Notes on commuting





While riding to work last week, I came upon this amazing tableau on the side of the road. Even though my speed at the time when I passed it was well into the double digits (impressive, I know), I had to stop and take a picture. How could I not? Even Paul Cezanne would have marveled at the beauty that inherently came with this still-life composition, as well as the items it included.

A Southern Comfort T-shirt
A bottle of Budweiser
An Aerosmith masterpiece, in cassette format

Admittedly, I did straighten out the t-shirt with my foot just a tiny bit before I took the picture, which makes me a bit of an artist. But let's get back to the items included...does anything in the world say "fun" like this combination of artifacts does? I simply had to stop and take a picture. Once I got home and printed out a copy of the picture on archival paper, I offered prints to the most prestigious museums around the world. I'm happy to say that three of them accepted my offer. The Louvre, The Met and the British Lawnmower Museum all now have this image on their permanent collection. Here's a picture I took during my trip to France last month, showing the beautiful still-life as it looks at the Louvre right now. Note the crass American tourists who are taking pictures of a picture. While I was doing the same, I don't count, since I was doing so to document their stupidity.



My artistic eye aside, a couple of other things about my commute occurred to me recently. These are not particularly astute observations, but ones I thought I would share with you anyway.


Smells
If I can smell the cat urine outside of a house as I ride by it every day (even when it's winter time and all the windows are closed) how badly must it smell inside that house?

If I can smell someone's perfume/cologne outside of their car as I ride behind them on my way to work (even when it's winter time and their car windows are all the way up) how badly must it smell inside their car?





Roads

While riding in Europe, I had numerous people ask me if the pavement where I live in the United States is "as bad" as it was on the street we were riding on at that moment. Every time this question came up, I had to laugh. What most Europeans seem to consider as being "bad pavement", would be considered the most evenly paved street around where I live. I'm sure the severe winters here are to blame, but I was left with the feeling that Europeans who come to ride in parts of the United States that have snowy winters would be amazed by what we put up with. The potholes are huge, they are deep and they are more plentiful than those in Manuel Noriega's face. I don't mean to start a contest of whose road surfaces are worse, which is only slightly less annoying than the "I ride when it's -100 degrees" competition. Still, I have to ask, have any Europeans found this to be true when you ride in places like the United States?


Pointing-crazy
On a related note: While riding in Europe, I found that pretty much no one points to potholes or things to watch out for on the road. Is this because there are so few things to watch out for? Maybe people in the United States are pointing-crazy, but the lack of communication in Europe felt a bit weird to me. Here people let you know about cars, if they are crossing intersections, they point to glass, and potholes and loose gravel. Perhaps this is the same as how when I play football/soccer with Americans, I'm endlessly annoyed by how much yelling and talking they do. It's like they're the managers for a team in the World Cup. Every three seconds you can hear these guys yell out, "You've got pressure!", "Pressure left", "Man on!", "Time, Time" Christ almighty, I don't know what in the world they mean by any of it. Back in Colombia, where people are usually ten times better at playing football, all you need to do is to raise your hand to show you are open, and you'll get the ball. Aside from that, you shut up and play. Americans include more dialogue in football/soccer than a Tarantino movie. Maybe it's the same with cycling...I don't know. This is not to say that one way of doing things is wrong...but maybe it's just different. I can't help but feel that yelling in a friendly football match is annoying, while pointing to a hole that could swallow my bike is just a safe and friendly thing to do. Sure there are those people who point out every single pebble on the road...but by and large, I've gotten used to relying on others to help keep me safe. Anyone care to weigh in?





You're not alone (Everybody hurts....sometimes)
Are you wondering what that small flying object is? Is it a UFO, or perhaps a weather balloon that Team Sky is using to help its riders determine the weather in an upcoming section? Nope. It's a water bottle that was tossed from that yellow car, which just hit Bradley Wiggins the general face/helmet area, and has bounced off. If you think you have it bad because you live in the United States because people here "don't understand cycling"...think again. This is what happens when you're a professional, and you are training in the bike-loving Netherlands. If you care to see the whole video (with its super euro musical track), which was posted by Team Sky's Michael Barry, you can watch it here. The bottle incident happens at about 3:20. Also note that there's a Delorean in the video. Man, Europe is freaking awesome.



The mysterious case of the missing underpants
As I write this, I'm in a bit of a panic. You see, I don't take clothing for me to change into everyday when I ride to work. Instead, I keep two big drawers full of second and third-tier attire which I put on once I shower in the office. The only downside to this is that once every three weeks or so I must take the clothing home to wash it. I sometimes do this little by little, sometimes I do it all at once. Today was the day when I was to take it all home at once. Due to severe rain, I took public transportation to work, and planned on returning with a large bag of clothing to wash...mostly underpants. Stupidly, however, I left the bag in the work bathroom (shared by a large floor with multiple offices) on my way out. So right now, there's a large bag of my underpants at work...and I anticipate that in the morning (by the time most of you are reading this), an email will arrive at my inbox, with the subject line "big bag of underoos found in men's bathroom, please claim". While neither said underoos or the bag have my name on them, pretending that they aren't mine is not an option. I need the massive amount of underpants in order to allow me to keep riding to work without having to bring clothes with me every day. Damn it. I'm seriously dreading going to work tomorrow. I will keep you all updated in the comments section.



Pretend that your mom is looking over your shoulder
At a job I had a few years ago, I became friendly with the head IT guy. As we were having a friendly conversation one day, I asked him how strict the policy was regarding browsing the web while at work, and if he monitored people's internet activity. He told me that he did, but that really you only had to worry about looking at stuff online that you wouldn't want your mom to see if she was was looking over your shoulder. This was his generic rule of thumb. I thought about this the other day as I rode to work. My wife rarely drives to work (she often works from home, or takes public transportation), and on that day she was driving the same route that I ride to work for a few miles at the same time as me. This street has a substantial amount of fast traffic, it's hilly and has a million intersections. I knew she was right by me at certain points during my commute, and I noticed myself riding more carefully, and more predictably that day. This is not to say that I'm normally a person who weaves through traffic uncontrollably, but I noticed a difference in my behavior. She had never seen me ride to work, and I imagined that she might be worried about me when she saw what actually "riding to work" entailed. So now I must ask you: Would you ride any differently if someone who cared deeply about you (friend, sister, mother, son etc) was riding alongside, and watching you? If you had asked me that question last week, I would have said that I would ride the exact same way as I always do. I was wrong. I rode a bit more carefully that day, and took fewer chances. Maybe this is a good thing to keep in mind every morning. Ride like your mom, or your best friend, or your wife, or your son is watching you. Behave, and remember that road rage is not exclusive to people in cars. Be safe out there. Someone somewhere cares about you getting home in one piece.