Sunday, June 28, 2015

A shaka in Panther City

It's been a long day, and I'm going to blog to unwind. Is it the norm to blog when you've nothing to say?

It's been a full day, working two shifts for the Fort Worth Bike Share program. Sweaty and grimy, I feel the gentle calm that comes from having worked all day in the sun...the fatigue works as a sedative, my body is relaxed and I feel at ease in the breeze of my fan while I nurse my last glass of Bockslider, a beer named in honor of the Texas band, The Toadies, who have performed at Martin House Brewery more than once...

One of the best moments today was in answering tourist questions about the Tarrant County Courthouse, and then seeing the elderly visitors study the panther sculpture that lies in respite across the street.

       "Do you know the story about the panther?" I asked as they took pictures with their phones.
       "No, tell us!" their enthusiasm was as genuine as my youngest son's when he is studying dinosaurs and caterpillars.
       "Well, the story goes that a reporter from Dallas, in the late 1800's, claimed that Fort Worth was such a sleepy, laid-back town that a panther could be seen napping on the steps of the court house...well, Fort Worth considered the intended insult as something to be proud of, and so folks began calling Fort Worth "Panther City."

They laughed, took more pictures, and thanked me for the story. Then I proceeded to drive off, leaving the company bicycle pump and a bag of tools used for bike maintenance under an oak tree on Main Street. I drove back to the shop, dropped off a couple of wounded bikes, drove across town to add a couple of bikes to an empty station, and then I listened to a customer who explained that his bike wasn't shifting. I answered some questions about the pricing structure of the bike share, took his bike to the truck, and reached for the tools...

I may have said an ugly word or two when I realized that my tool bag was probably being pawned in Haltom City. I lashed the broken bike to the trailer, jumped in and took off...I started estimating the replacement cost of the missing tools, then started figuring out how many hours I had lost as a result of having to replace them...

As I negotiated the heavy, leisurely paced traffic, I kept repeating one or two of those ugly words until I turned the corner from 3rd onto Main, and saw the yellow shaft of the air pump and the bag of tools resting as I had left them, chilling in the shade.

Faith in humanity restored.

The rest of the day went by with no drama...just constant movement, watching the computer to make sure stations getting full of bikes were relieved of a bike or two so that customers could park without fear of paying overage fees. Sundays are fun days, with groups checking out bikes together, because there really is no better way to see our city. Friends, riding fast enough to feel a breeze, socializing, exercising, getting fresh air, laughing...

A few weeks ago, a man pulled his car over to yell at me..."That right there is one of the biggest God Damned wastes of taxpayers' money I ever saw!"

    "Excuse me, sir?" I was used to people stopping to say "Thank you for doing this, this bike thing is such a service to our city, keep it up!" Occasionally, I hear people say things like, "I wish I had thought of this!" or "Y'all must be making a killing of that little piece of real estate!" as they look at the plot of land occupied by the Bcycle kiosk. There are a number of people who think the bike share program is Mayor Betsy Price's pet project, but I usually get to say something positive, and then explain that it is a private nonprofit organization. Yes, federal grant money was used to buy capital, but the running costs are met by donations, sponsorships, annual memberships, advertising, late fees...etc. Not taxed money.

This guy wanted none of that. "I know that you get subsidized..." and then he drove off. Due to traffic, I ended up behind him, and he lifted his hand high and gave me the finger until he drove past a pair of cops and then he changed his California howdy into a Hawaiian shaka sign that surfers use to send love. Ass hat. If only he could see the smiles on people's faces and hear how many are using the bikes to commute, each trip leaving a car parking space available for ass hats like him to use.

I'm not an evangelist for the cycling lifestyle the way many of my friends are. Lately, I choose to surf around on my long board rather than get the bike of the rack. I think it feels frivolous and free to skate around town like I do. I'm not getting any younger, so I want to do what I can to enjoy what I've got. It's more than that, though; it's like zen...when I find a good rhythm and gentle hill, and I'm coasting and carving, I can imagine riding a glassy wave, in tune with the natural forces at work in this world, until a wheel finds a piece of gravel, and then my old friend Gravity and his sister, Inertia remind me of my age.

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