Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kill the Messenger

I.

    Once upon a time in the City, riding in the heart of the financial district, traffic was bumper to bumper. It moved not at all. The river of metal and glass, pumping out gas, noise, dirt and grit, was completely stalled, and for untold blocks an army of endless red lights held time frozen.

    Enter the  bicycle messenger. My delivery was on the 12th floor. As I reached my destination, I made a mental note of the position of the car caught in traffic directly in front of the door, along with the consternation on the face of the driver. Entering the building, I made my way up the elevator. I completed the delivery on the 12th floor, had the paperwork signed, and called in for my next destination. I came back down to the street, and there it was, the same car stuck in the same place for about 20 minutes. It hadn’t moved at all. The driver was giving me looks that could kill the messenger. 
   
    All business, I mounted my heavy-metal steed and moved between the lanes directly beside his car, and then, it happened!  The Road Rage of the Messenger. The friendly messenger became the Messenger of Doom. A hot and dirty body, a mind overwhelmed by noise and pollution, the end of compassion, and too many Bugs Bunny Warner Brothers cartoons had come together in my mind. I puckered up my lips, leaned over, and made a huge kissing noise in the unfortunate drivers’ window,  like Bugs Bunny kissing Elmer Fudd on the head before escaping his fwustwated fuwy.   The enraged driver rolled down his window to reply to this insult, but I dug out between the lanes leaving the poor man stuck were he was. He may be there yet, even though this was 42 years ago.
   
   
II.

    One day I was heading for home on my bike in  rush hour traffic. As usual, I had  only a few inches to spare by the curb of a very busy multi-lane one way street. Cars beside me were dangerously close. My attention was challenged by the need to stay out of traffic while balancing on a narrow strip of gutter.  And then, it happened! Horns were blaring, drivers were snarling, but my tiredness, frustration, and frazzled nerves overcame common sense and even self-preservation. In a gesture of reality-negating bravura, I rode away from the curb and out in front of a lane of the on-rushing river of metal and glass. Surprising even myself, I began to  weave back and forth in front of traffic in the lane, making everyone back up behind me unless they were willing to kill the messenger. I had practiced this weaving S-shaped curve riding my bike when I was 10 years old. Fortunately, self-preservation gained the upper hand over bravura, and I went back to my curb hugging ways.


III. Bicycle Messenger Dream

   
    I’m climbing a hill in downtown San Francisco on my 50’s bicycle. It has a heavy steel frame and balloon tires (like the one Sammy rode, my boyhood friend and natural leader of the neighborhood boys. I finally beat Sammy at something by defeating him in a bicycle race on my lightweight German bicycle. Because of this I still love German music, but back to my dream). The messenger service bike has rusted chrome handlebars. (I never would have tolerated this as a boy. Mine shone like mirrors!) It has an extra wide seat, a useless feature since, at this point in my life, I weigh in at 128 pounds. With an eighty pound weight in the front basket, the bike is going to throw me over those rusted handlebars if I hit a curb too hard.

    I’m straining, standing up on the pedals, pushing with all my might climbing the hill. I lean further forward, getting closer and closer to the street. At one point, my weight and strength, the weight of the bike and the load, and the steepness of the grade all reach equilibrium. My forward motion stops. I fall. The bike crashes down beside me. I Iie there dazed, looking up at San Francisco sky.

     I’ve been at the job for some months now, and I have these dreams. The job allows me to retain full Hippie regalia, long hair, bell bottoms, sneakers, head band. There is no dress code. There are no drug tests. There is just bicycle, traffic, smog, noise, dirt, and deliveries.
    The traffic is intense for everyone. Traffic cops direct their on-coming traffic directly at us. “Hit him”, they say, gesturing at us. Motorists are irritated with us, this wandering Hippie tribe of the downtown mounted on old heavy-metal steeds, negotiating the congestion, slipping through lanes and up onto sidewalks to make deliveries. Drivers feel that somehow we are winning the traffic wars that they lost long ago, and they can stop driving the City only in their dreams.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Beauty Pageant Winners

Winner of the early hominid beauty contest who hates people.

Miss Anne Thrope



Married winner of the Beverage Industry beauty pageant and a large river.

Mississippi


Winner of the fast food beauty pageant and a failed police action.

Miss Take Out


Sexually ambiguous winner of the one pan cooking contest.

Miss Stir Fry



Winner of the Charles Darwin Evolutionary Biology beauty contest.

Miss Sing Link