What Climate Change Looks Like

Here in Seattle, people always joke that maybe climate change wouldn’t be so bad. We wouldn’t mind a little extra warm weather in the summer, thank you very much!

Well, here’s what that looks like.

Thanks to smoke from wildfires burning in Canada, Eastern Washington, Oregon, and California, the air quality has degraded to dangerous levels around here. It gets especially bad when our handy-dandy oceanic air conditioner turns off, like it did on Sunday.

Now we can’t go outside. Our home is hot, and getting hotter, and we can’t cool it off because we can’t open the windows. I can’t commute home by bike, let alone keep training, because I can’t breathe — it hurts eyes, nose, and throat to be outside any extended period of time (like more than 10 minutes), and goodness only knows the long-term impact to our lungs. We all feel low-grade sick, with runny noses, sore throats, and coughing.

Here’s what that looks like on the ground. Unhealthy Air: Vanishing Seattle Unhealthy Air: Orange Sunrise Unhealthy Air: No Olympics Unhealthy Air: No South Sound Unhealthy Air: No Mt. Rainier

This is what climate change looks like in the Pacific Northwest. Now tell me that we should consider cutting the Clean Air Act, vehicle fuel standards, and other environmental protections designed to combat climate change.

The Full Bus Bike Rack, the Sad Bicyclist, and the Kind Commuter

I like bike/bus commuting. Or, let me put it this way: if I have to spend 60 to 90 minutes each way commuting, I prefer to include my bike as well as the bus. I like being able to ride my bike home directly. If I’m taking a bus home, the bike lets me catch any of about five different buses that all go within about five miles of my house.

But. The catch. There’s always a catch, right? Here’s the catch: Metro buses only have space for three bikes on the front rack. When that rack is full, any other riders with bikes have to wait for the next bus.

This almost never happens. It’s amazingly unlikely. Until a few weeks ago, I’d had maybe one time when the rack was full in 18 months of daily commuting.

Then something changed. Now the rack on my normal 7:15 bus is almost always full before it gets to my stop. So I leave the house at 7:05, wait about 10 minutes, and the bike rack on the bus that pulls up is full. I have to wait for the next bus, which comes between 7:30 and 7:35. By then I’ve been at the stop about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, traffic is worse at that time, so that trip takes several minutes longer than the 7:15 trip.

That means that instead of getting to work a little before 8:00–and thereby being able to leave between 4:00 and 4:30–I get to work at between 8:20 and 8:30. So then I have to stay at work 30 minutes longer, get home 30 minutes later, and spend an 30 minutes less with my family. On those days, I get home at closer to 6:30, which is barely early enough to do bedtime with Benji.

So when the bike rack is full, I leave the house at 7:05 and get home at 6:30. That’s just frustrating. I already have a long commute, and then having the stupid bike rack full makes my commute and my whole day even longer.

Today, the third time this happened this week, I saw the rack was full and just sat down and cried. It was so frustrating, so unfair, so infuriating, so disappointing and discouraging, after weeks of dealing with this happening repeatedly, it finally crushed me. I didn’t even care that this line of like 20 or 30 people all waiting for a bus was watching me have a meltdown.

I sat and cried, and you know what? From that long line of cynical commuters pretending not to see me fall apart came a really sweet young lady. She came over and asked if I was okay and if she could do anything. When it was clear there wasn’t anything to be done, she offered to just give me a hug–which I accepted. Then she sat and talked with me until her bus came. She’s going into her sophomore year in college next year and hopes to play viola professionally when she graduates. She was incredibly sweet, kind, and amazingly empathetic and mature. I was deeply impressed.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere: people aren’t all terrible, or the power of kindness, or something. I’m not going to worry about the moral of the story, but I know she gave me a lot to think about.

Because that’s who I want to be. The person who sees someone in pain and doesn’t just pretend it’s not happening. Who steps out and gives kindness when it’s needed–not on a big national scale, worrying about big political disasters and impacts to millions of people, but at the one on one level where we all live every day. That’s what we all need.

Sleeping on the Job

If you’re like me, you’ve heard urban legends about the transformative power of power naps. The anecdotes I always heard involved some high-powered, on-the-go person who carved out just a few minutes a day to rest at work and voila! Life miraculously makes sense again. More energy throughout the rest of the day, more effective at work, etc., etc.

Sure, sure. Whatever you say.

A few months ago, I was extra-exhausted at work. I forget why, but the afternoon doldrums hit particularly hard, and I could barely keep my eyes open. It felt like given even the tiniest opportunity, I’d fall asleep right at my desk.

I figured, okay, I’m not getting anything done anyway. I’ll go just sit in one of the phone booths with the light off and rest for 15 minutes. To be safe, I set an alarm on my phone.

Needless to say, the second I got relatively comfortable in that dark little room, with the whoosh of the elevators and the murmur of devs talking about things I don’t understand… I feel asleep.

About 10 minutes later I woke up, disabled unneeded the alarm, and went back to work. At first I felt a little groggy, but within a few minutes I actually did feel better. The entire rest of the day, in fact, I felt more alert and engaged. So much better than I’d felt only a few minutes before.

Since then, when I’m overwhelmingly exhausted and ready to drop off at my desk, I’ve napped at work. Every time I fall asleep, and every time I feel 1000% better afterwards. I have been astonished at the difference such a short rest makes in the remainder of my day.

I guess I’ll join the ranks of the power nap evangelists, because I’m a total convert.

Oh, That’s Saturday

Thanks to Ian, I get to spend most of every Saturday biking. It’s the part of the week I finally don’t worry about anything harder than not getting dropped. It helps keep me sane. I ride on Saturdays rain or shine, heat or cold; the only exception is extreme wind or ice.

The other exception is when I’m sick. This week wasn’t my best for health: On Tuesday I got a cold from Benji. But I spent all of Wednesday, the Fourth, lounging in bed watching Netflix (thanks, Ian!), and by Thursday I felt much better. Friday I planned to do the usual Saturday ride, maybe albeit a little slower than usual.

Then, on Friday night, I got some kind of what I suspect to be food poisoning. It wasn’t pretty for about four hours there, is all I’m going to say about that. After which I went to sleep (it was the middle of the night, naturally) and woke up feeling normal. Definitely some kind of food poisoning, but to be on the cautious side, I decided to move my ride from Saturday to Sunday.

It was then decided (to use passive voice for its intended purpose, which is obscuring how/and who) that Ian would get a little mini-vacation day, while I took Benji. Thus it was that I got to see what normal people might do with a Saturday, given the whole day in which to achieve…uh…achievements.

Okay, let’s not get hung up on the use of “normal”; moving along, let’s instead get to the point of the post, which is this list of things I got done on Saturday:

  • Sort through a bunch of old clothes and bag a bunch up for Goodwill.
  • Wash a ton of dishes left from Friday night. It was a lot.
  • Drop Ian off at the place where he was going to hang out and do some stuff by himself.
  • Take Benji to Hillcrest Bakery for a little treat (where he ate the entirety of an enormous chocolate croissant, but only after agonizing between that and an apple fritter the size of his head).
  • Go grocery shopping with Benji. He stuck with me most of the time, but we went by the kids’ room where there’s a super nice attendant who will watch your kids while you shop, and he wanted to go in to play. So I finished up without him. When I came back to pick him up, he said, “Oh no, it’s time to go already?!” Then he started negotiating about when he’d get to come back.
  • Pick up CSA veggies and do the CSA kids’ garden. Benji also found a rainbow array of glass chips in the parking lot of the CSA parking lot, which is graveled with a ton of glass chips. I don’t know where they get them, but they aren’t sharp anymore. He did that, and then he picked some carrots and beets and a zucchini in the kids’ garden. Learning moments: Those squash plants are prickly! Also, to pull veggies, you need to grip at the base of the stem, near the dirt, rather than at the top of the leaves.
  • Put away all the food and wash a bunch of the veggies (although I did save the lettuce for Ian).
  • While also getting Benji some lunch, make two loaves of zucchini bread to use up the zucchini ASAP. To use up everything we got, I put in twice the amount of shredded zucchini, and the recipe turned out just fine–if anything, moister and more tasty than usual.
  • Make teriyaki sauce for the first time (easy) and start marinating some meat for today’s dinner. Hope that turns out okay!
  • During quiet time, wash dishes from the zucchini bread and eat lunch.
  • Mow front yard… it’s really mow the weeds, as the grass has stopped growing for the summer. We don’t water and I always look forward to the grass dying so we don’t have to mow any more. I’m sure our neighbors love this strategy.
  • Start weeding front yard. It may be dry, but that doesn’t stop the weeds from growing… and boy howdy, do they grow. There’s still a lot to do. While I was finishing that up, Ian got home from his adventures.
  • Take Benji to Bridle Trails for a 3-mile, zucchini bread-powered hike with Grammy and Papa Gary. As a bonus, we found ripe salmonberries, huckleberries, and some tiny native blackberries. Yummy!
  • Get leftovers together for dinner, probably the easiest part of the day. After that, Ian took Benji for a bubble bath and bedtime, and I collapsed on the couch for a couple episodes of Queer Eye (more on that another time).

Apparently that’s what I can do with a whole uninterrupted day. I can definitively say that if I wasn’t gone for 4 to 6 hours every Saturday, our house and yard would look much nicer, we’d have a lot more baked goods around, and–most difficult of all–I’d be able to give Ian a better break, plus get more quality time with my child.

Well, as time goes by, we keep finding a new balance for what works for us. I guess the thing about balance is you don’t just get it and you’re done. It’s a process that requires constant work and adjustment. On a bike, if you aren’t constantly making tiny tweaks (and sometimes large swerves, depending!), you’re going to tip over. Maybe that’s also true in life.

Fourth of July: God Bless ‘Murrica

This year I spent Fourth of July in bed watching Queer Eye on Netflix because it was my first, most miserable day of a virus shared (no surprise) by my adorable child. Although I missed Benji’s appearance in the town’s children’s parade, I didn’t miss the opportunity to hear my neighbors setting off fireworks until the small hours of the morning.

Which got me thinking.

Fireworks set off by individuals (as our neighbors did last night until all hours) are truly the perfect American way to celebrate our country. They:

  • Terrify to babies, pets, and veterans, all of which we profess to love, and infuriate our neighbors trying to sleep;
  • Generate literally tons of garbage that someone else (ahem, City of Bothell!) has to clean up;
  • Also generate completely unnecessary air pollution that can’t be cleaned up;
  • Start fires that rage out of control, cost millions to stop, and — bonus! — destroy vast swathes of nature at the same time, all out of carelessness; and
  • Have the potential to cause physical harm to the lighter and viewers.

And yet we persist, because we don’t give a sh*t that what we want harms others.

God Bless Murrica. Amen and good night.

Diary of a Commute Bike

This morning started like all normal mornings. The garage door opening let in sunlight — sunlight isn’t the normal part. I mean the garage door opening.

Then my partner, who’s the engine, and I did a short trip to a bus stop. It only takes a couple minutes, but we always have to stop two or three times. I don’t like having to stop so much, and sometimes the engine seems a tad anxious, too–usually when we leave a little later. But we usually make it to the bus stop before the bus.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Bus Stop

We spend a lot of time standing around here. I don’t know why. I’m perfectly capable of doing the whole ride to work, but my engine insists on riding the bus.

Diary of a Commute Bike: On the Bus

I don’t care for riding the bus so much. Bikes are made to have both wheels firmly on the ground, thank you very much.

But once we go across the two bridges and get to the busy noisy place, we get off the bus and my engine and I get rolling again for another short trip with many stops.

There’s a few things I don’t understand about the busy noisy place.

First, we have to stop all the time – six or seven times, maybe more, in less than 10 minutes of travel time. We would get there much faster if the engine wouldn’t stop me so often.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Seattle Stop Light on 7th Ave

Second, sometimes I noticed we get our own special road just for partnerships like us.
Diary of a Commute Bike: 7th Ave Bike Lane
I see lots of us zooming around. The other day we went on one special road for a very short way–about 0.3 miles, the computer told me–short, but super fancy. Later I heard the engine mention that road cost $3.8 million.

What I want to know is: Why’d someone spend all that money for that? My engine and I like our special roads, but just marking it with paint is good enough for us. We didn’t care for the fancy raised up section and the way it feels like we’re on the sidewalk with the intersections with driveways. Sidewalks aren’t for us! Why are they making pretend sidewalks and calling them bike roads?

Anyway, we got to the dark place where I hang out with my friends while the engine does other stuff for a long time.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Hanging Out

As usual, I spent the day there hanging out and shooting the breeze with the other bikes there. I’m meeting lots of unfamiliar bikes who say they only go out when it’s sunny. I say, what’s the point of that? I have fenders, and the engine seems to work okay in the wet, although maybe not as optimally as when it’s sunny. I don’t know why that should matter, but apparently it does.

Eventually, the engine came back and we rode back to the garage home, where we started. I don’t understand why the engine does this most days — not every day, but mostly five days out of seven. Why??

Sometimes she seems to like seeing what’s out there, like on this ride…

Diary of a Commute Bike: Pretty 520 Sky

Diary of a Commute Bike: Pretty Lake Washington

… But other times she hardly looks around at all. What’s the point of that?

Anyway, I’ve noticed there are places — always at the same spots — where the engine pedals slower but breathes a lot louder. She did it again on the way back this time, even though I’m sure I heard her say she was going to not breathe heavy while riding for a while.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Market Street

I’m not sure why we have to slow down so much on those sections, or why she seems to be panting at times, but after those times, I often get to go fast.

I love going fast! It’s my favorite thing!

Except sometimes the engine slows us down for no reason I can see. And sometimes she doesn’t help at all — I have to do all the work. How fair is that?! When it’s up to me, I always make sure we roll along plenty fast.

On the way back, we have an awful lot of times we have to stop. I don’t like that. I want to go faster. We especially already stop at some of those places almost every time.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Eastside Stoplight at Bellevue Way

Diary of a Commute Bike: Kirkland Stoplight at Lake WA Blvd

Diary of a Commute Bike: Stoplight at 132nd and 100th

Maybe the engine likes the view?

Anyways, lately I’ve noticed all this fluffy white snow floating around, except it doesn’t melt and it’s much warmer than regular snow. But just like regular snow, it piles up on the sides of sidewalks and the road.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Cottonwood Fluff

At first I was nervous going over it. Snow is slippery. But this stuff wasn’t slippery at all — just super fluffy. I noticed the engine went with her mouth closed when there was the most fluff, but that seems ridiculous. I bet it tastes like sugar. Yum! If I had a mouth, I’d totally try tasting some.

So then we finished our ride home. I know the route pretty well, except sometimes the engine takes us different ways. Sometimes we just do loops with very slow parts and very fast parts; other times we just go on different roads and I’m not sure why.

Other times we meet up with the engine and bike partnership called “Dad,” and we ride along together. We used to meet up with another partnership called “Michael” quite often, but they moved to Australia and we never see them anyone. I’m sad about that. I miss my friend. I think Australia must be another big noisy place far from here.

When we got home this one day, there were two other engines out playing. My engine spends a lot of time with them. I think they must be extra-special to her.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Home

So that’s what my life is like. Maybe another time I’ll write about the days we don’t commute, and instead go on long rides. But right now I’m out of time. The bus is about to let us off in the big noisy place and we got to roll!

I hope we go fast.