IMPATIENCE IS A
21 March 2002
They seem so graceful. There is such fluidity of motion. I've been watching them
unconsciously for years and never really paying attention.
They are bikers. Those people who are always to be found on the streets of this City of
Bicycles. Students casually pedal past our house, arms crossed in front of them, as they
steer the bike with their knees. Racers whiz by, cornering sharply and fitting through
small spaces effortlessly. Mothers pull yellow trailers behind, with happy children
playing inside. I watch these people every day, but never really noticed them.
Walt is a biker. I see him sail off on his bike in the morning, swinging his leg
effortlessly over the bar as he settles in to his seat for his ride to work. When he comes
home at night, he hops off the bike, quickly whips out the bike lock, locks up the bike
and comes into the house.
It's the sort of thing you never think about. Until you start to become one of those
The leg does not swing easily over the seat. There is no fluidity of motion here.
I do not start off gracefully as I pedal down the street.
I was particularly aware of this yesterday when I rode my bike up to the Weight
Watchers meeting. I was feeling rather smug, having successfully maniuplated the three
streets up to the major intersection, where I would have to cross by the light. I stopped
the bike, pressed the button to change the light and when it changed, traffic came to a
stop as I tried to pedal across the street. But my toes kept getting caught in the pedal
and I could not, for the life of me, get forward motion going.
I console myself with the knowledge that many people went to work or school yesterday
with happy smiles on their faces because they were treated to the sight of me trying to
cross the street on my new bike.
There is, I am discovering, more to riding a bike than...riding a bike. When I
got to the Weight Watchers meeting, I confidently placed the bike in the bike rack and I
went to lock it up. Only first, I couldn't figure out how to get the lock off the bike to
begin with, and then I couldn't figure out how it locked to the bike in the way that my
friend Gene at Alameda Bicycle had shown me.
For additional safety, you lock the kryptonite lock (Superman-safe, obviously) to a chain
and the whole thing to the bike rack. But I'd forgotten to cut the plastic ring that came
with the chain, so I was just working with the lock itself. I couldn't believe how long it
took me to figure out how to attach the lock to the bike. I felt like a real dunce! (It
wasn't any better unlocking the bike either. There was the awkwardness of not knowing
which end of the lock locked, figuring out how to get it off, and then, realizing I didn't
know how to put it back where it was originally, so I ended up just putting it in my carry
bag for the ride home.)
Following the meeting (didja notice?--another 1.4 lbs gone!), I
took the long way home. It was a beautiful spring day and I figured that I could travel on
quiet streets to get back home. I will admit to some panic when unexpectedly encountering
cars (or the big garbage truck that was backing up in the bike lane while another car was
approaching in the opposite direction). I am very aware that I am definitely not
street-safe yet. Still, even that knowledge couldn't put a damper on the experience. I was
actually doing it. It was a warm day, I was riding my bike, I figured out how to shift
gears (though I haven't a clue what you are supposed to use which gear for, but I found
one that I liked better) and I was almost sorry to get back home again. Unfortunately,
however, Dr. G expected me to show up at work, so I couldn't do what I really felt like
doing--which was go just go on and on and find some blossom-lined street to ride under.
I thought about the bike ride during work. I thought about how I felt and how excited I
am starting to feel as I begin to add physical activity to my life (I've spoken so long
about the "e" word, that I won't even refer to it as "exercise"
because that sounds like work--and, in truth, the physical activity I've been doing lately
has been...I don't believe it...fun).
Suddenly I realized that I am impatient. The weight makes my feet hurt and my knees
hurt and my lungs work harder to get breath. I want the weight gone now. I want to
be one of those folks who sail effortlessly down the street, street-safe, and able to ride
miles without thinking about it.
I thought about riding my bike downtown to the theatre for my movie class tomorrow
night. But when I was driving downtown yesterday, I looked at how narrow the bike lanes
are there, and how many cars are around and decided that I definitely need more
no-cars-allowed experience before attempting that.
This whole thing is still in its infancy. But I am suddenly chomping at the bit,
wanting to be a part of this world. I hope that will help me continue on with the eating
and physical activity program. (This morning I did not want to be at the club, but
I went anyway and when I left, I was glad I had gone.)