Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Various Methods of Escape

Magenta bleeds over speckled snowed peaks
as I drink another cup trying to wake up,
resign myself to the fact that the glass
through which I look is not a television screen,
is not the computer screen,
is a barrier between the world I've created
versus the world I thought I wanted.

It's so close, I can feel it, the
quick sting of arctic wind on uncovered cheek,
the slap of snow against my eyes. Yet it is so far
away, the world on the other side of that portal.

This is just wishful thinking as I watch the day unfold,
the world start to melt, and the time slip away again
as I am glued to this seat, plugged into the machine
that I'm supposed to control, but which
controls me - telepathic electrons turning
me to mindless information zombie like that fungus
that infects ants and makes them do its bidding.

The weather around here is still being a bit of a bitch. 40 degrees at 4 in the morning is simply not right in the middle of January. The melting snow is not right in the middle of January. The fact that I got rained on this morning is not right in the middle of January. It's just not right, but it is what it is and I guess I'll just have to deal.

Yesterday, being a holiday and all, there was reduced bus service. So I got the chance to ride the bus with some folks I don't normally ride with. While standing in line and waiting, one lady, whom I've ridden with once before, started asking me about the bike and about biking.

Now, to be completely honest, this woman rubbed me the wrong way in my past interaction with her. She is one of those people who both have to have the last word on everything and is never wrong about anything. At least this is what I gathered from her interactions with myself and with others.

Yes, I'm a judgemental bastard. I know.

Anyway. She asked me how I stay clean while riding and followed that with the revelation that she stopped riding in the 80s because she couldn't stand getting dirty and wet.

I explained that I just let myself get wet and dirty and that I bring a set of clothes with me to change into when I get to the office. We then got into a discussion first about how to deal with bad weather and how no matter what riding in the rain is one of the less pleasant aspects of riding - except when it isn't. We got to talking about the cost of the bike and the maintenance that goes into it, and then we got to talking about why I ride my bike.

And it ended up being a really nice conversation. We talked about how I started bike commuting when I moved to Anchorage and how it was in the fall rather than the spring so I essentially went from neophyte into hardcore in the matter of a couple of weeks whether I wanted to or not. I ventured that had this not been the case that I would not still ride every day, but because of that experience right out of the gate, I know that I can handle any condition that comes my way.

She asked if I rode just to save money - which is where the cost of ownership came up. Of course the cost differential between daily driving a car and riding a bike is huge, and it did factor into my initial decision to bike commute, I don't think that is the main factor. The more that I ride, the more that it ends up costing me in both real maintenance as well as the "maintenance" items I always seem to desire (new saddle anyone?). It's still not anywhere near the cost of car ownership, but given that I am not terribly motivated by money (Yet I love buying stuff...it is a challenging dichotomy), the savings can't be what drives me to not drive.

I postulate that my desire to ride my bike stems more from my need to get outside every day. My first real job after high school, the job I put in 40 hours a week at, was building houses. So I was outside. A lot. In all kinds of weather. Then I started moving into "career" jobs - indoor work. Desk work. And I started feeling disconnected from the things that used to bring me so much joy - like watching the turkey vultures come back in the spring and thunderstorms build on the horizon.

Riding my bike gives me a taste of that twice a day. And I think that is, more than any other factor, what keeps me riding.

I was listening to the Sprocket Podcast last night, getting caught back up with past episodes and the discussion focused on the fact that most of us who get to ride our bikes daily are privileged - we have the choice to make, the working conditions that allow, and the habitations that make it possible to commute by bike. Yet so many people don't have the privilege of choosing their transportation options. Their socio-economic situation dictates their commuting options. Heavy stuff. But spot on.

I have so many factors that allow me to ride every day. I have a wife who is supportive of it and all it takes, logistically. My employer is flexible with my hours, allowing me to come to work earlier and leave a bit earlier in order to accommodate my bus situation. Generally the city is accommodating to cyclists with a great bike path network and well maintained roads. I've also made a conscious decision to work for a company that values alternative transport and who continually takes small steps to make it easier for its employees to do this. I've taken steps to ensure that I can continue to ride my bike - when looking for a house, this was a huge consideration - is it bike-able?

I guess my point here is just to remind myself how lucky I am to have the situation I have, to have the resources and the support needed in order to even have the choice of how I commute be a choice. That's pretty damned cool.

Yes it is.

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