The Bike Commuter

I'm not quite eccentric enough to try this yet. But when I am, there will be pictures.

I have a little morning routine that I’ve gotten into since moving to North Hollywood. The alarm on my phone goes off at 7:30, waking me up way earlier than I want to be up and causing me to violently jerk forward in fright before getting my bearings and realizing that, no, it’s not the end of the world: It’s just my phone telling me that I have to stop sleeping. For me, this is only barely preferable to the apocalypse.

I roll over and silence my phone, and then usually spend ten wistful seconds trying to figure out a way that I can keep sleeping. This is my asshole brain giving me shitty, self-destructive ideas as revenge for staying up late watching Frasier and thereby short changing it on a full eight hours of sleep:

“You could call in sick and then keep sleeping. Tell them you have sleeping sickness. You wouldn’t even be lying, necessarily.”

“You could quit and keep sleeping. C’mon, what’ve you got to lose? It can’t be that hard to find an equally creative, fun, and financially lucrative job that also only requires you to be at the office from noon until 3:30 like three days a week. Go back to sleep.”

“You could give a homeless guy a wig and $20 and have him go sit in your cubicle and then you could keep sleeping. Dude, nobody would notice the difference. Trust me, I’m your brain.”

I can usually get my brain to shut up about screwing my career in favor of sleep by the time I’m in the shower, but then it starts in on its campaign to make me fat:  

“Hey, Truman, brain here. You probably shouldn’t ride your bike to work today.”

“Why’s that, brain?”

“Well, you’re pretty sleepy, so…”

“How many people die every year from riding bikes when they’re sleepy?”

“You know I don’t know that. We looked it up on Wikipedia together last week because we were worried about it, and there wasn’t an article on it.”

“So I’m riding my bike to work, then.”

“But wait! It’s going to be pretty hot today.”

“Really? How hot?”

“Well, I don’t know. We haven’t looked at the weather report. But it’s summer in the Valley, so probably pretty hot. You want to get heatstroke, bro? Make the smart choice. Take The Mystery Wagon. Your electrolytes and shit will thank you later.”

“I’m riding my bike, brain.”

“…I hate you. I’m going to worry about having cancer all day!”

The whole reason I moved to North Hollywood was to be closer to work, and one of the benefits of my apartment is that it’s maybe half a mile from a beautifully maintained bike trail which runs pretty much the entire distance to my office, four and a half miles away.

It’s a real testament to my brain’s contempt for me that every morning it tries to talk me out of biking to work – it’s a great ride, it’s eco friendly, biking is pretty much the only sort of physical activity I enjoy (besides walking to Chipotle), and a nine mile round trip bike ride every day goes a long way toward working off the Chipotle that I walk to get at lunch every day. There is honestly no reason in the world for me to not bike to work every day, but that hasn’t stopped my brain from trying to find one every morning due to some hardwired, classically American desire to commute to work in a seated position with air conditioning while listening to the Drive soundtrack on my car stereo.  

Of course, I’m still commuting to work in Los Angeles, so naturally the trip isn’t without its stressors, even on a bike. The big difference is that while most commuters are dealing with traffic, freeway snipers, and the profound incompetence shared by all California drivers, I have to deal with California cyclists and pedestrians, who are the same sort of stupid, but just in a slower, more eco friendly way.

The bike path I ride is great because it’s very well partitioned – on the right is a pedestrian only lane, while the left side of the path is divided into two little lanes for bikes, complete with a dashed yellow line down the middle and arrows in each line pointing out which way traffic should be going.

Some serious tax dollars went into making this path a streamlined and efficient commuter experience, and California cyclists and pedestrians just shit all over it every morning. I have to navigate around trios of soccer moms powerwalking three abreast with strollers and blocking all the lanes, or oncoming cyclists stubbornly riding in the oncoming lane and looking at me like I’m crazy.

This is especially frustrating because in The Mystery Wagon I’ve got a nice loud horn I can honk at assholes, but on the bike all I have is a bell that makes a really cheerful ‘ping!’ noise that doesn’t do a lot to convey anger or indignation. I suppose I could just yell nasty things at people, but not only would that make me an asshole, it’d also put me at risk of being chased down and beaten up by people with faster bikes than mine.

In all honesty, so far I’m pretty underwhelmed with my decision to live in the San Fernando Valley – which is a whole ‘nother update in itself – but the ability to ride my bike to work every day comes pretty close to making it all worth it. As someone who has an extensive list of both physical and psychological reasons that he won’t go to the gym, getting an hour of cardiovascular exercise* every day has me feeling healthier than I ever have before.

*No, I’m not going to call it “cardio.” I may look like a big time city slicker with my job and my apartment and my Jewish friends, but I come from a small town where people took the time to say “-vascular”, and I intend to stay true to my roots.

But even with all those tangible benefits – eco friendliness, getting in shape, feeling the burn in my legs in the morning, girls in yoga pants jogging in the pedestrian lane, hipster bike cred, “fresh” air day – I still wake up every morning with my brain telling me to drive.

On the outside I may have grown into my baby fat and begrudgingly started exercising in hopes of getting ahead of my metabolism before it starts working against me, but my brain seems to be the same fat, lazy fourth grader it was in the mid 1990s – the one who went into all physical activity flailing and bitching, since kicking and screaming would’ve been too much work.

Truman Capps gets a lot of awesome stares from the Latino day laborers in his neighborhood when he rides around with tufts of hair sticking out from under his helmet.