So, I think I’m finally going to start writing again! It is certainly the result of many factors all of which I probably cannot name or do not recognize. One of which, I’ll say, is certaiiy the recent activity on the blogs and vlogs of both friends and strangers. Some of Those wonderful folks are linked to in my side bar. Give them a look-See!
while there are no doubt dozens of unsung motivators behind my writting in general, there is no question what sparked this particular entry: frustration! Any bicycle commuter will tell you that becomming one, is a lifestyle choice. It’s not for everyone. It requires a person to be particularly punctual–you can’t make up 30 minutes in 10 on your bike; resilient–that hill that kicked you in the pants yesterday and made you change your shirt before stepping into the office, it will again today; patient–it’s a long ride, but not only that, cars do not necessarily know how to use a round about or understand when a cyclist has come to a complete stop in order to give them the right of way at a four way stop. A cyclist must be prepared for flat tires, rain, sun, traffic accidents, and oh yes…work. So why do it?
Oh! Let me count the whys! Aside from the fact that it allows a world citizen to avoid the unpredictable and unrealistic price (both financial and ethical) of gasoline, and participation on the bottom tier of a world wide Ponzi scheme…-ahem- not that I could rant for hours on this subject… there are many reasons to ride (or take some other form of kinetic mode of transportation) to work. It builds character and promotes responsibility (see above character requirements for a commuter), it promotes fitness and in conjunction with healthier eating habits (I promise riding with a big ol’ doughnut in your belly is not much fun, I’ll take a grapefruit any day!), it’s financially responsible, there is a social aspect to cycling and meeting/riding with others, and oh yeah.. it’s Fun! Most cyclists will tell you that they enjoy their ride to work, this ‘terp is no exception. Waking up in the morning to the crisp coastal air, the wind rushing past my face, down into my lungs, and kick my brain with insta-oxy infusion! Shake it off, breath deep, start to feel your rhythm, settle in and enjoy. Music for some, thoughts for others, and always beautiful scenery. Perhaps the excitement of the morning commute, or more likely the still of the early morning city. Maybe the domestic suburban neighborhood, simultaneously stirring and nostalgic. For me, it’s the bay at high tide to my west, the rolling redwoods to my east and a scattering of artful abodes along a steady winding path; red, brown, green and blue are the shades of the morning.
Of course the life of a bike commuter is not all sunshine and flowers (although we like to think so). The world does not seem to understand this particular psychosis and certainly does not nourish the desire to move! Provide a small locker room for the staff and a slightly longer lunch hour giving folks the time and space to freshen up from their commute, take a walk or a ride between shifts, keep clean extra clothing, encourage your employees to commute with a cyclist reimbursement (a relatively new tax code for bike commuters and their employers) and suddenly you are equipped with well fed, intellectually efficient, happy workers rather than the lethargic sugar coated caffeine pills you would normally receive at the onset of the work week. I am not entirely certain why corporations and small businesses haven’t grasped the concept that encouraging this kind of activity before, after, during work would–to speak a bit of their language–likely result in a happier, more productive workforce with a longer life expectancy and work-life expectancy. AKA: more profit. (while I disagree with this mentality of money as an end, it seems that in some cases, this is the only way that people understand the world.– a topic for another article.)
And so, in a world consumed by greed, self-absorbtion, and convenience your average cyclist has to ask Oneself several questions daily. Some of these questions may be:
– what are my responsibilities at work today?
– will I need to change my clothes after my commute?
-if so, where at work can I do so without offending my boss and/or co-Workers?
– where can I park my bike near work? If there are no bike racks, Can I bring my bike in? lock it to a sign?
-what is the best route to work? Shoulders? traffic? distance? pleasure?
-if my employer reimburses for milage… how do I qualify? time?
Luckily for some commuters, many of these questions will have to be asked only once-Although some may be met with blank stares or annoyance at having to “accomodate” an eccentric employee. For a freelance interpreter, for whom each gig over the course of one day (maybe 2-5) may be in a different location with different requirements, travel times, co-workers, these questions repeat themselves multiple times daily. How many times am I commuting today? Is there enough time between each to bike to every location? Will there be a bus involved and what is the fare? Do I have it? Will I have time to change at each location? There is no reliable way (aside from monitoring my perspiration levels on climbs and over long distances and comparing them to google maps’ terrain layers -does it sound like I’ve tried This?;) to gauge if l will be able to wear my “work clothes” to work (imagine your interpreter walking in to your medical appointment in black spandex and a bright yellow spandex halter top!). And so I generaly do not. This of course means I’ll have to find a place to change into traditional garb before I go into my assignment. Unlike those who work in an office, I have no way of knowing if the building to which l am headed will house a bathroom in which l can change before I am expected to work. So, l will have to find a restroom to change in… okay, there’s a Starbucks on the corner maybe I can sneak in there, or a grocery store even better! Now, if there’s nothing with a sneak-able restroom I might have to ask a local business owner or just buy something, there go $2 bucks, or $5…does food count as fuel when I’m a cyclist can I put this redundant breakfast on my bill? And so I order, and slink away into the restroom clearly marked “for customer use only” and swap out my day-glow coat for a blazer, my skin tight work out top for my fitted button down, pull on my khakis over my cycling leggings…check the eyes, hair–is this a fancy one do I need make-up? think…think…stare at face…NO I hate make-up–wash hands (wait why am I washing my hands? I didn’t…-sigh-), step back out into the world. Is it me or does the server not recognize me in this outfit? I am handed my, coffee, bagel, muffin, egg, ice-cream, scone or whatever I’ve had the pleasure of splurging on today, and I’m out the door. Eating…
And so it’s a bit of a circus being a cycling ‘terp. When asked what I “do” I respond, “I’m a sign language interpreter” and most people react first with confusion, recognition, an then manic hand gestures meant to mimic sign language (-cough, cough- hint hint heary friends). When people ask where I work…I tell them about my unusual, irregular, unpredictable schedule–more confusion. Then they see my neon jacket and ask: “did you bike here?” Cue image of bright green-yellow gal rolling along down the highway, upright, hands flailing in the air!! Well actually, I suppose that’s not too inaccurate. And that’s part of the fun really isn’t it.
The major struggle with the lifestyle is simply that people don’t get it. They call and ask you to work a gig that’s 20 mins after your last one and 45 minutes away and don’t seem to know that you would of course be very late for that assignment, why did they call you first? Good, now ask them if you can bring your bike into the ER, cause you already know the hospital doesn’t have a bike rack. Why are they surprised that you are asking them to call someone else and let you know if they are desperate (“I can go late if you really need someone”) They have to meet to decide if your mode of transportation is worthy of compensation. (Luckily, I work for one company with a relatively green heart!) They laugh…they question, the give advice about things they know nothing about: “you should take the highway it’s shorter”, “your commute is 45 mins”, “you should go clipless!” ok…I’m actually considering that one–he’s a cyclist at least. Perhaps one day there will be enough love for the self and health and joy that folks will make cycling, walking, running (I did this the other day, SO MUCH FUN!), boarding, skating, skipping, jumping to work the standard. Perhaps this will lead to a time ethic that reflects the needs of those who live under it rather than the masochistic desires of the money god. Perhaps one day no one will care if my clothes are yellow or black, jeans or khakis or spandex! Perhaps one day we will do what we love because we love it and the fact that we are there doing it will be enough. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…
Until then, I’ll remain the slightly eccentric, totally ecstatic circus freak on wheels! Just you try and stop me.