Wednesday, July 15, 2009
A bicycle named Desire
Ok, so I felt bad that my first official blog post was a repost, especially after the flood of ideas suddenly came for posts. The most recent was me cursing the guy (or gal) who decided to switch the direction for activating the windshield wipers. Was there some kind of survey out where people actually said the action of turning off/on your windshield wipers should be reversed? When you turn on a light, which direction do you flick? You flick up, right? And "down" is for, you guessed it, OFF. Well who's the wise guy who decided the upward motion should now signal off? Damn him or her. It's become a stressful affair, activating those damn wipers...is it up or down? I always get it wrong...
The last time I rode a bicycle I was eight years old. Maybe ten. Twelve MAX. In my mind bicycles are for kids, athletes, outdoorsy people and the uber environmentally conscious, oh and bike messengers. I'd see a kid undergoing that all-important rite of passage: Dad pushing the back of the seat, kid about to keel over any second screaming, "Wait, don't let go". The peddling gets faster, Dad's running, kid still screaming but steady and Dad lets go. Kid almost freaks from panic but then the smile of pride and not a moment later, head first into the bushes...I remember my banana seat fondly.
We moved to Sweden in January. We've been here many times before (long history of working with Swedes). Bicycles proliferate the small university town we now call home. They are THE mode of transportation for everyone from small kiddies to senior citizens. They have special parking and lanes on the road for bicycles. And if there's no lane on the road, there's a dedicated side of the sidewalk. Bicycles also have the right of way. But don't picture mountain bikes or cool BMXs. Sit-up straight bicycles, a la Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, complete with the basket up front. Add a kid either in a seat on the back or being dragged in this cool little tent-like contraption with wheels. To say it's engrained in their culture is a fair assessment.
EVERYONE has a bike. Well except for us. And that didn't bother me, up until recently that is. "Oh, just take your bike X way". "You can park your bike there." "It's 10 minutes by bike". "What do you mean you don't own a bicycle?" When I have to go somewhere more than a 15-minute walk away, I hope in this motorized vehicle called a car (that emits carbone dioxide and kills the ozone, contributing to global warming). Then hubby had our only car one day and I had to pick up the little tyke from preschool. So I walked. I walked 30 minutes in the heat. I was fine. Sweaty, but fine. Good exercise, I said to myself. And then they started whipping past me: hot Swedish girls, old Swedish women, middle-aged Swedish men and it began, "Imagine how much quicker I could get to Joe's preschool with a B-I-C-Y-C-L-E?" Plus, I kinda felt odd when I arrived and the teacher sized my sweaty self up and exclaimed, "Oh, why didn't you take your bike?"
So that's it. I'm converting. Handlebars, a bell and a nifty little basket for me. Plus a seat in the back for the little guy. I hope that saying is accurate, "It's like riding a bicycle, you never forget".