Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Caution: Politics Ahead

For months now, I've been living under a shadow, the specter of pending unemployment. I have a very modern, American, white-collar job in high tech, which is to say I am office equipment rented to a large corporation (their initials are HP) by a slightly smaller corporation. I'm not complaining (I am), I'm well compensated for my efforts. But what is particularly "modern" about my job is the fact that I have little to no job security, laughable health "insurance" by any current, Western standard outside the US, a retirement fund that consists, apparently, of inscrutable Keno tickets being played by drunken chimps, and a cubicle that is literally being down-sized on the basis of the number of hours that I occupy it.

(No, they haven't yet found a way to automatically reduce the size of a worker's cube by biometrically measuring the amount of human occupancy over time, but I promise you there is an HP engineer, or rather an engineer in Kiev or Beijing contracted to HP, who is working on this very "problem." In the meantime they just send around an intern with a clipboard to see if you're at your desk. I wonder what that intern is learning?)

The other modern, and particularly American part of my job is that the over-seers who make the large-scale decisions about who works where and how are completely removed from both the circumstances and consequences of their decisions. As a result, I see worker after worker whose job performance has been praised by colleagues and supervisors alike, and whose loyalty has been impeccable for decades, get fired, transferred, and down-sized. It's a through-the-looking-glass world, where no matter how hard you work, no one pays any attention and you instead find yourself being gazed through in favor of animated numbers dancing on a spreadsheet. Apparently, the happy cartoon numbers are telling some nervous MBA that my job should be done by someone in Boise, or possibly not at all, even though I'm twenty percent of a team that has successfully built software for literally millions of customers.

In this world, getting out for a hike or a ride feels like encountering reality, a fresh, cold splash of reality. (It's been raining here non-stop since 1997 or so.) It's 2010, and it appears what we've accomplished as a society is to create a life where the way to escape from a surrealistic, absurdist job is hard, physical labor. At least when I'm working on the bike I can see immediate results from doing good work, and I can "reward" myself for it (yum, a Clif Shot!). On the bike, anyway, the management is rational.

That's not to say that cycling doesn't also involve being treated badly by faceless douche-bags with power beyond their intellectual ability. That's right, I'm looking at you, other road users. For no matter how much better run it is than your typical Fortune 100 company, navigating the public road-way can also be an exercise in abuse, indignity and life-threatening incompetence.

So, since I'm crabby anyway, I'd like to try and clear a few things up for my fellow public roadway users.

  1. A motor vehicle is not an appropriate tool for "making a point." You may not believe that I should cycle on the road, but that is a belief, an opinion, not a fact. Passing inches from me in your porcine Ford Excursion is not an appropriate way for you to communicate this opinion. It is an appropriate way for you to end up in jail.
  2. Similarly, try to understand that the concept of "sharing" involves more than other people giving you stuff.
  3. No matter how long you were stuck behind me, during most of your drive you were stuck behind another car. They are the ones really slowing you down, not me.
  4. Is there really any good reason for a cyclist to run a red light in city traffic? No. So stop it. You're not helping. Learn to track-stand, work on your sprints or just pause and scratch yourself absent-mindedly. Trust me, that will annoy the motorists just as much.
  5. Cycling is not a partisan issue. For any number of reasons, you should ignore the shouting/crying man on the TV or radio and just look around. People on bikes are from all walks of life and are riding for all sorts of reasons, good and bad. That shirtless guy smoking a cigarette riding his ten-speed stuck in one gear with the tape-less handlebars tilted skyward? He doesn't give a fuck about the environment; he hasn't driven, or voted, since his third DUI.
  6. No matter how red-faced mad you get, people aren't going to stop riding their bikes. Ever.
  7. Unless you are talking a cub journalist-amateur pilot through the landing procedure for Air Force One after the real pilot is killed by terrorists and/or snakes, you should probably go ahead and hang up that phone.
  8. No, I don't think I'm Lance Armstrong. I'm much, much slower and have only been married once. But where exactly do you think he rode his bike while training to shame the French on their own turf for seven straight years? You people like shaming the French, right? Go home and see if you can learn the name of another American cycling pro (tip: one rhymes with "shrink-wrappy"). While you're at it, ask yourself who looks more ridiculous in a helmet and skin-tight lycra, a 350 lb. lineman for Tampa Bay, the WWE "wrestler" in his mullet and camo onesie, or Michael Rasmussen? Okay, the answer is Rasmussen, but you see my point.
  9. If you're really concerned about wasted tax dollars, look into something called the Defense Department. Once we've trimmed the fat from that, we can talk about the cost of striping bike-lanes.
  10. There are things on the side of the road that can kill me. You can't even see most of them from your car. Ever had a six-year-old fling open the door of a Suburban in front of you while you're riding at 20mph with only a styrofoam hat for protection? Sometimes the right side of the road is about as safe as the highway to the Bagdad Airport. That's why I'm riding in the middle of the lane. I'm not making a political statement and yes, thank you, I am aware of the laws of physics and the irony of being "dead right." It's just for a moment. I'll get out of your way as soon as I safely can. Calm down.
There, that's enough for now. I know all of you are occupied with texting your BFF, eating Egg McMuffins and fiddling with the GPS, so I won't add your to your mental case load. Meanwhile, to the clean white guy in the power suit, driving the Lexus SUV while emailing PowerPoint slides from your smart-phone? It's enough that I'm invisible to you when I'm at work, but please keep an eye out for me on the road.


  1. I'll bookmark this to go back and read on those 200 days out of the year when I fail to make it to work without getting harassed/intimidated/yelled at/honked at/buzzed or exposed to other assorted forms of douchebaggery by drivers.

  2. Shrinkwrappy? Don't forget good ol 'typerhymer' or even the disgraced 'manpiss'.

  3. The answer was Rasmussen! Although Laurent Brochard http://bicycling.com/blogs/boulderreport/files/2009/12/brochard94.jpg has the requisite WWE hairdo too. Great post and all too true. "Shrink-wrappy!" and his ex-teammate "dry-primer."

    Required reading.