And I decided to go out for a walk
And do nothing except
Look everybody I see in the eyes
And not be the first to avert my eyes
No matter what
And I was planning to be gone for ten minutes
But things started happening
And I didn't return for two years
By which time I was the heavyweight champion of the world
And the expectant father of sixteen children
By thirteen different women
- Dan Bern "True Revolutionaries"
This song, and specifically these lyrics looped throughout my head on my Thursday evening as I pedaled Mr. Plow through the wonderful streets of downtown Pittsburgh. I hadn't been on a solo city ride in some time and what I could not believe was how many people were out, walking and cycling. But even though I was encouraged by how many people were out, I was discouraged by how many people seemed not to be enjoying themselves. And how many were ignorning the very people all around them partaking in the very same activity they were, uh, "enjoying". As is usual when I'm cycling, whether alone or with a group, I was smiling. Cycling represents such freedom and connection to community to me, but I grow concerned that others are doing for other, less fun reasons. Perhaps they're just showing their concern for the "environment" or trying to save money in fuel costs in the tough economic times, but whatever it was, it didn't seem like many were doing it for the joy of it. After noticing this, I decided to start smiling at every single walker or cyclist that I passed. I would look them in the eye, smile, and nod to them that I recognized and appreciated their endeavor to be active and enjoy the day. Throughout the day and evening I encountered 84 people and only two people smiled back at me. The rest had looks ranging from fear to completey nonplussed.
Perhaps it's just our culture of cell phones, internet and facebook, but it certainly seems the people on the streets are uninterested in friendly acknowledgement of their fellow humans all around them. On the positive side, however, I had a decidedly different experience on our Sunday mountain bike ride at Bavington. Every rider we ecountered that day on the trails was friendly and made some effort to say hi. It was also very nice to be smoked by local cyclist Tim, who blew by us on his single speed Moots, but still yelled out thanks for our moving aside. We had the good fortune to meet up again with Tim shortly thereafter as he finished a loop around the same time we did and he stopped on the road for a chat. Turns out he actually reads this blog (Thanks Tim!) and is aware of the BABES endeavors. Just shows once again in the balance and harmony of our wonderful world. Yesterday, they were as big as small dogs, yessir, yessir.