It’s deep winter, early in the morning, and despite the apparent lack of daylight it’s time to go to work. Outside it’s the kind of temperature where Pingu sticks his head out of his igloo and thinks he might give it a miss today.
The music in viral pass-the-parcel has stopped on you, so it feels like your brain is trying to escape the confines of your skull and your throat is as raw as if it had been inspected with an electric whisk.
Maybe you should get the train instead, but then that’s what everyone is thinking. Do you really want have your nose in the armpit of some unwashed cretin, whilst eight other people press against you from all angles, simultaneously stealing your wallet and getting a good feel of your more intimate possessions? Sardines at least get to be supine, naked and covered in oil – having a bloody great time by comparison.
You layer up like Scott of the Antarctic on top: base-layer, jersey, insulating layer and windproof with big gloves to boot. Because you’re a cheapskate and haven’t bought leggings yet, your top half is amusingly juxtaposed to the tight shorts on your bottom half.
It rained two weeks ago, so the roads are obviously still wet. You stole latex gloves from work so you could clean your bike in the bath and now it’s pristine. The grot on the roads outside nips that in the bud almost instantly, making your drivetrain sound like a cement mixer full of gerbils.
Of course, you live on top of a hill so the first few hundred metres of riding are fast and freezing. Your miserly ways continue to thwart you as you haven’t bought any clear glasses, so you cry horizontal tears. Good job you layered up though. Five minutes of gentle pedalling later, you are so hot you’re steaming like a fresh turd in a snowdrift.
You try disrobing at a set of lights, but get your sleeves caught on your enormous gloves. Now cars are honking and the tiny man on the fold up bike with wheels the size of your ears has passed you, muttering oaths. Once you finally get moving, the illness you’ve been growing makes itself very known as your nose starts to stream.
The snot, oh the snot! The thumbs of your gloves look like they’re home to a family of slugs. Once you’ve completely covered the softer material on the thumb in mucus, no more snot will stick to it, time to get a tissue. There’s one in your back jersey pocket, but with clumsy gloves you pull everything else out of that pocket too, scattering assorted pieces of crap in the road behind you.
Once the tissue is finally in your hand, it’s an act of folly trying to blow one-handed. The wind makes it impossible to keep the tissue open to receive your bountiful nasal offering. You then try two hands on the tissue and none on the handlebars (look Mum!). A gust of wind blows you off balance and you hit the deck. Only lightly haemorrhaging and with any pain numbed by the cold and shame, you pick yourself up and carry on your merry way.
Tears and snot are not the only bodily fluid that needs frequent expulsion. Not sweating enough in the frigid temperatures, all of that liquid seems to be handily diverted to your bladder. The water bottle has not been touched (that freezing liquid is about as appealing as ingesting chain lubricant), but the urge is overpowering, you need to find somewhere discreet to unload. Again, you are foiled by your large gloves. This is coupled with that fact that the cold and tight lycra has made your penis all but vanish, now resembling a frightened dormouse, and means that you won’t get any purchase and just have to wee and hope it goes in the right direction. Still, it’s dark and nobody can see. Then you realise your helmet headlamp is illuminating the entire display for unwitting passersby.
Eventually, when you arrive at work, you bear a resemblance to a toddler that’s been denied ice cream (or made to eat ice cream on a day like this): streaming with snot and tears and lightly covered in wee. You desperately yearn to adopt that likeness and drink from your sippy-cup and have a lie down. Maybe the journey home in nine hours time will be better.