Bicycle City

I didn’t get my drivers license until after I turned 22. In Portland, this actually seems to be not as uncommon as you might think. Excellent public transportation plus bourgeois vaguely environmental sentiment equals lots of late blooming drivers. Every single person I knew in college who didn’t have their license was a Portland native. So when I tell people I didn’t get my license until I was out of college, most people around here don’t bat an eye. Lots of people nod and say “me too.” They say, “I didn’t have a car, so what was the point?” This is when I have to hide my shame because I did have a car; I just didn’t know how to drive it. The reason I did not get my drivers license until I was 22 and one quarter years old is I did not know how to drive. Lots of people don’t know that.

I’m not so good with the whole transportation thing overall. I have a bicycle. It was my mom’s from when I was a tiny little kid, maybe before I was born, and she never rode it much, and I never rode it except for a couple of times around the subdivision in Wilsonville, so it’s a brand new bike that’s probably about a quarter century old. I am determined to start actually using my bike and giving the car that I have grown addicted to in the last four years a bit of a rest. Here’s the embarrassing part: Just like I was with my car, I barely know how to ride my bike. I mean, I can toodle really slowly around a cul-de-sac, but once there are roads and cars and bike lanes and hand signals and other bikes and pedestrians and hills, oh god the hills, I become somewhat less confident. Also, despite the fact that bike is practically unused, it is old and in not so pristine condition. The brakes are fossilized and the chain is rusty . Since I have no knowledge of bikes beyond those two things, it is quite possible that about a million other things are wrong with it as well. I need to take it into the shop and put myself at their mercy and I cannot tell a lie: this frightens me. That’s another thing about Portland — bike people. I’m going to bring my old dirty, falling apart practically antique bike in there and they are going to laugh me out of the store. It’s going to be like bringing your Packard Bell with Windows 95 into a computer shop. I’m going to go in there, all starry-eyed, and they are going to have to break the news that my bike has a had a very long life and needs to put down.

Or so it goes in my head. Maybe I will wait until tomorrow to call them.

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