I am naked. In the basement. Stuffing my shoes with newspaper. My clothes are in a heap by the washing machine. There is a drop of water dangling from one of my ears, like a pearl earring.
It starts in winter. In anticipation of snow, the cities and towns put down salt and sand. Every storm calls forth the sanders. When the spring comes, such as it is, the roads show multiple layers of sand and gravel, and over the initial weeks of the thaw, all that mess finds its way to the shoulders of the road.
l try to get the newspaper in the shoes as soon as I can. It’s the only way to dry them, and there is nothing worse than strapping into wet cycling shoes. Not to mention the aroma.
There is a gap between the last snow and the first appearance of the street sweepers, and during this time cycling in the verges becomes a dicey proposition. The great lumbering yellow hulks eventually come and clean things up, but as budgets struggle to cope with the weather, the cities and towns take an increasingly inconsistent approach to their spring cleaning, so that even now, in mid-May, there’s still a lot of crap on the roads.
My neighbor said, this morning, “I’ve always wondered what it was like to live in Seattle,” and laughed. It’s been a cold, rainy spring, and we’re in the middle of roughly ten days of constant precipitation. The coffee doesn’t seem to be any better, though.
Because it’s spring there are great washes of pollen and seed pods beneath the trees, and the rain mixes with this organic sputum and creates a sort of road snot, slippery and yellow. It gets gritty where the winter sand mixes in, and all of that comes up as spray as your tires knife through it.
You have to wear glasses in the city because of all the junk that gets churned up by cars and buses and robots whizzing by on their bikes. Even on rainy days, when you’re forced to clear your lenses every five blocks, the glasses are essential equipment. For some reason, all that mess seems to find its way to your face, or at least that’s how it feels.
In a meeting, earlier in the afternoon, I said, “I hate this job so much that I would trade being inside, in the warm office with a cup of coffee, for being outside, in the cold and rain, on my bike, on a steep hill.” Later on, when I was outside, in the cold and rain, on my bike, on a steep hill, I had to smile. I’m kind of an idiot.
As I crouch there, naked, in the basement, I can see how thick the muck is because it clings to my ankles in a dark band above where my socks ended. I lean into the garage to wring out my gloves, socks and hat. Charming. I’m naked in the garage. No good stories start or end that way.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International