One of my favourite things about cycling is The Nod. It’s that brief sign of acknowledgement between two passing cyclists - either a subtle nod of the head upon making eye contact, or perhaps a half-smile, or even a fully fledged greeting for the more outgoing cyclist.
It’s similar to when bus drivers wave to each other. Or like lorry drivers flashing their lights. Or how pedestrians who aren’t in London recognise each other’s existence.
It’s a small thing, I grant you. But that moment of solidarity amid the hustle and bustle is significant.
I enjoy The Nod so much that it’s become a marker by which I judge the prospects of my day.
This was inspired by Christopher Boone, teenage protagonist of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Christopher has trouble understanding emotions, so he lives by certain rules that give his life consistency and order.
One rule declares it to be a “Good Day” if he passes four red cars in a row during his bus ride to school. This means good things will happen and his endeavours will be rewarded. And if he passes four yellow cars in a row it’s a “Black Day”, because he doesn’t like the colour yellow.
I admire this system. Our moods can be swung by a million different things, mostly just as irrational as a car’s paint job, so why not create an accountable, consistent rule?
If a cyclist returns The Nod, it’s a Good Day. If I’m ignored by everyone, it’s a Bad Day. Simple.
Whether it’s because I live in the North, or people are just friendlier than I give them credit for, I’ve had a lot of Good Days recently. Especially since the decent weather has settled in. This got me thinking, surely there should be something above the bog-standard Good Day? Something along the lines of Christopher’s “Super Good Day”, which is when he sees five red cars in a row.
But what could possibly indicate a Super Good Day? I’m not as taken by the colour red as young Master Boone. Or by cars, for that matter.
Well, you can bet your Brompton I’ve found an alternative.
I was freewheeling down Holly Avenue - one of my favourite roads in Newcastle - when I saw another cyclist approaching me. Since I’d clocked her early on, I had time to prepare for The Nod.
However, this extra prep time only led to indecision. Should I stick with the regulation nod, or maybe branch out with a smile and wave? What about a ding of the bell and “Good morning, madam”?
In the end, I managed to look over at the last second and utter some inaudible syllable. I probably appeared to clear my throat in her general direction. Sure sign of a Bad Day.
But wait, there’s more! In a freakish plot twist, it turned out this stranger I had just coughed towards wasn’t a stranger at all. It was Shannon! Coursemate of Naomi’s and inexplicable consumer of plain Cornflakes. We recognised each other just as we glided past and managed a belated wave. What a happy coincidence, despite her strange taste in breakfast cereal.
Back at home, I realised how cheering it was to randomly see a familiar face in this city of three hundred thousand strangers. It was the sign I’d been waiting for. I declared it to be a Super Good Day.
Super Good Days have proven to be pretty rare in Newcastle. But the longer one stays in the same city, the more people one befriends, the more frequent they become. That’s why Naomi and I want to settle down in Manchester when we move this summer.
And whilst we await our Super Good Day pay-off, there’s half a million new strangers to nod at.