Tag Archives: work

Bicycling should be a pleasant commute


I left this morning around 7:00. I could have been seriously injured for the first time around 7:06. I was biking south on Rockwell, and I admit, in my mind I was lamenting the loss of my favorite bicycling scarf.  I know I wore it home yesterday, but I couldn’t find it this morning, and I was in a rush to get out the door. It’s perfect for biking because it is wool and it’s short enough just to wrap around once and cover my neck but not make my whole body too hot and bulky. I knit it in only about 30 minutes because it’s so short and the yarn was so thick.

The yarn was from Renegade Handmade. I don’t think they carry it any more. All I remember was there were only about 30 yards in the skein and it was called Dulce.

And I think it was probably about $30. Anyway, I know the scarf is somewhere at home, most likely in the closet which is where I found it the last time I lost it. So that’s what I was thinking about when I was heading south on Rockwell about to cross Lawrence. Usually I am keenly aware of the cars going my direction, coming toward me, parked to the right of me in case they swing their doors open, and the potholes in the road. But with my mind on my scarf, I didn’t see the black car as quickly as I would have liked.

When I was half way across Lawrence, a black car stopped at the red light facing east on Lawrence decided to make a right on Rockwell, turning him south (just like me) and in the right lane (just like me). Unfortunately two people can’t occupy the same place at the same time. So I hit my brakes, avoiding the collision. The driver still didn’t notice me, though I tailed him the rest of the way on Rockwell, adjusting my blinking light to make sure it hit his rearview mirror. His 90 year old passenger in the back didn’t notice me either. I have a good idea about her age, because when he turned I was close enough to the back passenger window to count her wrinkles, or to spit on his car, but I did neither. I just continued on my way to work, my heart now pumping blood more effectively. I wonder what he was thinking about. I doubt it was a scarf.

I don’t remember the details of the other times I could have been seriously injured today. I was lucky enough to really only have one super close call (above), one minor close call (below), and several “Watch it!”s.

So after being at work for 9 and a half hours, I left. (I still have work to do this weekend, but that comes with being a teacher). Three minutes later comes my next chance to get seriously injured. Diversey has a bike lane. It is for me and people on the same type of vehicle as I am on. It is not for motorized vehicles. It is not a turn lane. It is not a great place to park. It is not a fast lane to get around cars in front of you. But as I’m coming up to a stop sign, the truck with me in its blind spot decides he will turn right at the stop sign, and now is a good time to merge into the bike lane to get ready for the turn.

Luckily, the driver saw me after he had only swerved partially into the bike lane and I had braked enough to avoid getting hit.

 I love riding my bike. I love that over half of my commute is on bike-laned streets. I love that it was still nearly 60 degrees now in early November. What I don’t love is drivers who can’t see bicycles. I  stay doubly vigilant paying attention to much more than drivers need to pay attention to, and still many drivers act annoyed with me either obviously or subtly. I wish that bicycling wasn’t seen as a threat to drivers and a threat to America. I wish it was as common here as it is in other countries. I wish it was accepted as a normal means of transportation. It is frustrating to get home in the evenings and recount with my husband the number of near-misses and almost-dieds we had that day. That said, I still feel safe on my bike, but only because I stay so fully aware of my surroundings. And wear my helmet. So I end with a PSA: please watch for bikes and share the road.


No appetite


Today I am sick. I knew I was sick when I woke up, but I went to work anyway for two reasons: First, I am paranoid that people will think I’m faking, and second, I was really excited about the science lesson I had planned for this afternoon. Unfortunately, I felt so awful I asked if I could leave around 11:30 and was able to. I don’t know who covered my classroom. Since this morning, I had about 6 ounces of yogurt with the last of my homemade granola, and a banana from the students’ universal breakfast program. It is 4:30. I have no appetite whatsoever. It is unfortunate because food usually brings me joy (but fortunate because my weight is a few pounds heavier at this point than ever before) but of course it got me thinking about Haiti.

Haiti is an amazing, beautiful country being strangled of its potential. It was once one of the richest nations in the Western Hemisphere, and is now the poorest. Because of its equatorial climate, there is no reason it should not be growing and exporting mango, avocado, bananas, plantain, and so much more. In Haiti, nothing beats fried plantain with avocado according to my palate. Unfortunately, due to many factors but mostly bureaucracy, Haiti lacks crop rotation, fertile soil, and a method of mass export. Unfortunately many Haitians may eat the amount of food I ate today, or less, and not be “un-hungry” like me, just might not have the means to get more.

I was in Haiti only for one short week, primarily to teach knitting basics and leave knitting materials with people who took my class. This is what happened on one of my toughest days there. I woke up early to teach knitting for 2 and a half hours at Vilaj Karyib in Jakmel. I quickly ate a Clif bar and drank some water before the class. I thought I would have plenty of time to stop back for lunch since this class ended at 11:30 and my afternoon class at Jakmel Ekspresyon started at 4. I stashed another Clif bar and some water in my bag, just in case.

When the first workshop was over, I met with a friend at Jakmel Ekspresyon to get the key for my afternoon workshop. She had the key and a small group of friends with her. We chatted for a bit, then realized there was no water at Jakmel Ekspresyon. The reservoir was empty, which necessitated calling a water truck. Many homes and businesses have running water, but it is not a constant supply. When the water runs out, you need to pay to get a refill. A Haitian friend called the water truck and the others left me there to wait for it. The truck was on the way.

An hour later, the water truck showed up. It took at least an hour to fill the reservoir due to the truck continuously stalling out and getting restarted. They started it the way one starts a lawnmower, with a pull cord, but this was a shoelace or some other string that they attached just before pulling each time. The truck resembled a clear cement mixer filled with water, with a hose that extended into the homes or businesses they refilled. They also kindly sprayed the walls and floor of the first floor, essentially pressure washing everything to the outside. This water is non-potable, but is used for flushing the toilet, cleaning, or washing hands. The water truck left, and it was a bit past 2:00pm.

Then the pipes started leaking. I searched for buckets but only found one already half full with soap. I used it anyway. I found two more as I emptied that one outside, but I couldn’t figure out why water wasn’t collecting in them. Oh, they had a large hole drilled into the bottom of them. The place was filled with about an inch of water, the water we just paid for, I had a class soon with at least one person on crutches and it was slippery! My Toms (not recommended for third world countries) were soaked. I called the co-director of Jakmel Ekspresyon and asked him to come help me. He got there in about 40 minutes and plugged the leak, which had slowed considerably in that time.

By this time, I was getting hungry (still, unlike today). Everything was finally taken care of, cleaned up, and it was about 3:30. The only bad thing was that I didn’t bring enough materials with me for this workshop since I had planned to stop home, but now I wouldn’t have time. I was about to eat my Clif bar before the two hour class. I had taken off my water-logged shoes and set them in the sun. I then looked up, and the first workshop participants was there. I didn’t feel as though I could eat in front of him, not knowing whether or not he was hungry, and I didn’t have another bar. I suppose I could have offered to split it, but he didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak French or Kreyol. He did get the message across that I could go ahead and start early, and two of his friends showed up soon after.

  Soon the class was full, and my belly was still empty. I felt like I was starving in a country that really knows what starvation is while I, and most Americans in my generation, have never actually encountered scarcity.