Thursday, October 12, 2006

A road moment

Today was a good day on the road. Why? I didn't make any money, so the pace was relaxed. The air was brisk, the bike rolled around without any complications, minus the new front tire I threw on it the other day. Its a spongy piece of crap, the fourteen dollar result of riding the old one to the bitter end of its life in the middle of the day with calls on board.

Around 4:30, into the ninth inning as it were, the winds got especially gusty and white stuff was swirling around in the air - snow! I was hammering up Yonge street north of Bloor to pick at Price street when the stuff was all around me. It was one of those magic times as a messenger, when you can only really appreciate the raw force of nature in the middle of the city because you're doing a job on a bike.

Rush hour was well underway as I grabbed my piece and rushed out to get it down to a fancy cocktail bar on Bay street within thirty minutes, not a difficult thing to do in this case, but definitely a good excuse to be playing in traffic with snowflakes going sideways. I'd already had the good fortune to have been sent to drop a piece within a few blocks of my place the hour before, where I'd seized the opportunity to nip home and grab my other pair of gloves. For the first time ever I doubled up on cycling gloves, figuring it would be that much warmer. My old pair fit right over my newer pair so I went for it, and it worked as well as could be for half-fingered gloves in mid-October. That's bike courier thinking for you.

As I rolled south, this amazing thing was happening. The wind swirled madly, asphalt turning to wet and threatening slickness in the bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. In the western sky, the sun was shining a late afternoon golden glow that seemed to emerge out of nowhere, right in the middle of this crazy little snowsquall. It was like the city, split down the centre by Yonge street, was atmospherically split as well. It made sense if you were riding a bike down Yonge at the time, it was palpable for a few key minutes and made my little mission seem all that much more important and adventurous. Those moments are the kind that keep you getting back on your courier bike, the feeling of freedom that stays with you long after you hang it up and move on to other things in life.

Rush hour is an amazing manifestation of the feeling that right now is crucial. There is this real sense of drama, that people aren't just moving around as always, but are seized with an urgency in their movement, as though a kind of race were on. Well, a kind of race is on, the race to home, to beat the traffic on the expressways, to the next set of tasks and responsibilities at the end of the day, a release from the day's confinements at work.

Two office girls were waiting at a desk in the cocktail bar, which had no less than three wall- mounted large flat-screen televisions, all cheek by jowl. Even offices are starting to have these tv screens, with their perpetual supply of CNN rolling news keeping everyone preoccupied with nothing.

The one who was expecting a package signed with an excited smile, Desiree something, and took off towards the back. The other remained with nothing to do, so I asked her the time and wrote it on my waybill. Outside, it had cleared up and the sky was calm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loving the blog, gutter butter. Especially the well-written look into the lives of the whole bike courier subculture. Rich material there, and don't let Ron East tell you different.