Traffic: To Endure Your Commute Is To Fail
It's winter so when the alarm shrieks your wake up call the sky outside is still dark and the idea of going outside, into that darkness, repels you. But you've got a job so you climb out of the warm bed and start putting on your riding clothes. You pull on some thin silk socks, then you slip a plastic bread bag over your feet and cover that with a pair of thick wool socks. You pull on your insulated tights and then your cycling shorts. You question your decision to sell your Subaru at the start of winter.
Outside it's worse than you imagined. The wind gusts, tearing the front door's knob from your hand and slamming the door shut. The cold makes your eyes burn and you wonder if you'll be able to endure the ten miles you need to ride. But you also know that if you simply endure, you'll never make it. To endure is to be victimized so instead you fight. You challenge the wind and the cold. You think, "This burning sensation on my face is but a trifle, and I will conquer it."
With a set jaw you mount your bike and begin pedaling. The slippery ice ruts grab your studded snow tires and make them behave as if they were made from ice themselves. Your bike slips and moves against your will. You wrestle with the handlebars, forcing them into position. You fight the environment.
But you keep pedaling and slowly you are drawn into the process. You learn what the ice ruts want and you begin working with them. You stop fighting, your anger subsides and still you are pedaling. Two miles down, eight to go.
Your movements are now smooth and you find that you enjoy this interaction with your environment. The road and the wind and the rising Sun have made their demands and now, you understand them. Your suffering and your fight against the winter harshness have turned to cooperation with it. There is no longer any need to endure, to suffer, to fight. Five miles down, five to go.
You're now very warm and the falling snow flakes melt as they hit your cheeks. And then, just as you notice this melting, imagining yourself as a projectile of heat traveling through a beautiful winter morning, the Sun breaks over the mountains to the east. Now the whole landscape looks as you feel, swathed in a warm glow, and you think, "Why haven't I been doing this my whole life?" Eight miles down and only two left.
You pass a side road with longing, wishing you had enough time to take the long route, to enjoy this winter morning as it awakens. There are crows circling overhead and the winter wind seems to possess magic that works better than coffee at sharpening your senses. You cut south onto a residential road to avoid the traffic of Main Street and you glance at the windows of the houses as you ride by. Smoke pours from chimneys and cars sit idling, warming up in preparation for their occupants. The thought of people inside those houses, sipping coffee and hot chocolate, is a sweet thought made sweeter somehow by your position out here, ensconced in the elements. And all this time, you've been communicating with the slippery, slushy road, speaking its language with subtle inputs on the handlebars, never fighting the road, but working with it in the only way it can be done, riding not as you want, not as you need, but something even better, you are riding as you must. You are in no position any longer to be counting the miles.
You arrive at work and as you walk in the door steam rises through the vents in your helmet and the receptionist looks amused. You recall that first step out your door this morning and vow that the next time you set out to ride to work you will remember to begin not with suffering or with a will to endure, but rather you will set out to do as you must, to ride a route through a winter morning. You also remind yourself to wake up earlier, so that you might take the long route in. You wonder why you ever bought that Subaru in the first place.