” On this flat pedestrian thoroughfare, you see people of all ages and skin tones eating at outdoor cafés, roller skating, biking, and walking for exercise or pleasure. At night, it turns into a big party for young adults; at this point, I retire to the quiet of my condo or go out to dinner.
On Hollywood’s boardwalk, no motorized transportation is allowed, and walkers know to stay to one side, while people commandeering things with wheels occupy the bike lane.
Each morning, before the boardwalk became too crowded and the sun too strong for us Irish descendants, Grady and I rode our rented bikes its whole length. As the weekend neared, newcomers would arrive and unknowingly stand or stroll in the bike lane. It was dangerous for them and us cyclist.
This is when I discovered the purpose of the bell on my bike.
We All Need a Bell
I became the bell ringer and teacher for all the new vacationers. Exercising my right to ring I would preach, “Out of the bicycle lane, please.” Yes, I was a little annoying, but I reasoned it was for their own good … and it was fun to ring the bell. I felt like a kid again. Like Pavlov’s dog experiment in association, the little tingle sound of the rudimentary bell evoked memories of my childhood. And it was also very effective for moving people along. I began to want a bell for all of life.
For the rest of the trip when Grady and I found ourselves standing in line at a store, restaurant, or airport, he would lean over and whisper, “Ring your bell.”