A while ago I asked people for some questions to talk about. I got one response back. But it was a great question – a two parter. The first part was about how long biking takes when compared to driving. The second part was about how was biking perceived at work. “Is biking to work professional?”
I have no idea.
I have never consistently driven a car to work. While I was in college I did not have a car. But that was normal for a college kid. When I met Steph, she had a car, and so I used that when I needed to – but I never really needed to. From the very first, Steph and I lived close enough to work that I could easily ride bikes there. Within a ten mile radius.
When I worked in downtown Minneapolis at a law firm I would take the train into work – and ride a skateboard to the train. The firm I worked at had a dress code that included a suit and tie, so I would cruise down the street in my fancy duds, riding a skateboard. I made a little skateboarding triangle; from the law school to the office to the cedar riverside train station. Once, after about a year of riding a skateboard to work, one of my classmates pulled me aside.
“Do you ride a skateboard to work?” he asked.
“People are talking about you.” He said.
And that was it. In my mind I had a scale – on the one side I had enjoyed hundreds of hours of gleeful skateboarding through downtown Minneapolis. On the other side I had “people talking about me.” Skateboarding won easily. One of the partners at my firm even took my skateboard for a ride.
After law school I had a rough time finding a job, and our family had to move to Iowa. After that we moved to Georgia, and then finally we found a job back in Minneapolis. Three job changes in four years.
Every time I started a new job, I would drive to work the first day. Watching me drive up, people would think I was a normal dude. And then, before the end of the day, I would stop in at my boss’ office, and lean up against the door frame.
“How did the day go, Bill?” My boss would ask.
“Just great.” I would say. “Glorious day outside; really pretty.”
My boss would glance out the window at the parking lot. “Yes,” he would say, “It is a nice day.”
“I think I might ride my bike to work tomorrow.” I said. “Just to try it out – it is not that far, really.”
“Hmm.” My boss would say.
And then I would never take the car to work again. I have had three conversations like that in four years. Almost verbatim.
|Here is a picture of some deer I found when I was in Cincinnati. I like the picture. Looks like Narnia to me.|
Did any of my bosses care if I rode my bike to work? Honestly, I don’t think they gave it a second thought. They just cared that I showed up. If my biking ever interfered with my job – like if I frequently called in because I didn’t want to get rained on, or something like that – then they might have cared, but short of that? Didn’t register.
Sometimes I think they even enjoyed having an eccentric employee. Enjoyed telling their friends about this crazy guy they had working for them. I was fodder for casual conversation. “This guy rides even when it is snowing?” people would ask. My bosses would nod their heads solemnly. “Even when it is snowing.” They would say. “Crazy, huh?”
What to wear, though? That is a good question. When you are biking about ten miles to work it makes sense to dress for success. Tights are the name of the game. Less wind resistance, warmer, and tights have a little pad for your tushy. But tights are not great for business meetings. You will need to bring a change of clothes with you to work. And you will need to find a locker room to change in.
Right now I have a really plushy situation. Sometimes I take an airplane to work, and sometimes I go to work in Bloomington. When I am in Bloomington I have a fancy locker-room that I can use, and a fancy shower with soap that can be used on your hair as well as your body. It is a full-body soaping experience in Bloomington.
At the airport, though, it is next level. They have a fancy locker room too, and a nice shower with soap, and then another indoor locker room that i can store my bike in. And they also have a towel service. A towel service! You just have to ask for it at the front desk. Unbelievable. It is all upstairs.
Once, I came down the stairs after my shower, looking crisp and pressed. One of my co-workers walked over.
“Did you ride your bike in this morning?” he asked.
“Yup.” I said.
“But how do you, you know, change your clothes?” My coworker was standing close to me, asking in a low, hushed tone.
“They have lockers upstairs.” I whisper. “And a shower. And a towel service.” I tell it as if it were a secret. It kind of is.
“What?!” he says. “I have been coming here for four years, and I didn’t even know they had showers!”
I hear the phrase “I didn’t know they had showers!” a lot. There are loads of amenities that people don’t use because they don’t ask about them. And people don’t ask about them because they don’t have to use them. It is like a conundrum, or something – a riddle; which comes first?
Sometimes I talk to people about riding bikes to work, and they say, “Well, I can’t ride a bike to work, because my work does not have a shower.” And that might be true – but maybe not though. Maybe their work has a locker room and a shower and even a towel service, all sitting right there for someone to use, and they just don’t know about it because they have not yet asked.
|The babes. The one in green is ours. The cute one in purple is a Kannas. We have loads of these types of pictures, with different sets of Brodegards and Kannas’, all sleeping in the same trailer.|
Here is a slightly related story:
A couple of weeks ago I went riding with some buddies in the early morning. We started in the pitch dark, but about halfway through the ride the sky lightened up so you could start to see the clouds. They were thick black blunderbuss clouds, occasionally criss-crossed with white veins of lightning. Leaves swirled up into whirlwinds in front of us and the treetops swayed back and forth. The leaves were flashing.
“We are going to have to get back by seven-fifteen.” Eric said, “Because that is when it is going to start raining.”
But we did not get back by seven-fifteen. Instead we looped up north, around Lake of the Isles, and then under the 94 freeway onto the the Kenilworth trail.
Then, riding towards the Twins Stadium, I thought we had left one of our group behind. Couldn’t see Showley in the dark. So I turned around. By the time I figured out Showley had been with the group the whole time, I was alone.
I followed the where I thought we were going as best I could, but by the time I made it to West River Road, I could not see any red tail-lights blinking in the distance. I called up Randy on my cell phone.
“Hey” I said, “I got separated from you guys. just keep going though; I will catch up.”
“Cool.” Randy said.
And then the sky opened up, and rain came down like it was shot out of a BB gun. Within two blocks I was totally wet. If I had jumped in a swimming pool, and then climbed out, I would not have been any more wet. I called Randy again.
“Hey,” I said, “It is raining pretty good, I am just going to take Portland home.”
“Cool” Randy sounded calm and dry.
“Cool” I said. I stuffed my phone back into my jersey, and counted pedal strokes home.
Once I got dried off I gave Randy a call. “You get stuck in the rain?” I asked.
“Nope.” Randy said. “The rain hit when I was under Washington Street Bridge – so I didn’t leave. I just leaned the bike up against a pillar and called Chrissy to get a ride home – met some cool guys though.”
Washington Street Bridge is a tall bridge, and the way the wind was blowing, you had to kind of duck behind one of the cement pillars to stay dry. Randy had just finished leaning his bike up against the pillar when he found out he was not alone.
“That is a nice bike.” the guy said. “I used to have a sweet bike like that, but I kept on lending it out, and you know, it just didn’t come back.” The guy had a ball cap on, with a blue warm-up jacket, and dirty jeans. White-ish tennis shoes. Smoking a cigarette.
“Down here under Washington Street Bridge, if you put a tent up, you have to take it down like, today.” The ball cap guy said. “Or they will take it down for you.” The ball cap guy was carrying a weird stick with stuff tied on it. He looked like he knew when to take down a tent.
Randy nodded, moved a little closer to the pillar to get out of the blowing rain. The guy moved a little closer to Randy.
“You are lucky you are waiting under this bridge,” the guy said, “because I know everybody around here.” He said everybody without the “v” and too many “r’s”. “I know errrrrybody ’round here”
Randy nodded. They guy smiled. Was missing some teeth.
“I used to live up North with my Dad.” the guy said. “Now I live down here in the cities.”
And let’s pause there, because I think that is important. – Don’t worry. Randy is ok.
You and me, maybe we would never consider living under a bridge. It would appear mendicant, and outrageous to us. People would judge us. It would be tremendously uncomfortable. But to this guy, it was cool. Preferable, even, to living up north with his dad. I imagine, if you pressed him, you could get all sorts of great information about the different bridges of Minneapolis, and the amenities available for folks to use, if they asked. Maybe he would tell you about how nice life could be, if you gave up some of your comfort.
Biking to work is like that, kind of. In some ways it is crazy, but in other ways it is really nice, if you are willing to be a little bit uncomfortable.
But is it professional?
I have no idea.