17 March 2010

Cycling to Work for The First Time In My (Current) Life

Today I rode my bike to and from work for the first time since June. The day could hardly have been better, at least for this time of year: the sun had no competition save for a chilly breeze this morning, and I could feel my nose and sinuses clearing from the crisp air.

I took what is probably the flattest route between my apartment and the college. It's also the most diverse: along the way I pass through industrial and commercial as well as residential areas; I pass by hospitals and a court house, and over two highways. Along the way, I see every kind of person one can imagine: blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos; hipsters as well as Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Hindus and women who smooth their pencil skirts as they step out of black cars as well as construction workers who look like they fell asleep wearing the same overalls and jackets they were wearing on the job.

And I made better time than I'd anticipated, even though I was slower than I was the last time I pedalled to work. But I felt surprisingly limber and graceful, given how little I've ridden and that I've gained some weight. I wasn't in any pain, although I felt a sort of lightheaded giddiness. Why wouldn't I feel giddy?: I was outrunning cars stuck behind other cars that were double-parked and someone actually pulled up alongside me to yell, "Nice legs" and try to chat me up. What can I tell you? I guess some guys like seeing a woman pump her legs!

Plus, it's fun to hear people say you have a "nice glow." Some wink and nudge you; I give them a mysterious, mischievous grin. See that? You ride to work and will make you healthy and sexy! ;-)

I guess I was, if nothing else, convincingly Irish, or--at least from fifteen feet away--a convincing imitation of most people's idea of one. I have more or less the right colorings, and I was wearing my pine-green twinset and semi-opaque pantyhose that matched. (When I bought the pantyhose, I didn't know they'd be such a good match!) I also wore my tan corduroy skirt and a pair of metallic gold-beige flats in a sort of animal-hide pattern, and set off the outfit with a silk and velvet jacquard scarf in black with a pattern of leaves in varying shades of green. In that outfit, I rode on my old Raleigh women's Sports three-speed bike.

What? You were expecting me to wear black Spandex and ride a carbon-fiber bike on St. Patrick's Day?!

The funny thing is that riding to--and from--work didn't make me feel like I was returning to an old routine or to "normal," whatever that means. Rather, I felt that I was starting a new chapter of a book I opened eight months ago. I felt even more confident than I normally do; when a coordinator in my department spoke to me in a snidely condescending way, I realized that I have grown and come to understand things that he hasn't, and possibly never will. Marion implied as much and Michelle, a former student of mine whom I bumped into at the end of the day, expressed the belief that I'm growing beyond the bounds of that place, which are defined by the boundaries people have within themselves.

I'm feeling very sleepy now. Maybe it's because of the ride: To and fro, I did close to twenty miles. Even though I did my return trip eight hours after going to work, the amount of riding I did today is still quite a bit, given how little I've ridden. I probably won't ride tomorrow simply because I have to go in very early tomorrow and it will be a very long day. But I hope to be riding every day very soon.

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