Monday, April 26, 2010

the single body alone in the universe against its own best time

The sun is out today. It's sunny and I have the day off, and right now I'm still in a bathrobe but soon I'll finish my coffee and put "real" clothes on and pull my bike from its place in the closet and ride somewhere. I'm looking forward to it. I woke up happy today, and I want to make the most of what I have, the sunshine and the warmth and the ability to control my own transportation destiny.

I almost forget about my bicycle every winter. Out of sight, out of mind, and the truth is that I dislike being cold too much to go through the winterizing process and I'm too cheap to buy good gloves. As soon as the temperature drops below a certain point and the snow starts falling, I resign myself to riding the train or the bus--or walking long distances, because sometimes I do that too, even during the bitterest months--waiting in the cold impatiently, trying to at least get some reading done but often being distracted by the flow of people around me. I actually quite like riding the train in some ways, and I'd certainly much rather be people-watching or reading than driving (although I do miss singing in the car), but being a passenger on a public transportation system also automatically makes my movement something out of my own hands; I can show up when I want to, but I'm not going anywhere until the train pulls up to the station or the bus pulls over to the curb.

I think that's actually a large part of why I love riding my bike so very much: I don't have to wait. (I'm also somebody who will often simply hold it if I'm in a public venue and there's a line for the restroom, so this isn't just transit-based.) I remember coming to that realization during my first Chicago spring. In Arizona I never used public transit on a regular basis, and one of the big struggles I went through after I got here was simply trying to figure out how to get anywhere roughly on time. I was profoundly irritated by the fact that I often had to either risk being late or show up half an hour early, by the feeling of wanting to be moving towards somewhere else but being forced to stand and wait, to be motionless. It sounds sort of funny in retrospect, but I felt like I had to submit my autonomy of movement to systems larger than myself, and it drove me crazy until I adapted and gave up my resentment as pointless.

But oh, that first bike ride! It's part of why, in the middle of winter, summer sounds like freedom. There are a lot of reasons to love biking--the wind rushing past, the intricacies of weaving through traffic, the blood running faster and the muscles tightening and the speed--but there's also the autonomy. After a winter of waiting, I suddenly get to choose where I am in space, how fast I go, when exactly I leave. If I'm late, it's my own damn fault and I should have left earlier. If I'm early, I can ride around until I'm on time. My first spring, I felt that clear as a bell: I am in charge of this now, of the movement of my own body, of my own schedule. I was elated; I think I laughed out loud.

I've already biked a few times this year, but not enough. And so, once I finish this cup of coffee and put on some pants, I'm off. I have no real goals today, but that's part of the point; I just want to ride.

2 comments:

a said...

As a side note, my boyfriend (who is studying urban transportation) has often pointed out to me that biking is rather disproportionately popular as a "lifestyle" for young white urban folk. I'm certainly not going to say I'm not part of that trend, although I definitely avoid the spandex and I'm not really part of the biking community; mostly I just think it's interesting, and I wanted to point it out, and I wonder if anything I just wrote plays a part in that movement.

Rosiecat said...

FREEEEEEEDOM! You were totally right that having a bike is awesome. (So is my friend who has loaned me her bike.) I feel the same sense of impatience with public transportation. But I'm also a misanthrope who enjoys spending her commute time alone, so biking is a nice break from the bus.