Sometime around 2003, I became addicted to Law and Order.
It wasn’t my gateway TV series into bad TV shows [that was probably CSI] or law school [that may have been Ally McBeal], but that may have been because I believed so strongly in the reality of the characters themselves. I believed that in a particular precinct in New York City, you can find Detective Elliot Stabler[‘s muscles] and that Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter and his questionable ethics are running after judges in the district court. The show never got the law wrong [at least not in the episodes I’ve seen], and the endless hours I spent with Detectives Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson rendered them that much more real. To me, it wasn’t just a show; more like a mini documentary series.
But like most perfect things, though it took me a few years, I recently noticed a small flaw: in Dick Wolf’s world, a detective’s salary can apparently fund a very roomy apartment in New York City. I understand giving the main characters some relatively nice living arrangements, but the generosity is spread out across the board. Suspicious military couple? They somehow can afford a giant two-bedroom. A victim’s sister - a young 20-something right out of college? Huge one-bedroom in Manhattan with a kitchen that isn’t crowded into a corner of her large living room [and yes there was a door between the living room and bedroom]. Depressed and unemployed victims have spacious studios with kitchens bigger than mine. As much as I love to consider Assitant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa a fellow alum of my alma mater, this glaring detail doesn’t correlate well with what I know.
And what I know is that shit in New York City - apartments in particular - is expensive. My sister once paid an arm and a leg for a doorman and a unit the size of my futon. If my sister wanted to use the bathroom and I wanted to leave the apartment, we had to squeeze around each other while navigating two doors that couldn’t open at the same time. A few years later, my sister collected some sanity and a few roommates for something with a living room and windows that didn’t face nowhere, but that also came with the discomfort of knowing that she was never quite alone. My sister eventually waved the white flag by moving to Brooklyn, but I suspect the idea of living in Manhattan remains romantic for her. But by now she knows better than to expect Law & Order-esque living arrangements on anything less than a banker’s salary.
Reality is always disappointing like that, the sting of betrayal smarting that much more when the source was someone you trusted [Dick Wolf, I believed in you...!]. The “large apartments in Manhattan” fantasy of L&O was a reminder of this consistent failure of the perfect, but that didn’t keep the demolition ball of dismay from swinging through me when I was informed that several crucial moving parts that I’ve been relying on are currently breaking down. Mostly all at the same time.
It’s not so much that I didn’t know better, but like my blind faith in L&O storylines, I chose not to admit the inevitable. Until multiple people pointed out my glaring denial regarding my chain [“it’s really stretched out...”], tires [“...there’s a lot of stuff in these...and they’re getting squared off...”], and brake pads [“you might want to change those soon”]. I responded with shock, while friends that probably think I should know better tried to ease the shock. “That’s good, it means you’re riding your bike,” they said every time as I fantasizing about violently shaking a personification of my IF. “But you said you would last forever,” I imagined screaming to my frame and fork, “doesn’t that apply to all of your other parts?!”
It doesn’t, of course, but that didn’t keep me from feeling cheated as the predictable parts wore down, the purchase of replacements bleeding my bank account drier. It’s not like I wasn’t familiar with the fact that all things worthwhile require care, love, and maintenance. I simply chose to forget that a measure of realism as to their perceived perfection is also required. But like TV shows that involve the likes of Forensic Technician Ryan O’Halloran, it’s easy to forget when something so pretty is involved.
I still - passive-aggresively, perhaps - have yet to replace those brake pads. It's stupid, I know, because stopping is important, and brake pads aren't exactly going to break the bank. I keep putting it off though, telling myself that they'll be fine for another few rides or another hundred miles. It lacks reason and logic, but those worn down pads also serve as a reminder: that perfect things should always remain [and always will be] a little bit imperfect.