In January there was a week of bitter cold weather. The wind chill was amplified by being on the bike. I had been reading all about the cold weather from friends across North America on social media. I avoided these silly discussions. Every year that I can remember since childhood, it has always been cold at some point between September and March. Making a fuss about the annual occurrence seemed a waste of time.
Although I usually won’t complain about the conditions, I have the good sense to know when it’s time to come inside from the cold. I had been riding daily for Elite Couriers as the cold began punishing those in the north. My training rides went from several hours to a one mile jaunt to the gym where the steam room was utilized for thawing purposes.
My friend Ethan posted a message on Facebook about needing a mechanic for a new bike shop. As the manager, it was his responsibility to find someone capable of assembling or repairing bikes and had the ability to build wheels. Having all those talents and living nearby, I knew I could be indoors during working hours. I took a temporary position to give Ethan extra time to find a permanent wrench. I would escape the clutches of Old Man Winter.
On Monday morning I awoke to falling snow outside of my window. Success! I had beaten the system. I could still earn income without suffering in the muck. I assembled new bikes with the comfort of music playing.
The next day as I left the house, the temperatures had risen. It was balmy, almost like a spring morning when one would expect to see tulips blooming or buds sprouting from the trees. Inhale. Exhale. Aah. It was a great day for a bike ride. I thought of two long rides I wanted to do, but was sadly headed indoors to wrench on bikes.
Wednesday morning the weather was beautiful. The day’s high was warm like those mid spring days when the cherry blossoms send petals cascading downward mimicking snow. Damn. I really wanted to be outside on my bike. I could see several of my friends rolling past the shop enjoying the day. My plan was to spare myself the brutal commute and working in the cold. Mother Nature played a cruel trick. After agreeing to working indoors, the temperatures were mild and pleasant.
Thursday was to be my last day in the shop as the Ultra Orthodox Jewish owners have half day hours on Friday and Saturday completely off. As I organized the order of bikes on the showroom floor, a rep from cycling company visited to present apparel available for sale to customers. It was quite interesting watching the rep discuss women’s jerseys “in a variety of colorways” to a man whose community strictly adheres to a dress code of all black everything except white blouses and shirts. The irony was that a few years earlier, the Hasidic Community fiercely lobbied Mayor Bloomberg to remove existing bike lanes due to “scantily clad” women rolling through South Williamsburg Brooklyn. Their wardrobe would inspire immoral behavior among members of their pious sect.
Building and repairing bikes I can do. Bridging the divide between religious doctrine heavily ingrained into the Hasidic community and the fast paced lifestyle of New York cyclists I cannot on my own. It will take years. While I wish them every success with the new shop promoting cycling, I had to return to the road. I love riding.
At the end of the week as the Hasidim prepared for the sabbath, I returned to the chaotic messenger scramble in Manhattan. The weather, almost as if scheduled, resumed its punishing cold. I rode through another day of heavy winds and snow. I had been reminded that life as a messenger in the winter is brutal and relentless.