The Bike, the Sandwich, and the Wardrobe
Here in Oregon you can be pelted with five weathers on the same day. Right now, it’s the sun that’s pelting. But even so, it’s cool in the early morning -- lately, cool enough to wear a light jacket -- another thing to pile onto my load when I head home at the end of the day. Along with all the other stuff I have to schlep everywhere. Like sandals – I can’t exactly show up to teach wearing gym shoes. Or a sweaty T shirt, or shorts. Or a sweaty anything for that matter. After all, I'm not the President. Some of us have to dress for work.
President Bush will show up at a meeting with foreign dignitaries wearing a little short sleeved blouse. Watch the papers. All the other people in a photograph will be decked out in fine tailored suits or ceremonial garb, as one would expect from heads of state. But not our president. Our president thinks that dressing casually will make people feel like he's just a regular guy. That seems to be a popular idea in the States. Presidents have been donning overalls and touring the farmlands for decades. Get down with the people, they're thinking. Americans want a president they can throw back a beer with on the tailgate of a pickup truck. Bush, never having been out of the US before his presidency, thinks this will make him popular in other countries, too. But in the rest of the world, people don't particularly want a head of state to be a regular guy. If someone's going to run a country, they want him (or her, as in the seemingly more progressive rest-of-the-world) to be pretty darn special -- which might start with being able to pick out an above-average suit. And as for the other part of this little cultural misunderstanding, somebody forgets to tell the president that he's not meeting with "the people," he's meeting with heads of state. So how about putting on a tie, just this once, c'mon, Georgie, you can take it off soon's the meetin's over. But no, he's the President of the United States, and he's going to do exactly how he pleases. Show these serious uptight people what a nice laid back guy he is. Instead, as the whole world knows (except some people in our country), he comes off as a condescending boor.
But not me. I teach English as a Second Language. Obviously, all my students are from other cultures. They don't expect a teacher to dress like a slob, and if I did they might have difficulty taking me seriously. This is a challenge for a bike commuter because I have to drag along the clothes to fit my work as well as my ride.
I have to think it all through before leaving in the morning. Might I need a skimpy tank top for my ride back home in case of unbearable heat later today? Or is it going to pour down buckets in spite of a cloudless morning sky? Shall I bring a rain parka? Rain pants? Little rain covers for my shoes? A rain dome for my helmet? A scuba diving suit? Flippers? Goggles? The weather possibilities are infinite in this state.
As fall and winter roll in, things will only get worse. Might I need a sweater today once I get to work and shed my damp outer-wear? What about a headband to save my poor little ears from the bitter wind breezing past my head? I might go elsewhere on foot during the day – what about a woolly cap? I can’t exactly wear my headband-helmet-rain-dome contraption over to the meeting at the bla bla office, now can I? What about a nice pressed blazer – how professional do I need to look for what’s scheduled today? (Will I need my iron?) Is it a teaching day? Do I want to walk into my classroom flowing rivers of sweat or rain all over the paperwork?
And what about lunch? I rarely eat out. It uses up too much money, but even more important, one never really knows what’s in commercially prepared food so I avoid eating it often. If I ate a plain sandwich, the whole production of making and packing lunch would be simpler – it could tuck sideways into a pocket somewhere. But I’m not much of a bread person. No, I like to nibble from small amounts of several items from leftover last night’s dinner, for example -- which occupy considerable space and may leak if turned over. As of now, I cart them in a padded lunch bag that’s not quite suitable because it’s an awkward shape and doesn’t close well.
Lord. I’m a rolling laundromat with a deli in the back. I must look like one of those people who tramp around with all their possessions on a grocery cart. That’s not a look I’m after. But mainly, it's just plain inconvenient.
And let’s not even start with the teaching materials and other paperwork, which can’t be allowed to blow away or get wet. One three-ring binder is the least I can make do with, and that takes planning. It all takes planning -- and organizing and arranging and re-organizing. If I don’t get this down to a speedy science, I’m never going to make it through the winter.
I haven’t solved these problems. Have you? I need some kind of a spacious but aerodynamic and waterproof trunk that fastens to my bike so no one can steal it, that I can lock stuff into so I don’t have to cart every little thing in and out of every place I enter. I’ll begin shopping for such an item, and let you know what I find.