Monday, December 31, 2012

what I am hoping for in the new year

1.  That I not be run over by a car.
2.  That my bicycle not be stolen.
3.  That my husband and kids do not get run over by a car.

...everything else is pretty much cake.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

say something nice

It's a bit of a truism  that the people who drive BMW cars are assholes, or at least display traditional asshole behaviors when they are on the road.  I've seen some dissent from this position but usually the folks who beg to differ are driving BMW cars themselves and so they can be assumed to have a certain measure of bias.  I've also considered that with the distinctive logo and the sizeable price-tag maybe the BMW simply suffers from a combination of sticker-price jealousy and easy ability to recognize - but that doesn't explain why the general public appears to be mostly fine with the Mercedes Benz (except for my mother who calls them Nazi mobiles) and the Porsches and Ferraris and the whatever else is the newest hotness.

If pushed for a preference (mostly I dislike everyone equally) I prefer a BMW sedan over a Lincoln Navigator because I have an easier time making eye contact with drivers who are seated in the chair position of a sedan as opposed to the I-Am-Your-Overlord chair position of an SUV.  Of course the BMW SUVs seem to be exceptionally aggressive coupled with the usual BMW cluelessness which is why I wasn't surprised today when it was a BMW SUV who drove up the wrong lane behind four tense roadies and then cut off a car when he realized that he wanted to take a right, not a left because right and left are so similar that it can be difficult to tell them apart.


Last week I realized there is something consistently awesome about BMWs and I want to call them out and thank them before I forget and go back to complaining.  I was at a traffic light waiting for a green left turn arrow.  I was a little nervous, there were a bunch of twitchy cars behind me and it's a short light.  Sometimes cars zzz out at traffic lights (which is weird considering how excitable they are about getting to red lights, why fall asleep when it turns green?) and the light turns green and they go on zoning while I make honking noises.

The car:  zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Me:  (helpfully) Beep.  Beep-beep.

Then the car wakes up.

The car:  >snort< Wha? Hmph?

Then the car panics.

The car:  omigod green!  green!  omigod!  wtf!  I've been tricked!  Fuck you traffic light, fuck you!

Then they do that zero to 90 thing.


Me:  pedalpedalpedalpedal.

The cars behind me:  omigod green!  green!  omigod!

The cars behind me:   rRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRROOO [there is a little obstacle in front of me but I think I can hurdle it] OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOARRRRRRR!

Yeah, so.  I have a vested interest in the car in front of me staying on the ball and accelerating gently and confidently as the cars in front of it start moving through the green light.  If they move forward at a steady rate of acceleration I can actually pace them and the cars behind me don't go into Thoroughbred "with a running start I can clear that bicyclist, I can clear three bicyclists" mode.

And this is why BMWs are kindof ok at times.  They never snooze at traffic lights.  At a red light the BMW will sit there revving it's engine like a kid crossing his legs and dancing from side to side but insisting that he "does not need to go."  Then the light turns green.  If the car in front of the BMW snoozes the BMW will wake him up, possibly with a light thump on the rear bumper, none of this horn bullshit.  When the car in front is travelling through the intersection the BMW will be so close on it's tail that I think the BMW drivers sometimes accidentally impregnate the driver of the car in front of them.  

And me?  I can follow through at a nice sturdy pace and no one feels compelled to force their way around me or ride over me.  Which I appreciate.  So to all of you BMWs who careened through intersections doing 90 when I was safely behind you where I didn't have to worry about dying?  Thanks!  Stay awesome!  

Friday, December 28, 2012


Yesterday I am on my bicycle,  I am waiting at a red light.  The light turns green and a bicyclist-roadie who had timed his approach better, swoops past me on my right.  That's ok.  He gives me plenty of room and it's a good-sized bicycle lane.

The bicyclist is just a few lengths in front of me and I am sizing up his potential for speed when I see him put out his left hand, palm outwards.  I arch an eyebrow.  As I watch, he inserts his hand (with the delicacy of a veterinarian turning a calf that is still in the cow) into the wheel well of the car travelling immediately to his right and takes a (presumably) firm hold of the car and stops pedaling and starts coasting at what I calculate to be ~30 mph.

The car continues up the road apparently unaware that it is being felt up by a bicyclist.  I discover that my jaw has dropped and I snap it shut.  I also find my eyelids up around my hairline and move them back into place.  I have no chance of catching them but I pedal hard and keep the newlyweds in sight long enough to see the bicyclist get to the top of a hill, run a red light, dodge through a construction zone, and disappear from my view.

1.  No, he wasn't wearing a helmet.
2.  It's like having a technicolor giraffe park in your garage and put it's head through your window so that it can eat your breakfast.
3.  No, I am pretty sure the car had no idea that the speedy bicyclist on his left had his hand up the car's wheel well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

go in peace

Christmas Eve I like to bicycle downtown and do my last minute shopping.  I don't generally find much of anything and this year I overdid it on candy but I enjoy the bicycle ride and the walking around and if I am totally honest with myself I enjoy snickering at the frantic SUVs as they stutter up and down the road looking for a place to set their sorry nine foot wide rumps down for a spell.

This year Contraption Captain and Rapunzel bicycled with me and I took along our cheap but serviceable cargo wagon.  The air cleared my head.  I pedaled.  I was happy in the reliable way bicycle makes me happy, barring the times when some car makes me scream like a little girl but life isn't all roses for anyone, yes?  Once downtown we were locking up when I saw a person on a bicycle behaving like a real dick.  I wish I wasn't someone who noticed stuff like this but I am a noticer and what I see doesn't always fill me with good cheer.

The guy rode down the crowded sidewalk and then into the crosswalk where he literally scattered pedestrians who stared after him, mostly hurt and confused but one a little angry.  And then he quickly looped back for another pass, re-scattering the pedestrians who had just started to regroup.  We stared after him unhappily.  I thought he looked a little mentally ill.

What I would like to ask of those pedestrians is to go home and say to their dog or their cat or their postal service person:   "Wow, I nearly got creamed by this total asshole downtown.  What a prick."  What I would like the pedestrian not to say would be: "Bicyclists are such asshats"  because...please.  This was a rude jerk who happened to be riding a bicycle.  Yes there are creeps out there and sometimes they ride bicycles but the bicycle does not create the creep.  On the bright side, this particular dick was on a wasted old department store bicycle and not a Jeep Rambler which is why you still have a mouth to complain with.

With this minor glitch behind us we shopped, upgraded the home liquor cabinet, and after a bit retrieved our bicycles and happily pointed them towards home.  As we pedaled along, I noticed an interesting bicycle cargo wagon on the other side of the road.  Guess what it was!  No really, guess!  Did you guess that it was a UPS guy making deliveries with A BICYCLE?  Did you?  Because that is what we saw!  I said to Contraption Captain "omg!  omg!  take a picture!"  Unfortunately UPS guy was already pedaling away (omg pedaling!) and as an ex-New Englander I value people's privacy enough not to chase them down and snap a pic when they are working on Christmas Eve.  But.  Guess what.

I think 2013 is going to be a great year.

Love and Bicycles,

Chafe City

Saturday, December 22, 2012

your set-point wants adjusting

The weather:  pleasantly cool and damp
The time of day:  evening
The setting:  an intersection in a residential neighborhood, the traffic light is red.

The Contraption Captain and I are first in a line of cars.  Across from us is a large SUV ostensibly planning to go straight, aka the SUV has the right of way and I guarantee you I know all about not crossing the path of an SUV who knows itself to have first pass at an intersection.  The Contraption Captain and I are talking and periodically one or the other of us helpfully sticks a left hand out as a general signal that we plan to turn left when it is legal for us to do so.

I see the light for the other direction turn yellow and then red.  My body tenses.  The light in my direction is a short one and I need to be ready or the cars behind me will go right over me.  The light turns green.  Sometimes an oncoming car sees bicyclists and waits for them to cross, other times the car asserts it's right to go first.  Both are okay with me.  I pick up one foot and roll gently forward about 18 inches.  I do this to signal to the cars behind me that I see the green light, that I am indeed going to make a left turn.  The SUV accelerates and I put my still un-clipped foot back on the ground as I wait for him to pass.

As the SUV drives by he shouts out of his open window "WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING?!?"

Now that the single oncoming car has (noisily) gone past, Contraption Captain and I pedal through the intersection, turning left, and then completing a second left onto the street that we live on.

To that SUV, in a conversational tone of voice:  "I'm going the fuck home.   And where the fuck are you going?"

I was genuinely surprised at the guy's anger.  I've watched cars at intersections since and they mimic my behavior.  The light turns green, they roll forward to be in a good position to complete their left hand turn.  Life goes on.  Lather rinse repeat etc. etc.

I guess the SUV driver was afraid that I wanted to commit suicide against his grill or driver side door to which I can only say, "If I get pasted to your grill it won't be intentional on my part."  Maybe he thought I was one of those entitled bicyclists the cars are always whining about and that I had been assuming that I would get to go first because of my pure awesomeness and my response there is "Experienced bicyclists assume nothing."

What was getting screamed at like for me?  Kindof ok actually.  I was surprised but it wasn't a scary experience.  I had a wall of cars lined up behind me which was going to make me hard to hit.  I didn't feel particularly threatened.

I know all about going nuts and screaming.  If some car veers towards me I am reliably terrified and occasionally shriek obscenities.  The weird thing about cars is that they do their screaming when they are in no greater danger than the slim possibility that someone might go through a light before they do.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I want what she's having.

We live on a quiet cul-de-sac that is just off a fairly busy road.  The busy-ness could be worse, the road has a nice wide bicycle lane at least on the segments in the vicinity of our house.  It has a traffic light up the road from us and another traffic light downstream from us both of which serve to "calm" the cars or "outrage" the cars depending on who you are talking to.  Taking a right on this road is no problem:  You come around the corner of our street and start pedalling up the decent sized bicycle lane.  Turning left is harder, you have a stop sign and you need to wait for the cars to clear so that you can (this is legal, really cars!) ride across the road and complete your left by heading down the bicycle lane on the far side. 

This is mostly fine as in, no worse than most parts of the US and quite a bit better than many.  When it's just me, or the Contraption Captain, we wait at the stop sign and when the going is good we hurry across the two lanes and head downhill. 

Rapunzel, now eight years almost nine, complicates matters slightly.  Her school is to our left so we have to get across the road.  Rapunzel is not a hurrier. 

Rapunzel is a nice steady bicyclist but a powerful start is not her forte.  She prefers to roll gently forward, getting her wing flaps lined up, tuning her ailerons and only then beginning to pedal.  Meanwhile, up the road, the light turns green for the cars and they charge towards us.  They see an eight year old but they laugh at eight year olds, haha!  Or maybe they don't see an eight year old because the sun is in their eye or they had a bad day at the office or who knows what the fuck goes through their heads really.  In any case they do not slow down and each time we are in this spot I feel a little stressed as we hurry across and they barrel towards us. 

Have you read Mouse Stories by Arnold Lobel?  It doesn't have a bicycle in it but it's really fantastic, recommend.  In one story this mouse decides to visit his grandmother.  He gets in his car and drives and drives until the car falls apart.  Fortunately, at the side of the road, there is a many selling sneakers.  So he puts on the sneakers and runs and runs until the sneakers fall apart.  Fortunately at the side of the road there is a person selling boots.  He buys a pair of boots and tromps and tromps and tromps until his boots fall apart.  So he takes off the boots and starts walking.  He walks and walks and walks until his feet fall apart.  Fortunately, by the side of the road, there is a person selling feet.  He takes off his old feet and puts on the new ones and runs the rest of the way to his grandmother's house.  She is so happy to see him!  She says "How good of you to come and visit, my darling.  And what nice new feet you have."

So there we are at the side of the road, with a need to go left, and with a legal right (haha) to go left but we are unable to make a secure crossing.  Fortunately, just a little bit down the road from us, there is a person by the side of the road selling crosswalks.  So we buy a crosswalk and ...  no not really, no crosswalk-seller but there is a mild somewhat unobtrusive crosswalk that we could use (somewhat inanely considering we are bicyclsits not pedestrians but any port in a storm) if only we could get to it.  We can't get to it because it is down the wrong side of the bicycle lane and it's somewhat far to walk. 

What do we end up doing every morning?  We bicycle down the wrong side of the bicycle lane (yes) which is fortunately wide so we squeeze to one side if we see any bicyclists heading towards us.**  When we get this short distance covered and are at the crosswalk we quickly get off our bicycles and the moment our feet are on the ground on the same side of the bicycle (can't have one foot to either side of the bicycle and expect to be seen) we become visible to the cars.  Everyone who ignored us a quarter of a block up the road when we waited hopefully to cross is now wondering if they can get away with ignoring three peds in a crosswalk.  Contraption Captain usually takes the lead and a trifle grimly walks us out.  Cars stop.  If one car does not stop the other cars take it to task.  They wait (a little unhappily) as we walk our bicycles across the road.  Then we get back on and immediately disappear again.

Try this experiment at home.

With one foot on either side of your bicycle stand waiting for an opportunity to cross.
Now stand with the bicycle beside you like a friendly Labrador Retriever.
Now repeat both the above experiments with small children.  If you don't have your own small child borrow one. 
Try the entire thing at an intersection of two roads and then at a crosswalk. 
Publish results.

**We've only seen a few bicyclists during this narrow window and none ahve complained.  I almost think they look a little sympathetic. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

spent day at home throwing up. then I really got something to be sorry about.

Ob.bicycle moment:  despite throwing up all afternoon I biked the one mile to Pele's school to pick up her math homework as Pele is out sick also.  And.  Math teacher forgot to leave it out for her.  Thanks for not rocking my world Mrs. C.

My head hurts and I can't eat I barf up anything I swallow.  I pick up my tablet for a diversion and read that there has been a shooting.  I figure it is a re-hash of the last shooting in Oregon but as I peer through tired eyes I see that this is totally fresh material!  It is a shooting at a school and twenty kids are dead.  That's forty destroyed parents out there and I don't know how many siblings and grandparents and friends.  It is a situation entirely without merit, without redemption, without a silver lining.  If this were a changelist I'd roll back the changes and fire the person who wrote the code and the person who did the review.  If this were a car I'd slash the tires.

My favorite favorite book is Black Swan Green.  This is the book I read when I can't face the world and the book I read when I lose sight of what is important.  This is the book I read when I am forgetting what I came from and what I am trying to become.  This is the book I read when someone walks into a school and kills twenty-seven people immediately ending all of their hopes and all the hopes everyone had for them.  When I see a bicyclist do something stupid and a car veer at them and curse and shout there is one line from this book that I think about.   I consider this line to be an endless and essential truth.

Not hurting people is ten bloody thousand times more bloody important than being right.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When I am not annoyed or threatened with death I am sometimes amused.

Two or three nights back I am bicycling through downtown Palo Alto heading towards a red traffic light and passing a parking garage where the cars storm out of the chute like wild cattle on steroids.  I develop a dim awareness that something is coming up behind me.  It's shape is unusually amorphous.  Then I am at the red light and the shape reveals itself to be a big SUV driven by a surly woman with a lot of hair.  As usual, I've taken a center-ish spot in the lane so that the cars (not that they deserve it or anything) can take a right without waiting for a green light. 

The SUV cannot go right because there is a grouchy looking pedestrian clumping along in the sidewalk.  He mouths something in our general direction and I am immediately on the defensive.  Is pedestrian talking to me?  Wtf is his problem?  I'm just sitting here waiting for the light!  I deserve this spot, I'm going straight damnit.  Woops!  I realize that grouchy pedestrian is saying is "YOUR LIGHTS ARE NOT ON" and in fact he is talking to the SUV driver not to me because the reason I couldn't see her is that she is driving at night with no lights.  Let this be a lesson to self-conscious crabby biyclists everywhere:  it's not always about you. 

I consider the SUV driver who is staring straight ahead.  No lights.  I smile expectantly, sure she will turn them on because it's night and hey, driving with your lights on is the law and cars are very very law-abiding.  The driver persists in staring sullenly forward.  "Aha!" I think to myself.  Her SUV must have chewed up a little of the old frontal lobe.  She does not understand that she has negelected to put on her lights.  So I say "Hey, your lights are not on."  She looks at me.  Her look says "It is a shame that we have come to a place in this country where the little people feel they can say whatever the fuck they want to the important people like myself."  My look says "What part of 'turn your lights on' don't you understand??" 

I smile although it's now a little forced.  I try again.  "Your lights are not on."  She rolls her eyes at me because bicyclists are so goddamned annoying.  I squint.  I then embrace my inner Californian (yes, she exists although my inner Bostonian sometimes ties her up and rides her bike over her) and back up enough to tap lightly on the SUV window.  Driver rolls it down.  I say in my sunniest most helpful voice:  "Your lights are not on."  Did I mention it is after 6 and dark as Cuil's servers on this road?  The SUV driver says "Thanks" in that voice people use when somone tells them something really meaningless.  Her voice says "I love driving with my lights off.  I will drive however the fuck I want to drive.  Suck it, bicyclist." 

We go back to sitting there.  Her lights are off.  Mine are blinkety-blinking.  The traffic light turns green and she drives away, dark but not at all mysterious.  I bicycle away looking like a Christmas tree that is in danger of shorting out. 

What I still don't get.  Why would anyone want to drive with their lights off?  Contraption Captain suggests that the driver did not know how to turn her lights on but was too shy to admit to this.  He suggested that I should have offered to help.  I think that's a pretty funny idea "Would you like me to turn your lights on for you?" but I suspect that if I had reached through her window to do it she might have lopped off my arm and I need both of those graspy little guys to get through the day. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ode to Ellen Fletcher

I wrote the below journal entry on March 22, 2009.


I bike to work over the same route every day. Much of my trip is on Bryant Street aka "The Ellen Fletcher Bicycle Boulevard." The Contraption Captain has met Ellen. She's a little old lady on a Breezer bike and yes, she campaigned tirelessly while on the city council for the creation of this thoroughfare from Menlo Park-ish to Mountain View-ish. Cars use this road also, but they have to get off of it frequently as it is blocked off at multiple cross streets. There are a lot of 2-way stops where those on Bryant have the right of way and the x-street traffic waits. I love Bryant Street. The houses are all kinds, humble to crazy fancy, older with shake roofs to modern with metal roofs and solar panels. When I get on Bryant Street I stop worrying someone will run me over and I enjoy the company of a huge number of other bicyclists who also use it as their main thoroughfare.

Yesterday evening I was on my way home and just coming up on Embarcadero when I saw someone with a very charming diy reflector arrangement. I complimented her as I went by. Then the wheels started to turn, slowly. Old lady? Check. Breezer? Check. Handmade bumper sticker saying "Bikes: a quiet voice against oil wars"? Check. I circle back.

Me:  Are you Ellen Fletcher?

EF: [politely] Why yes, I am. How did you know?

Me: My boyfriend met you once and said you had a blue Breezer with a milk carton strapped to the back. 

Me: I wanted to tell you that I come this way every day, twice a day, and it's my favorite part of my ride. It's beautiful and wide and I never feel worried about being hit here. Thank-you so much for making this boulevard a reality. So many people love it, kids and commuters and racers and walkers and runners and roller-bladers, it's such a special road.

EF: [speaks carefully, pausing between words] "You're too kind."

She goes on to tell me that she is so glad to be back on her bike. That a few weeks past she had surgery for lung cancer. I inhale sharply and say something dumb like "I am so sorry." She says in the same calm voice "I'm 80 years old and I have had a very good life." Her tone is so gentle and peaceful but the import of what she was saying made my eyes well up with tears and I don't speak for a moment because I didn't know what to say, what is there to say?

She tells me that she wants to bike to El Camino hospital for her cancer treatment  but is not sure she can make it and also she is supposed to arrive very rested and can't be breathing hard. We talk about the bike route Mt View to El Camino, the Stevens Creek Parkway. It's not nearly as awesome as Bryant St but does the job, I ride it to get Rapunzel at preschool. We come to where she is turning off (medical office) and she tells me how nice it was to meet me and to please say hello to my boyfriend. I tell her that it was a great honour to meet her and I wish her good riding and I am pretty sure she looks pleased.


Fast forward to November 7 2012 and Ellen Fletcher is gone from Bryant Street and from Palo Alto and from California and from this world.  She is gone and I know I am not the only bicyclist who will notice her absence.  I feel (and I hope it is not out of line to say this) that Ellen Fletcher believed in us and believed in bicycling long before it was fashionable --- and maybe it still is not fashionable.  I think that she believed there was something important about getting to where you were going without a car and that she thought we deserved to travel on our bicycles without being afraid or intimidated by automobiles and trucks. 

When someone dies, I often read that the "person's spirit lives on."  I don't believe that.  The memory of the people we knew, who are gone, lives with us but their spirit disappears when they disappear.  Ellen Fletcher defies this a little in that she is gone but this thing she created, this idea she believed in is still here and I rode it in to work this morning and will ride it home, along with many others, this evening. 

A bicycle boulevard like Bryant Street makes me think of Pele playing goalie in soccer.  The saves she makes are fleeting and sometimes not even noticed.  It is when one gets by her that people take note and then they disapprove.  It is impossible to say how many children are alive today because they had a safe way to ride to school, impossible to say how many grown-up arteries are safe from heart attack and stroke because adults were able to get cardio exercise on their way into the office --- but I challenge anyone to argue that that number is zero which means the creation of Bryant Street has saved lives.

Some lucky few of us save lives in our lifetimes.  Ellen Fletcher's creation will save lives even after she is gone.  How many of us can say that about the mark we will leave on the world?

So, Ellen Fletcher.  Good-bye.  So long.  Thank-you for every beautiful ride.  I wish you well.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Please slow the fuck down.

I don't know how many times I have yelled "slow down" to some asshole or another gunning the motor as I make my way through an intersection, someone who speeds past me on the right because they want to get to the traffic light first, someone who buzzes me because it is killing them to wait while I cross into the bicycle lane.

A person driving the speed limit has a lot more time to see a child or a friend or a bicyclist  then the person doing 50 in a 35mph zone.  A mother opened a car door in my face a week or so back.  I had room to not be hit but really, slow down, look before you break open that SUV or you might hurt someone, maybe even someone you know.  I guarantee that the person you hurt will be a daughter or son or wife or mother or father or boyfriend...the person will be special to someone else, and you'll be there having hurt them.

The Contraption Captain was walking home after dropping Pele off at school when he saw a car clip a child on a bicycle.  Bicycle and child were tossed to the ground. 

I'll take Q&A.

Q:  Was child running a red light?
A:  No

Q:  Was child bicycling on the highway?
A:  No.  Child was on a quiet residential road packed with people driving their spawn to school. 

Q:  Was child on drugs and on his way back from a visit to the local brothel?
A:  No.  Child was on his way to the local Elementary school.

Q:  Was child doing wheelies up the center line?
A:  No.  Child was as far to the right as was possible without being whacked by the curb.

What did the driver do? 

Contraption Captain says that she was "pretty hysterical" and asked the bicyclist over and over "are you all right?"

Translation for "are you all right" here is = "Can we pretend this never happened?  Please?"

The bicyclist responded "Give me a minute."

Translation for "give me a minute" here is = I was just hit by a car.  I'm still taking inventory to see what might be missing.

The driver explained to the very unsympathetic Contraption Captain that she saw the car in front of her swerve (to go around the cyclist) but "had no idea why!" which is basically a creative use of SMDSY.

Back at the ranch the Contraption Captain penned a polite but unhappy note to the school principal who I am glad to say responded pronto.  It turned out that Contraption Captain is the only known witness so we may be able to ensure that this doesn't become a "dangerous teenager on two wheels gets what he has coming" type of case.  As of today they have positioned a crossing guard in yellow presumably to throw rocks at the cars that mow down the students.

So here it is again.  If you drive.  Slow down.  You might hit your neighbor, or someone's kid or someone's pet.  Slow down.  Nothing is worth this.  Drive carefully.  And in honor of this sentiment I have penned a short series of verses meant to be read in the same tone as the best-selling Go The Fuck to Sleep, a bedtime story for Grownups.

Slow The Fuck Down:  a cautionary tale for grown-up children

A little girl pedals her trike on the sidewalk
Our newsboy delivers the paper around town 
You’re cozy and warm in your car, my dear.
Please slow the fuck down

The mommy meets her child after school
The family dog plays the clown
You don't need to hurry, my dear cream-puff
Please slow the fuck down.

The husband prepares for a night out with friends
The wife puts on her sparkliest gown
Don't rush the time in your faux leather interior
Please slow the fuck down

The girl up the street loves a boy on the next block
The neighbor's teen son has a permanent frown
There's no cause for road rage or anger
Please slow the fuck down. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's raining, let's party!

A month or so back a Person I Know(tm) posted a picture of a delicious pastry with the slogan:  I'm Fat.  Let's Party. 

I loved it immediately.  I loved it so much I told everyone about it, including many people who were working and clearly wished I would devote my time and mouth to something else.  I couldn't entirely figure out why this was the best slogan ever but I knew that it was and so I was over the moon when the same Person I Know(tm) came in wearing a tee-shirt saying the same thing:  I'm Fat.  Let's Party.  Mildly important to understanding why this is cool - the guy is not fat.  Also important:  even if he were fat it would still be an excellent slogan.  Why do I love it?  Because it is totally and crazily subversive. 

Let me explain.

Turn on any daytime channel and wait a minute and you will see some weak excuse for a plastic fa├žade of a person going on about the horrors of fat people.  Flip through a magazine and there is more of the same, if you're fat then obviously you are sitting at home eating Doritos and hoping uselessly that one day you could look ok and join the rest of the slender frolicking people.  

Summary fat people do not party.  They eat pathetic lonely meals and demonstrate every day that they have no self-control....and none of this happens to be true.  If there is a candidate for not being a partier it would be a skinny person because they are probably not drinking (calories) eating birthday cake (more calories) or experimenting with making their own creme brulee (fattening.)  

I'm not going to argue the merits of partying or not partying or thin versus fat other than to say if there is a fat person and a thin person despite what the tv wants you to think it's going to be the fat person who is partying down and having a good time.  If the skinny person is partying hard they're probably smoking crystal on the side and should be avoided.

Pop quiz:

Q:  What do kids do when it rains? 
A:  Go outside and stomple puddles, run in small circles until they fall down and rescue drowning earthworms. 

Q:  What do (American) grown-ups do when it rains?
A:  Behave as if battery acid is falling from the sky.  Open umbrellas and rush to their cars.  Curse the other people in cars and ridicule their driving ability as inferior to their own.

Historically, Rapunzel has been transported to school via bike wagon on rainy days but this year she said (not unreasonably) that she was too grown-up for that and that she was ready to bicycle in the rain.  This launched a push for rain-proofing the Rapunzel.  Getting soaked is not a big deal and may even have some charm but spending an entire school day in cold wet clothes is not all that pleasant.  We bought her some warm weather-prooof boots.  We fished out some rain pants.  We took a big breath and bought her an expensive top of the line Pearl Izumi flourescent rain shell.  

How has Rapunzel responded?  She bicycles in the rain.  She's biked every non-sick school day this year without exception.  When the weather looks bad I offer alternatives.  In what I hope is a non judgmental way, I say "heya darling, it looks wet out.  Do you feel up for the bicycle trip or is it a good day for the car."  In varying ways she responds with "Are you kidding?  Bicycle!" and so, we bicycle.

Last week was the Rubicon of rainy bicycling.  We look outside and it is coming down in sheets of water.  Water is good, this is a dry state and we need water but I wonder if Rapunzel bicycling to school amounts to abuse on my part.  I wonder if she feels like she has to do this to earn my respect.  She has my respect.  I ask if she wants a ride and she looks amazed, as if I had said "chocoalte or kale tonight?"  Her reply to me amounts to:  "Duh.  Yes I want to bicycle."  

And so we bicycle, in giant sheets of rain.  We bicycle past the heavy traffic caused by everyone who does not bicycle.  We bicycle through deep puddles and water spraying up to the sides.  Contraption Captain is in front and I am in the back and in the middle, Rapunzel is so happy that she's laughing.  She laughs and smiles and is puffed up with the fun of being outside when everyone else is inside and with the satisfaction that comes of going out into the elements and coming out on top.  She laughs because she is pure awesome.

So I guess I'm saying, don't buy into the stories that water hurts and rain is to be avoided.  Rain can be a party.  Rain can be out in the world experiencing it first hand instead of seeing life go by through a window.  Rain is battling through something a little more complicated with wet brakes and heavy clouds and getting there anyway.  Rain is on your skin and droplets catching in your eyelashes and being the only bicycle in the lot and knowing that everyone may think you are crazier but possibly the real answer is you know something that they have forgotten.