grrgoyl: (Muscles not motors)
[personal profile] grrgoyl
I hadn't planned on a work rant, but I just have to get this off my chest.

Last weekend someone had written on the message board a big list of "Please don't"s. Unfortunately that same night it had once again become relevant for me to add my $.02 about not dumping food in the sink.

Maybe I shouldn't have written "(27th time asking)," except it was, and as most parents raising children will hopefully back me up, I'm getting pretty fucking tired of repeating myself. Maybe I shouldn't have written that garbage cans don't get backed up and require expensive plumber visits, but I hoped that, like with children, if I provided the rationale behind the request (even though I feel it should be fairly obvious) it would drive the point home finally.

For whatever reason, the following night I got the phone call from my day shift liaison (I'm hesitant to call anyone "friend" anymore in this place) about whether or not I was needed to come in, and to my surprise she asked if there were any problems the prior night. When I said no, she launched into a laundry list of complaints from the staff about things they thought I hadn't done, each more petty than the last. Coincidence? I doubt it.

The one that stuck in my craw was the accusation that the cats' water bowls were empty. It was also empty for me, which is why I put an extra one in the cage. So a) you expect me to believe the cats drained two bowls in the space of two hours between shifts? b) even if they did (they didn't), what the animals do after I leave is hardly in my control, and c) even if they did (they didn't), isn't the point of giving them water for them to drink it? It's not a decorative measure.

I made sure to set her straight on this point, but she didn't sound convinced. So why were all the other "please don't"s fine but mine pushed them over the edge? Probably because I made them feel stupid. Well, I'm sorry, but they're a little stupid, and not likely to get smarter by coddling and tiptoeing around their porcelain feelings. I firmly believe there would be a bit less stupidity in the world if more people were taken to task for it. This is just my public service.

~*~

In Tery's news, she ran her second triathlon a few weekends ago. It went much better for her, in part because she knew what to expect, in bigger part because we arrived much earlier so she had more time to get settled in.

No, the two big highlights of the race were MyFriendDeb came to keep me company, except when I asked her to videotape Tery running she refused, stating "people waste so much time with a camera stuck to their face they miss the actual event right there in front of them." It was only much later I thought of the comeback I should have made: That we weren't there for ourselves, we were there for Tery, and perhaps she'd like to see herself in the race. Whatevs. Next year I just won't ask her.

More exciting, Tery has decided now that she's "officially" a triathlete to get a tattoo to commemorate. I can't let her have all the fun, so I'm getting one too -- a bike chainring on my left inner forearm, because the only thing I love more than biking is tattoos with circular motifs. We still have to find a parlor and extra money, so it won't happen for awhile yet. I'm just thrilled Tery wants one too.

~*~

Biking, biking, biking. Probably no one else cares, but I do so here we are. I'll hide it behind a cut because I'm nice that way and I fully expect no one to read it. But feel free to prove me wrong. But since (practically) no one is going to read it anyway, I might as well put it here as anywhere.

This year has been a daily battle with the weather. First we had monsoon season, where every day precisely 15 minutes before the end of my shift what had been breathtakingly gorgeous sunshine suddenly turned dark and menacing, with a 50% chance of rain (more often than not it rained). I foolishly ignored the implications and hit the Lair o' the Bear a couple of weekends into this, where the trail was 5% muddy and the rest damp and gravelly, like a beach an hour after high tide, and some sections with big tire-sucking gullies running straight down the middle. Not fun at all.

So I thought I'd outsmart Mother Nature and go road biking in the mornings, getting up at 7 am-ish (which is ludicrously difficult despite working a job for over 15 years that required me to get up at 5 am or earlier). There are a lot of pros to an early morning ride: Fewer idiots in the park (biking or otherwise), very quiet and peaceful, a great way to get energized for the day, and gets your workout done first thing before the full heat settles in (unless you live in Alabama). In fact, the only two cons of getting up at 7 am are contending with rush hour motorists who are too focused on squeezing into oncoming traffic to see me in the crosswalk, and of course getting up at 7 am.

As I found out one day, there are plenty of bads about going after my shift. By then the heat is so oppressive it sits on my lungs like a blanket, I feel like I'm breathing through a wet towel. And my back starts killing me after sitting at my desk all day. And there are a lot more people in the park. Bad, bad, bad.

Anyway, my plan backfired one morning when we'd had an exceptionally large storm the previous night. The wetlands were still flooded, a section I've crossed a half-dozen times on Roja with just a little spray up my back. I suspected that Mamba was lower to the ground, and this was confirmed: For half a mile every pedal stroke completely submerged my feet, which would be a welcome cooling effect if it weren't 7 am. Further up the road the water rushed across so strongly that I didn't dare brave it with my lightweight little road bike. Damn you, Mother Nature! I guess it really isn't nice to fool you.

Now monsoon season is over but insect season has begun. The mosquitos are out in force, as are the locusts -- remembering the plague we had last year (by the end of summer the roads were carpeted with them. They had started moving downtown there were so many), I don't bother avoiding them with my tires, in fact, I aim for them. I hate grasshopper-shaped shrapnel pinging off my legs repeatedly.

Still, I've been going 20 miles or more a day (my, that sounds grand. Truthfully, "or more" means 21, or 21.5 if I'm feeling particularly peppy). According to my bike computer app, I've done 750 so far this season (I started writing this weeks ago. Must be closer to 1000 by now). I can't believe last season when I barely did 10-13 a day I considered myself hard-core.

And hard-core I've become, which means near full-on bike snobbery. Not quite to the level of the Fives/Sixes (see below) but gradually getting there. The difference is all in the clothing: I've gotten to the point that I feel hopelessly amateur if I'm not wearing cycling shorts, as I discovered one day when I tried a pair of trail shorts instead. Never thought I'd feel bereft without spandex. But if you want to feel like an athlete, I've discovered that half the battle is dressing the part.

So here's my new classification system, revised from last year when I rode a mountain bike and looked down on road bikes. To shorten the list, I'll omit those who wear sun dresses on cruisers/hybrids, etc., who clearly aren't looking for speed.

Level Zero: No helmet. I don't care if you're pedaling to the post office or in the Tour de France--you only get one brain. Isn't it worth a $20, $30, $40 investment? Ryan complained he was "too poor" to buy a helmet. I asked, "Well how are you going to afford an ER visit?"

Level Zero-and-a-Half: Wearing a helmet but not fastening the chin strap, or tipping it back at a jaunty angle halfway up your scalp. You're nearly there, but not quite. How many times do people fall backwards off their bikes? Plus you've managed to make yourself look even dorkier while negating all of the safety features. Well done.

Level One: As I said above, any kind of baggy clothing, T-shirts and especially khaki shorts. I walk a thin line here (still only tentatively dipping my toes in the waters of cycling jerseys, but they're a tricky fit for the non-flat-chested), but I at least wear moisture wicking "tech" shirts. A plain old cotton T-shirt screams "amateur casual cyclist" nearly as loudly as the jaunty helmet.

Level Two: Mountain bikes with knobby tires. Don't get me wrong, some of these riders look in top condition, but those big fat tires will always put them at a disadvantage behind the cheapest, most entry-level road bike. Unless they're doing a "training run," where as I understand it you deliberately handicap yourself so the real thing seems a lot easier. Which Tery tells me is why I see so many Fives wearing enormous backpacks who obviously aren't commuting, like they're hauling around a bunch of bricks (which they very well might be).

Level Three: Road bikes, usually women (I'll just say it), fully kitted out, usually disgustingly petite, toned and tanned, who go to the park with their other lady friends for a leisurely pedal while chatting nonstop. Which is totally their prerogative, except they invariably need to be side-by-side, leaving no way to pass them. A logistical nightmare when there are more than two of them. Keep the coffee klatch in the living room, please.

Level Four: Here's me. Got the toe clip pedals (not the "clipless," an expensive upgrade that requires special shoes that fit into the pedal. Tery swears by them, but I've seen at least two Fives fall over in them), cycling shorts and tech shirts, fancy myself a racer but not quite ready for the Tour de France. In fact, I tend to keep a relatively casual pace (18 mph or so--that's relative to higher levels, not lower); but every time I see a biker ahead, regardless of their level, the cheetah that lives in my heart (if not my legs) awakens and I suddenly feel driven to pass them. Usually successfully because they didn't realize they were in a race. This victory is almost always shortlived in the case of the Fives/Sixes, however, when their cheetah is awakened and they pass me easily on the next uphill with their thick, knotty muscles. I like to think I'm keeping them on their toes.

I have a new secret weapon, however, that sets me apart: Arm warmers. You may have seen these worn by NBA stars, lycra sleeves that go from biceps to wrist. They're perfect for the bike: On early morning rides they keep the chill off until I start sweating. On warm afternoons they keep the sun off and feel surprisingly cool when the sweat they soak up condenses. Douse them in water and the effect is downright arctic. I've turned more than a few heads wearing these. I'm hoping it will be my "thing" (like the guy I see every single day on his hybrid, wearing nothing but khaki shorts and sandals, skin like a beat-up old cowboy boot, hair bleach-blonde in the sun and a dazzling smile to match. I think his tan and his hair are his "thing").

I need the occasional new item because the dirty little secret of exercise is, once you really get into it and start seeing some progress, after a few weeks or months or years you get this irrational fear that if you take just one day off, you'll instantly gain ten pounds. That's when you find yourself going out even when you aren't really feeling it, which isn't a bad thing but not as enjoyable either. So once in awhile a piece of new bling will make the next ride seem a little fresher.

Level Five: Racerheads. Full kit (often corporate-sponsored team designs), weight obsessed (bike, not body; well, could be body too), mostly alone but occasionally in packs (pelotons, Tery tells me).

Although a full professional kit does not guarantee superior skill. Exhibit A: I wound up behind a Five on a flat straightaway in his granny gears, pedaling furiously and going nowhere. I watched him for a few minutes but he made no effort to change gears. This was the first time I felt like a cheetah, catching and passing him effortlessly in gear 23. I asked Tery if this was a new training trick but she doubted it.

Exhibit B: I've seen now two (or perhaps same guy twice; more likely) fully kitted riders on a cruiser--you know, the bikes you see downtown with the wide sweeping straight bars, often with a flower basket betwen them? He presented quite the confusing picture, I can tell you. Maybe spent all his money on his kit and is now saving for his dream race bike.

Like I said earlier, I'm starting to foray into the world of cycling jerseys. I actually found one at the thrift store that fit okay and that gave me hope. Based on its measurements I spent an entire shift shopping on eBay. I quickly learned my preference was not for the sleek designs with straight lines that made you look like a cyborg, but rather for bright splashes of color. I found two jerseys I really liked, before noticing one was for Enron and the other for BP Oil (an ironically large number of cycling jerseys have gas company logos on them). Since I don't like any corporation enough to be their free billboard, I started gravitating towards jerseys from races I haven't actually participated in. I'm currently expecting one from the Pan Mass Challenge in Massachusetts and one from a race in Frankfurt, Germany.


This would be the last thing you saw before I passed your ass. I like this pic so much I made a new icon out of it


Finally, Level Six: Essentially a Five, except with the newest bling--aerobars. These are straight handlebars that sit between the ram horns for a more aerodynamic position, usually for time trials. I could be mistaken, but there are even different levels of aerobars--ones that are just bars, and ones that have shifters attached. The Sixes are also more likely to have those fancy teardrop-shaped helmets and about 2% body fat. Anyone below a Five doesn't deserve to even LOOK at a Six, let alone try to acknowledge them.

You can tell I'm a Five-minus because I'm still polite and look at people, though I have given up smiling and moved to a business-like curt nod. The Fives/Sixes are far too "in the zone" for such courtesy. Of my fellow Five-minuses, the overwhelming majority of men return the favor. But bitches be bitches, just as grim-faced as the Five-pluses--so much so I've given up trying.

Regardless of level, bike, gender or clothing type, I save my biggest smiles for the heavier riders, because I've been there and I know the occasional friendly face is most welcome after being strafed by Five-pluses all day. God bless 'em.

Two final categories and I'll leave you: The family unit. Father and/or mother, 2+ kids with training wheels and a baby trailer on dad's bike. I think of this as the minivan of the bike trail. I appreciate you doing something together out in the sun, but PLEASE can you teach your children the importance of keeping to the right and not weaving around like drunken squirrels?

I know, I know--different strokes for different folks, everyone has their own fitness level. I can't help it if mine is a judgmental cheetah.

Last but not least, rollerbladers. Twice now I've had to pass women on rollerblades (neither wearing a stitch of protective gear, I might add) skating along in broad, path-hogging strokes and blasting their iPods so loud they never heard my polite but increasingly irritated warnings of "on your left" (I've been making a really conscious effort to sound less snarky when saying this). Both looked so startled as I passed them, you might have thought I materialized there off a spaceship. I understand you enjoy shutting out the world and really grooving your workout, but I don't care if you're a blader, biker, pedestrian or motorist, whether you're climbing a mountain or stuck in rush hour traffic: The first rule of the road is to always be aware of your surroundings. And the second is to share them with everyone else. So simple, yet so difficult to remember.

~*~

Last but certainly not least, [livejournal.com profile] swankyfunk drew me ♥ Severus Snape ♥! (reposted with permission):


"I know you're up to something, Potter!"


She's made of all kinds of awesome.


COMING SOON: Parade of Homes 2011 and my review of The Room
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