Sunday, March 1, 2009

Progress / Condescension

So, first a progress report: I logged 180+ miles in February, which isn't so bad since I "lost" more than a week visiting Germany and Switzerland. (Not really lost, of course, although I came to dread hitting the hotel gym to ride a stationary bike -- bleah.) The good side was of course seeing how the "other half lives".

The hastily-snapped cellphone picture at right is a bike shelter we saw from the
train between Munich and Basel. Interesting bike racks. But also consider this is the first week in February. Many citizens, even in the elevated parts of semi-Alpine Western Europe, have integrated their bikes in their daily lifestyle. Bike, train, no car. At least not on a daily basis. It's definitely true that distances are smaller compared to the sprawling US, but I have to say, it is so refreshing to see this (and not just because of the brisk air.)

While we were in Basel, we had anything but nice weather (lots of rain and wind) but the practical cyclists were out, getting around, everywhere, at all hours of the day. On the coldest, windiest day, I saw a woman riding a bakfiets with her two little kids bundled up like two stuffed toys. Even I, a daily cyclist, saluted her unconsciously, but frankly, she didn't seem fazed.

Which brings me back to my experience since returning. On a couple of occasions, I've sort of 'snapped' at people who have commented on my cycling. Just after returning, when attending a yoga class, I was locking up my bike at the yoga center when an older woman (who was going to the same class as I) turned to me and said, "Ah, it's a sure sign of spring when the cyclists come out." I responded with as much abruptness as I could muster, "Oh, I cycle year 'round." (It just came out, really.) And just last week, I was biking to meet my wife at a doctor's office so I could put my bike in the back of the car and drive her home, a nurse at the office said, "that's so cute that you ride your bike everywhere," and I snapped back, "I'm the future."

I felt condescended to by these people. My dictionary defines "condescend" as "to show feelings of superiority". Certainly people driving cars have physical superiority. A very small car is still very large, heavy, and hot up against a bike. But to be treated in the diminutive makes me feel like these people are also claiming moral superiority, and I can't accept that. These people are ignorant. They don't understand the horrifying waste that they produce with their lifestyle, they haven't the imagination to see it. Since I've comprehended it, I can't just make it go away. So I do what I can. And I think that is worthy of respect, not condescension, not impatience.

I won't be holding my breath waiting for it, though.

1 comment:

WestfieldWanderers said...

These people are ignorant. They don't understand the horrifying waste that they produce with their lifestyle, they haven't the imagination to see it....
...and I think that is worthy of respect, not condescension, not impatience.


In the British media we are frequently berated as "smug" and "self righteous".

I'll buy that! It suggests that we are getting through to the "unimaginative ones" and they don't like it.

Condescend away, my man. And enjoy!
:-)