Bicycle Diaries: <i>You are what you roll</i>

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You are what you roll

The 2nd of 3 essays
books, bikes, and thinking

THERE were once six bikers in Daley Plaza waiting for the monthly Critical Mass to begin. Out of town tourists were also there taking pictures of their kids in front of the Picasso sculpture. They had heard of Critical Mass but they had never seen one before.

And so it happened that a curious tourist asked the six bikers, What exactly are you protesting?

The first biker, a messenger riding a fixie, took a sip of his beer and thought for a moment. We’re not protesting anything. Critical Mass is a big, rolling party!

The second biker, fully clad in Lycra, was leaning against her Bianchi. She shook her head. My friend, she said, you are mistaken. Critical Mass is much more than that. We are riding to prove that we have the same rights to these streets as the cagers.

The third, jumped off his freakbike. Both of you are wrong, he said. Anybody who knows anything can see that Critical Mass is all about anarchy!

The fourth turned down the stereo mounted on his bike trailer. Oh, how blind you all are! he said. It is very plain to me that the mass protest America’s addiction to oil.

The fifth was topless except for her helmet and strategically placed pasties. Shivering slightly, she declared, Critical Mass isn’t about one issue. Anyone can protest or promote whatever they want. All they need to do is pass out their fliers. Xerocracy rules!

The sixth biker, surrounded by his wife and 2 kids, had been listening nearby. At last he spoke. O foolish massers, surely you have lost your senses. This mass isn’t about partying, or advocacy, or anarchy, or Xerocracy; neither is it a protest. But anyone with a particle of sense can see that Critical Mass is fun!

Utterly confused, the tourist moved on. The six bikers, still waiting for the mass to begin, continued to argue. Each believed that they knew just what the mass was; and each called the others hard names because they could not agree.

The moral of all this, not unlike the ancient tale of the six blind men and the elephant, is that sometimes the bikers can see that truth and sometimes not because their perspectives are limited. So there may be some truth to what each of them said. Rather than arguing, each should've said, We all roll for different reasons. And Critical Mass is what each of us makes of it. It's nothing more, nothing less.

Next time,
you are what you think...

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