Have you ever been cut off by a careless biker while you were strolling peacefully down the sidewalk? That biker is usually me late for class. However, yesterday morning I was a careful and calm biker who slowly pedaled his way towards you coming from the opposite direction. I observed every detail of your stature when we crossed paths. As if I were a scientist looking through a microscope, jotting down experimental data. Creepy? Yes, absolutely.
The morning was wet and worn‑out from the night’s storm. The only sound I heard was the clinckitty‑clank of metal against metal as I unlocked my bike from a streetlight. The morning dew glistened on the saddle of the bike. I wiped it quickly with the palm of my hand. Moist streaks remained. My ears then tuned in to the sound of bike tires rolling on pavement.
The sleepy‑eyed college students of Boston scattered out along the sidewalks, like cereal poured out onto the floor, with the morning breeze moving them gently in one direction. Unwashed and unshaven faces. Makeup applied in haste. Uncombed hair, like little umbrellas in a cocktail glass, shaded serious expressions. The students are intent upon the first class. These young souls comprise obstacles, perhaps ninety‑five percent of those on my way to the city. My daily bike path is a three‑mile trip from Allston into Boston. In my regular state of lateness and unorganized thoughts, my attention during the bike ride goes back and forth from my watch to worried thoughts, like a clock’s pendulum swinging from second to second. This morning, however, time seemed to be on my side. Every breathing organism on the street was a victim of my critical observation. The weather was also vulnerable in my open‑ended interpretations.
Smiles seem hard to come by the morning after a stormy night. The dreariness spread an uncertainty on every newly awakened face on the street. I spotted one smile within a 3‑mile radius! This smile couldn’t have lasted more than one second as a man in a truck signaled a middle‑aged African American man to cross the street. The outer edges of his lips curled upward and pushed the stubble up also in a smile that concealed years of humility in the face of endless adversity. He was on his way to work. Each day is uncertain, and I assume that the bulk of that uncertainty is felt in the morning. Either your confidence is yet to be gained, or the inevitability of your daily routine has stripped that confidence down to the last sheet.
Some believe that yawns are contagious. I believe the same to be true in the case of smiles. I began to remember a previous bike ride around the same time of the morning, except the sun had decided to come out. Students were talking and smiling on the streets as if each one of them had just been asked out on a date. I try not to let the weather regulate my emotions, however, I remember giving in to the smile. This concept is almost robotic to think that deep emotions can be triggered from a flipped switch in the weather. Who we are and what we feel can directly result from the mood of our environment.
A different store appears in the corner of my eye with each pedal. They are typically chained companies lined up together, like a group of freshly trained soldiers, links in a chain of imagined security. At this time in the morning, many of the stores had not opened yet, and looked lonelier than most of the uncertain students. The windows were unbarred, unshuttered. They were transparent. They were clear, and unbroken.The signage painted on the windows was neat. I noticed the red, the yellow, and the black lettering. For Sale. Fly Me. Have It Your Way. I thought Boston, the city on the hill, my New Jerusalem.
I see the hands holding their steering wheels. The knuckles were white and hairy. Although his necktie was neat and his shirt collar clean, he had neglected the dirt under his nails, as dirty as the occasional gesture was vulgar. I had won the race through the intersection.
As a driver, you see the pedestrians moving in slow motion across the street. Is their motive only to aggravate the impatient driver? Apparently so. As the person crossing the street, you have a more realistic perception as your shoes scrape the ground. The bozo honking his horn is way out of line, and you would like to take your time because you believe this country to be free.
As a biker, I am the Middleman. I am Moe, the leader of the Three Stooges, stuck between the two troublemakers. We are all stooges in this city game; however, as a biker I have the most balanced view of our madness.
John Duke Lippincott studies at Berklee in the Professional Music Division and is a founding student editor for FUSION.