Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"But I don't have a shower!"

I started my new job, and it's been wonderful so far. My coworkers are friendly, the company has been treating me well, and I love working part time. Transitioning from working at a public university, with its constant budget tightening and attitude of, "What's overtime? By the way, can you take care of this on your way out the door?" to working in the private sector is giving me some odd moments. I mean, I get to order stuff without getting four different people to approve it first! I can just...order it. How strange. I didn't even have to go through training for the credit card, they just handed it over as if I was a rational adult capable of using a credit card. Insanity! I'm pretty sure I spent more on coffee for the office today than I spent on everything in a year for my old office.
This week I've been working full time. I knew that there would be times I'd be asked to do so. I don't mind it, but it's making me realize that they couldn't pay me enough to go back to working full time permanently. Which is great, because they made it clear that my position will be part time for the long haul. It's just good to know that both the company and I are totally in sync on this one. I don't know how other families do it, with two partners, spouses, parents working full time. With commutes on either end, I feel like I'm never home. (And in fact, traffic was awful today so I was away from home for 12 hours.) I never get enough time to myself. Never get enough time with the kiddo. This week, at least. It will be nice to get back to my regular schedule next week.

Not that working again is all sunshine and roses. Even working part time takes a big chunk out of my day. I spend half an hour each night getting everything ready for the morning so that I don't forget some crucial item in my mad rush. I'm not a morning person, but now I have to be up by 6:10 every day to leave for work. And that's if I only give myself half an hour (or less) to get ready before I go. Oy.

And I have to take a bus. Most of the time it's not so bad, I get about forty minutes of (mostly) uninterrupted reading time in. Glorious! But then there are the times like that one day, when I got treated to the world's slowest transition between drivers--over half an hour of just sitting there while the relief driver washed various parts of the bus, with the bus so full that people were standing in the aisle, and then a yelling match between the slow driver and a guy in a wheelchair who kept shouting that his colostomy bag was getting full so just drive the damn bus, and then the driver wasted even more time by arguing back, threatening to call the cops and have that guy kicked off the bus...yeah. Buses.

On the other hand, now that I'm up so early I get
to see stuff like this, and that's not so bad.
One of the perks of my job, though, is also the commute. Not just the reading time on the bus, but my bike ride. It's wonderful. I now have something pushing me to ride my bike at least five days a week, for at least five miles round trip. At the start of the day I get a rather bracing trip in the cold, which wakes me up quite thoroughly, and a little bit of exercise to get the blood flowing. At the end of my day, I get some time to clear my head, a chance to use my muscles. I get home happy and refreshed. Ready, as someone else put it, for act two of my day.

It is, with no hyperbole or exaggeration, one of the best parts of my day. Even this week, when it's been so cold. (It snowed on Monday and is supposed to snow again tomorrow--very unusual for this area.) Once again, it's making me wonder why more people don't bike commute. The most common excuse I hear for this is, "But there's no shower where I work. I don't want to be all smelly." Fear not, friend! Bike commuting and a lack of nasty smell do not have to be mutually incompatible, and I'll share my secrets as to how. I have years of experience getting to work under my own steam in all kinds of weather conditions, without stinking up the office.

This is going to seem quite obvious, but deodorant is your friend. I've gone all crazy-hippie and just use baking soda (I smell like me rather than flowers, just a not-bad-smelly version of me), but really any deodorant will work. As well as the usual spots to put deodorant, however, I also suggest that you place some at the top of your inner thighs, right in the crease. Why? Because that's one of the other places you'll sweat the most.

Bring a change of clothes. I mean everything. Really, everything. When it's warm out, you'll want to change it all anyway, right down to your sweaty underwear. (Ew.) If it's wet out, you'll probably end up wanting to change your underwear as well as your outerwear, even if you have fenders. I was quite thankful, earlier this week, to have a full change of wardrobe when the skies opened up on me during my ride. I was drenched. Not sitting on wet underwear all morning made my day much more pleasant.
And when you don't feel the need to change your underwear? It's small and lightweight. It's not going to make or break your ride, and when you do need it you'll be very thankful you have it. Just, um, put it in a bag or something. Apparently mine hooked onto my Nook when I pulled it out of my bag the other day, and I ended up with underwear quite noticeably sitting next to me on the bus.
Of course, there are also those who say that it's most comfortable to ride commando, and I admit I've done that plenty of times too. (I find it neither more nor less comfortable.) Just, you know, don't forget your underwear. You don't want the embarrassment of having packed a skirt and no underwear, to walk around all day with the uncomfortable feeling that at some point your skirt would flip up and you'd flash your coworkers. Just trust me on that one.

Along with my change of clothes, I also have a change of shoes. I'm not going to walk around in my bike cleats all day, that would not only be unprofessional looking and annoying (the clacking...), it would be uncomfortable. I don't like standing in those shoes or walking in them for too long. They were definitely made for riding.
There's nothing saying that you have to have special shoes for riding, of course. In that case, it still might be nice to take a second pair, however. First, on rainy days you're not going to want to wear wet shoes all day. Second, you might not want to wear your cold-weather biking shoes in your office all day. Third, sweat. Always the enemy of the office cyclist, sweat.
Again, though, you don't have to change shoes. HusbandX ran into the problem of smelly bike shoes, since he didn't have enough room to carry them or anywhere to store a second pair at the office, and a friend suggested that it could be solved with a very simple homemade item. Take a pair of socks and fill them with dried beans or rice, or both. Then add something good smelling, either essential oils or cloves and orange peels, cinnamon sticks. Sew the socks shut. Whenever you're not actively wearing your shoes, put the special socks in them. The beans and rice will absorb moisture while the essential oils or citrus and spices will take care of any smell.
Wash the shoes regularly, too, if you can.

With my long lunch break I went
for a walk downtown.

Especially for ladies, have a few hair supplies on hand. I can't speak to guys' experience, but helmet hair is just not a great look for most women. I keep some bobby pins and hair ties in a pouch with my ID, bus card, building card, office keys, bike lock key, etc. I also keep a spare pair of earrings in there, in case I forget to wear some. (Don't mock. Earrings can make a casual outfit seem a bit classier and more work appropriate. Since I almost never wear makeup, either, having small touches like that can make a difference in how I'm perceived--slobby or au naturel.)
I usually end up doing my hair on the bus. Nothing terribly elaborate, because bus, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve to make my hair look like I spent time on it without actually spending the time on it. It also helps cover things up if my hair is wet from my ride, or sweaty, or if I just didn't get a chance to wash it and it looks a little greasy. I'm quite certain that every other woman (and probably man, too) reading this post has her/his own tricks for hair, so just don't forget the supplies with which to do them. Like the underwear, they're small enough that you won't notice them weight-wise but they make a big impact on your comfort and the way you present yourself to others.

Take a sponge bath. Most of the time this shouldn't be necessary, but there are occasions when you find you've over-dressed for the weather, or you pushed yourself harder than usual to make it to the bus/to work on time, or you're just feeling slightly under the weather so your body has decided to rid itself of all fluids via your skin. It's simple enough to carry either a handkerchief/bandanna or a very small towel and I've found that they're invaluable, for so many reasons. Douglas Adams was on to something. Among its many uses, I can give myself a quick rubdown with my towel, plus some soap and water, in the most crucial spots. If you really plan ahead and have deodorant in your desk, smelliness won't ever be a problem. If you don't plan ahead on the deodorant, however, you're most likely still okay. If you really need it for some reason, you can always give yourself another quick rubdown later in the day.
You probably won't need the winter
biking gear I brought to my brother.

Everything I've mentioned carrying with me fits into a moderate sized pannier along with my lunch, bike lock, phone, and Nook or book. It's not particularly heavy and I can attach my helmet to it before slinging it over my shoulder for ease of carrying. (The strap is just large enough that I can hitch it up over my arm onto my shoulder.) I even have room for a small grocery run after work, if needed.
Everyone will have their own favorite method for carrying their stuff, of course. For HusbandX it's his beloved Osprey pack. (I mention the brand by name just because they've been so fantastic. Lifetime warranties, people! His previous bag finally gave out and they offered him a new one, free of cost. He got to pick out the color and everything.) I don't like having things on my back when I ride, so the pannier (which I stole from my brother) works well for me.

Why do I write so much about biking? It's not just because it's frugal, or because it's fun, or because it can change your life for the better and make you happier. It's so that shit like this doesn't happen. What kind of country do we live in, that motorists can kill bicyclists without any repercussions? We need to get a critical mass of cyclists going in this country to make it more normal, to put more infrastructure in place so that people can cycle safely, and so that drivers are aware of cyclists. I'm tired of hearing about how dangerous biking is, because it's not in most circumstances. It's unaware, oblivious, impaired drivers who are dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians, not the other way around. Considering the number of people who die in auto accidents each year, driving is just plain dangerous no matter what your mode of transportation is.

I came the closest I've ever been to getting hit last Friday. It was dark, but I had lights and reflectors. I waited at the crosswalk to get across to the bike path. I was doing everything the way I should, but I could not account for the woman who was going to come speeding up around the corner and turn right without actually looking right. I screamed, I waved an arm to get her attention, and in the end I had to stop forward motion by bracing myself against the vehicle. The only reason she didn't hit me was because she made an illegal turn into the far lane. Comforting. Don't worry, though, she didn't bother to stop and actually apologize or ask if I was all right. She just sped off.

And that? That's kind of a normal bike-and-car interaction. If anything's going to change, it needs to come from people like us. People who decide, you know what? I'm not going to let fear rule my life. I'm going to strap on a bike helmet and ride defensively, but I'm going to ride. I've heard of people riding with one leg, people riding with epilepsy or degenerative illnesses. There are definitely times when I feel like a star for biking. I usually feel pretty badass when I'm riding, because I'm doing what roughly 95% of the country won't. But the truth is, it's not a superpower that I have. It's not that others can't do what I do, it's that they talk themselves out of it. They won't. And that's plain silly. Why hold yourself back from something which has the power to make your life so much better?


  1. You ARE badass. Way to hack your commute to make it work for you!

    Also, the bus transition/colostomy bag story. OMG. As a longtime bus rider, I always appreciate freaky bus stories. But that one takes the cake.

  2. Thanks for this post! I haven't gotten into the swing of biking in the cold yet =/ But I think once I get some layers going and am more comfortable at my job, I will!

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