Thursday’s bike ride took me out in the city’s first Code Red Heat Alert day of the summer. Code Red means it’s going to be really, really hot, and you should probably just stay inside in a place with some ac. It also means that if you use less energy you get credits on your utility bill, so I was pretty excited to spend the day in somebody else’s air conditioning while the nickels rolled in at home. Sure, paying you to not use energy when you need it the most is sort of a scam to cover over weak infrastructure, but I’m a sucker.
I’ve been working and working and working lately, totally overwhelmed by work. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been riding my bike, but it does mean I’ve largely been riding to work, to meetings, to acupuncture appointments, and to dinner and drinks and play when I can sneak it in. Grades are in for the spring semester, though, and summer school doesn’t start until Wednesday, so by Saturday afternoon I started to feel the loosening of vacation and a glimpse or two of the me that emerges when I have time to get just a little bit bored. And today the rain let up and the winds died down, and I got to take a bike ride just to see what I might see.
I didn’t have to go in to campus on Wednesday, so I spent my morning answering a thousand emails and grading a thousand this and thats until it was time to head downtown to meet C. for lunch. I took it easy, letting the bike carry me down the hill and to the left, down the Fallsway bike path and left again through Little Italy before taking a right on Central Avenue to enjoy that weird shifting bike lane down to our lunch date. Central Avenue has a bike lane that feels like nobody really planned it, they just thought they’d throw down some paint. I appreciate that after crossing Fleet, it shifts to the middle, between the straight and turn lane, but cars still don’t seem to expect me to follow that lane. And then it runs next to back-in parking and ends up taken over by the front of all those cars. Like I said, it’s a great idea to have a lane here, but yeah. I locked up my bike to a parking meter, because bike racks are still a rare thing around these parts, though there are plenty of bikes riding all over downtown. C. and I had a lovely lunch, spent mostly with him answering my zillion questions about Zipcar. He works there now, and it turned out I had a lot more questions than I thought I did about car sharing. Who cleans the car? What happens if I report low gas in a car? Is the extra insurance really worth it? (I decided that I’m finally middle class enough to start buying my way out of risk–quite the revelation.) Who names the cars? Who joins up? How do you talk folks into sharing instead of buying a car? Did they give him that logo jacket, or did he have to buy it? (They gave it to him.) And then I got a tour of the office–all open floor plan, filled with bikes and Red Bull, I even met a couple of the guys who keep all those cars clean–it was like seeing behind the curtain. I love my car share membership, even though I don’t use it all that often. Every time I go to book a car I see the actual cost of driving, and I have to stop and think: do I really need a car to do what I’m about to do? Almost always the answer is NO, but sometimes the answer is yes, and I book my car, a little extra time to go through a drive thru, because that’s what cars are really for, if you ask me. Zipcar means I don’t have to own a car, but I can still drive a car if I need to–total win, and I wish everyone would give up their cars–doesn’t yours mostly sit around all day anyway?–and jump on board with the sharing plan.
And then I wandered around the neighborhood, checking out the construction at Harbor Point(e), already missing the open view of the water, now obscured by the tall buildings going up to provide more expensive housing for people I am not entirely sure exist. I stopped at the Whole Foods for some bulk groceries and got back on the bike to head home. It’s the time of year where every ride feels like nostalgia for summertime when I take these rides much more often, and it was good to be on another old route. And then I had to jog into the traffic lane on Central because the bike lane is now valet parking for the Hyatt, another building that’s blocking the view. Talk about a total buzzkill. Urban change is always happening, whether we call it gentrification or development or something else, and loss is always a part of that change. For me, this is what the losses looked like on Wednesday–not the biggest ones by any means, but losses nonetheless.