bikes

Train of thought part 2

My first week of using public transport has opened my eyes to a new world. I’ve partially adapted to the culture of the morning commute, which I describe as ‘the zombie apocalypse’. Everyone looks half dead, no-one is speaking or smiling or interacting. I had one human interaction the whole week a single ‘good morning’ which I received after I initiated contact. This was the one person I sat next to who didn’t have headphones in or was talking on the phone. I watched enviously as people boarded with bikes, that will definitely be my next step.

I was still easing in to full time work so the train home varied depending on the time I left. My favourite was just after 3pm when intermediate aged students were boarding. I enjoyed listening to their banter about school, laughing like human beings. On Friday I was even more adventurous catching the train from a new station and then a bus at the other end. I raced up to the platform hoping to catch the next bus, searching the times I couldn’t believe they only ran every 30 minutes. I had 20 minutes to wait so decided to risk using to bathroom. Big mistake, never again, honestly it could not have been further from the clean, well maintained, fresh smelling, well lit experience of the train. The bus finally arrived, but if it hadn’t been for my familiarity of the area I would have wondered where the fuck we were going.

Basically I think the bus routes in Auckland were made up by some drunk people at Auckland Transport one night by throwing darts at the map and saying ‘yip that street will do’, or let snails loose on a map with ink in their slime to mark out routes – who knows but it’s honestly random AF. If the trains are direct then buses are there to ensure you have to have a degree in geography, synchronising times and do not expect to get anywhere in a hurry. But I did get home and I’m definitely more positive overall, but I am counting down to getting back on the bike. I’d happily take daily abuse from motorists and random strangers chatting to me at the lights than the zombies.

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A Train of thought

I started back at work today after 6 weeks off after surgery. My surgeon laughed when I discussed the idea of riding my single speed, it was a warm laugh – one that validated my body would not be ready (she said not for 3 months…we’ll see). Therefore I needed an alternative way to get to work, so today I embarked on an adventure with public transport, catching the train. Here are my first impressions:

I have my loaded Hop Card, and get on the 7am train, it’s already quite full but I find a seat. The only thing that surprises me is how bright it is inside, lights on full while outside it’s still pretty dark. I can’t get any sense of where I am, my bearings have all gone, I just stare out the window trying to pick up land marks. I resist getting out my phone but also respect that the guys I’m sitting next to probably doesn’t want to chat at this hour on a Monday morning. I’m suddenly conscious of my deodorant and the smell of my hair product, hoping I’m not suffocating the poor guy. Being on the bike is almost the opposite; it’s quite an intimate feeling in comparison, even if no-one is talking. I catch people’s eyes but am careful not to go full Cheshire cat smile. I have no idea what the etiquette is so I try and keep a friendly neutral face by occasionally checking in the glass to avoid RBF (resting bitch face).

By the time I get off at New Market I feel ready to stretch my legs and the walk up to work is perfect. Sitting at my desk at 7:45am I wondered about others who, like me, imagine public transport is somehow rough and unpleasant (I can’t comment for those who have accessibility needs) it gave me an opportunity to set aside my assumptions and allow experience to inform me. I even started looking forward to the trip at the end day which surprised me.

But it was a different story on the way home:

Scampering down to the platform with 2 minutes to spare, I sighed with relief when I saw the train was empty and I enjoyed being insulated from the wind and rain (Cyclone Hola had arrived). However a few minutes later we ground to a halt due to an ‘operational – personal matter’. The garbled barely audible message just instructed us to get off at Mt Albert and I really hoped it wasn’t code for an accident on the tracks. So out I get, disoriented with no-one directing us to buses I just thought ‘fuck it – if it has New Lynn on it I’ll get on’. Once on board my surroundings took on some familiarity but I felt some of my enthusiasm for public transport wane. Walking through my front door I reflected on the contrasting journeys, sure I was dry-ish but it still took me an hour and a half to get home, double the time it would take on my bike.

Maybe this is the beginning of a new relationship, but it’s off to a bit of an uncertain start. You could say I am courting public transport and I’m sure there will be a few more awkward moments – as there are with anything new but that’s not a good enough reason to give up on a potentially rewarding relationship, I probably need to give it some time. My bike (Emmett) need not worry though as I am a committed cyclist, we will be reunited soon and perhaps an unconventional union could happen – a blending of modes of transport as a way to ease back into things.

To be continued…hopefully not delayed…or derailed

A mo(ve)ment in time

A man runs through a crowd

A vehicle in pursuit, chasing him down, looking behind

Bodies parting like a zip, closing behind in disbelief

Shattered bodies, desperate screams for help, adrenaline surging seeking a path through the chaos

Broken pieces of time and space

A man drives through a crowd bodies scatter, disbelief, a surreal juxtaposition

Two men in different places

Steal the attention they have split the masses

The man in yellow will share this day forever with another an entanglement of torment, of pain and of suffering

No celebration at the end

Time closes in on the other his race is over

It is not over…

(In memory of Bastille Day attack 2016 – with the Tour de France leg on the same day where Chris Froome had to run with his bike)

Flippering Out

Helmet fastened securely and body poised to dance with the mechanics of movement. Determination etched on the young face before me. Nervous moments as muscles tense and the single wheel beneath responds, Newtonian physics is unforgiving. And the incongruous footwear of flippers on pedals turns mastery into exploration and uncertainty. The part of me that wants to say ‘you can’t ride a unicycle in those’ is gagged internally with a quick risk analysis – which inevitably suggests the real risks probably do outweigh the perceived, but the balance of that is the exhilaration of the unknown. Awkwardly wobbling with delight and joy. She just might be a fish on a bike. We got it wrong, it’s not about what a fish needs, it’s what a fish is free to experience.

Can I be prank?

Riding into work I was greeted by the sight of our park like grounds draped in toilet paper. Windows painted and classrooms set up outside. A grin spontaneously erupted onto my face as a bunch of students scooted towards me in ‘boys’ uniforms. A BMX lay beside the hall (Redline…very nice) and bodies ran and moved freely. But this wasn’t the norm, far from it and yet it was so natural and joyous. The energy and vitality was a welcome contrast to the digital zombies I often see in the morning.

It’s now known as ‘prank day’ but for some reason it seemed more like an ordinary school day, or perhaps what could easily pass for ordinary in other places (minus the tree decorations and occasional water gun). The gender blurring of seeing bodies in shorts and racing around on wheels toyed with the ‘girls school’ image, it enabled freedom of movement to express physicality. The pranking gave gender a well deserved spanking.

Here’s the thing, school uniforms can police gender. If there are no other options other than skirts or culottes then femininity is enforced. I’m occasionally tempted (in my dark sardonic moments – of which there are many) to ask the question ‘why not go the extra step and mandate long hair’. If masculinity in some schools is regulated by hair length, then surely in keeping with ‘uniformity’ of gender girls must maintain long hair.

Its wheels day again tomorrow and I might just have to bust out some moves on a unicycle or borrow a skate board. Gotta make ‘hey-watch out’ while the shun shines on gender-correctness.

Out Of Time

What is time to a fish? How do the seconds pass? If a fish was riding a bike would it notice the relative speed of the vehicles? Was I that fish on a bike today when caught in the headlights of a car at a roundabout that hadn’t been there a moment ago. The honking of a horn indicating the arrival of another stream of time and momentum. The jolt of awareness that signalled a dislocation in the fabric of collectively agreed rights of passage that I seemed to have disrupted or ruptured.

Speed, space, time, distance, colluding to segregate and define who can participate in the flow of life. If you become relocated in this and live somewhere in between there is unease and distrust – a disruption to the flow. The ability to be ‘present’ and ‘here’ ‘now’ communicating in ways that identify and signify we know where we are located defines intimacy. When people are tuned to a different frequency the ability to connect on an intimately personal level shifts and the signals we usually pick up become lost in the static hum of confusion.

Common functioning suggests we all must locate our consciousness and awareness and sense of who we are within a narrowly defined criteria. Those experiencing neurological diversity (ASD – Autistic Spectrum Disorders – or – Alternative Sensory Downloads) and other forms of time/space re-location (alzheimer’s, amnesia, altered states of consciousness) highlight the pervasive normalisation of human functioning and fear associated with intentionally attempting to create those conditions – messing with mysterious interactions and perception we can have of reality.

Losing someone in time is hard. They can be physically present but elsewhere, they are not ‘around’ and the grief associated can be experienced in the same way as death. Let’s acknowledge this more instead of brushing over the obvious that they are carrying on regular metabolic functioning – AKA alive, and require people to be grateful for this experience. However my heart tells me love transcends the limits of 3rd dimensional space, we might never truly know how someone experiences the warmth of our caring but to quote Carl Sagan, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

If you do see a fish on a bike, you just might want to check what is in your ‘special’ coffee. And just be a bit patient – no need to get into a flap about it and watch out for those red herrings aye.

Prideathlon

In the half light, music blaring, a sea of flags, rubber and lycra, nervous energy and cameras flashing. Crowds lean against barriers but there are no police and no parade here, just thousands of 7-15 year olds participating in the Weetbix Tryathlon. There was another sort of pride parade happening last night in Ponsonby but this experience of pride was equally worth celebrating. The way these children and young people coped with such a huge occasion, feeling the fear and mixed emotions but managing to get to the start line shouldn’t be underestimated. Not to mention the navigating of three different physical activities and managing to put up with their sleep deprived, stressed and anxious parents who might also be suffering caffeine withdrawal, then they are all legends before even starting the event.

I’d like to suggest that everyone who took part have the curriculum ticked off for the key competencies demonstrated. This was nothing less than experiential learning, schools could do more to recognise and integrate these kinds of activities. There were some unofficial events worthy of note, for example the tree climbing and patience required to cue up for a bounce on a trampoline and also the bravery of those needing to use the port-a-loos. Then there is the ability to negotiate with tetchy adults and create a reasonable argument for the earning of a slushy. I was moved by an amazing display of leadership and natural mentoring from the young volunteers. I watched them channel the energy of tiny bodies into confidence and enthusiasm. This again is something missing from schools due to their segregation by age of such opportunities. They are artificially created from time to time but I wonder about what relationships and power dynamics might shift if this was a more common phenomenon.

One of the things I have enjoyed about multisport and triathlon is the across age level participation, bringing people together with a shared interest and enjoying the diversity this brings. There is nothing like the feeling of crossing the finish line – the distance is irrelevant as the sense of achievement is exactly that – a sense, lived through the body and in ways that transcend overworn success rhetoric that sports apparel companies flog.

Seeing so many bikes lined up in one area was a delight however I have a sense we are still moving in the wrong direction when it comes to physical activity being something integrated as a way of life, such as transport. If the bike goes back in the shed until next year what is the point? Nevertheless it cannot take away from the joy and pleasure I saw on so many faces today.

So many Kodak moments – good grief, now I am really showing my age.