The Race of the Patient Motorcyclists

Posted on June 15, 2019

Audrey's journey gets under way - the first call.

After only a couple of hours I received my first call. It was Jenny. She’d decided to pick up the Audrey phone in the supermarket. Having just completed her Tesco weekly shop, she was now sitting in her car in the car park making the call. Pressing the ‘Read me a Story’ button.

I was a little caught out because I was cycling home from work on my bike. Still, there was no way I was missing my first caller! I pulled over to the side of the towpath. Opened with a warm ‘hello, how’s it going’. Grabbed a folded up piece of A4 paper from my back pocket with a short story printed on it. And sat down to catch my breath on a park bench.

We exchanged a little light-hearted conversation. Apparently Tesco were out of reduced-salt soy sauce  And Jenny’s kids are a little too old to be read to nowadays. (That’s nonsense I said). Dinner tonight would be a veg stir fry.

Our first reading was ‘The Race of the Patient Motorcyclists’. The story images a motorbike race where the object is to go as slowly as possible! The winning entrant is the one who takes the longest to complete the hundred-yard course without stopping. Lydia Davis, the author understands how to make you simultaneously laugh and think. Her marvellously surreal stories are semi-comic, semi-tragic investigation of the oddness of existence.

Elaborately equipped machines line up at the start, fitted with gleaming chrome and leather, mahogany inlays and antlers - whose potential speed proves difficult to resist, for this is a race in which only the slowest contestant wins. The race’s novices inevitably grow impatient with the slow pace and “gun their engines with a happy racket, and let their machines wrest them from the still dust of their companions.”

Like life itself, the point is to hold one’s ground, to defy the seduction of what seems like an easy victory and stick it out for the long haul.

The reading prompted a chat about whether we’d ever rode motorbikes. Turns out neither of us have. Whether we have any tattoos. And if we’ve spent any time in the desert. We then chatted about patience… waiting, watching, knowing when to make your move … enjoying an unexpected pause… mastering patience as a way to find emotional freedom.

Jenny describing the feeling of being in a long, slow-moving queue in Tesco. The steady build-up of irritation.

Just before we said our goodbyes, out of curiosity I asked Jenny what she planned to do with the phone. She hadn’t thought about it. It would be a surprise.

Then off she went to prepare the stir fry. And I hopped back on my bike.

Happy reading!

You can follow Audrey’s adventure on twitter @readwithaudrey