And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”
My goodness, for a while there I had been posting regularly and here I’ve subjected all you disappointed loyal readers to five consecutive days of silence. You’ll just have to make up the moral of the story yourself. Meanwhile, I will explain the silence in four words: Bicycle Alliance of Washington.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I rode my bike all the way there, “worked” there for 3 to 4 hours each day, and then rode all the way home. The irony of the situation is that I spend 1.5 hours getting there and getting home, so a 3-hour volunteering session equals 6 hours away from the house, half of which goes to travel time. Not particularly efficient, but boy have I logged a few miles (about 140 miles, I estimate) on my bike this week. All week the weather has hovered below freezing, often well below freezing in the morning and closer to 32°F in the afternoon. Then, when the sun sets, the temperature drops dramatically. On Thursday I rode in the 15°F weather in hiking boots and toe-clip pedals, and the ride felt horrifically difficult compared to regular clip-in shoes and pedals.
Moving right along. I have been working on what the Bike Alliance people call their “Office Manual,” and what I think of as a best practice document. So far I’ve documented the processes involved in two contract jobs the Bike Alliance covers for Metro: Dealing with the bikes left on Metro buses, and dealing with the bike lockers at Metro stations. Both of these activities actually generate revenue — I should say Revenue, since this is a nonprofit — for the Bike Alliance, and therefore receive top documentation priority. The actual documentation has proved difficult because the lady who does these activities firmly believes in all hard-copy procedures. Everything is in a different manila folder in some file cabinet or in a vertical organizer on her desk, and heaven help anybody who wants to try to find, let alone use, all the necessary folders to execute the tasks. Also, as she describes what she does, she keeps making comments that (a) Refer to a task entirely undocumented so far; (b) Refer to a previously-documented task and imply that what I got down the first time is totally wrong; or (c) Refer to something else totally unknown to me at the moment and that I cannot place anywhere in the manual.
I also had planned on making it a pretty complicated Word document with styles, hyperlinks, bookmarks, cross-references, the whole deal. Then on Thursday she casually mentioned that this other employee would actually finish the manual some other time. Unfortunately, the odds of The Other Employee actually knowing how to use and maintain a Word document of this sophistication is fairly low. I fear for the future of my already-messy document. And I had asked for Adobe Acrobat, not just Reader but the full powerful thing, on my laptop. Alas, when I went to start using it on Thursday, it was clear they only had Reader to offer me. Converting my very fancy Word document into a wonderful, linked, easily-usable PDF looks fairly remote at this point, since nonprofits don’t generally drop $500 for a piece of software.
Another feature my experience is the building. It is old, a narrow store-front that extends far into the back and sports extremely high ceilings and one enormous heater near the highest point. This heater periodically turns on and blows a powerful gust of very warm air straight up the length of the building from back to front. Unfortunately, it seems to have only the slightest actual warming effect for most of the building. I received a space heater on my first day there and spent nearly every hour there this week huddled as closely around it as possible. It tells the ambient temperature when you start it up and one day informed me that the building was 53°F. Better than the 20°F outside, for sure, but still pretty chilly for sitting around and typing. I have already left a warm fuzzy jacket there; this week, however, suggests that I might be wise to expand my warm shirt and pants wardrobe there, too.
On Thursday, Every, my liaison there, mentioned that she had accepted a tabling gig in Lakewood the next day. I offered to help and we agreed that I would show up at 8:30 on Friday. I did. We packed up the car, accidentally leaving behind the all-important Pierce County bicycle maps, for which there proved to be a fairly high demand, and arrived at Exit 122, Fort Lewis and Madigan Hospital, pretty much on time. There we stopped at the checkpoint, a guard examined our licenses, and sent us down to Exit 120. At the Exit 120 checkpoint they examined our licenses again and irritatedly told us to turn around and get a visitor’s pass. Oh. We might’ve appreciated that little tidbit from the guard at the previous exit. Anyway, at the visitor’s center we took a number and waited in a very Department of Motor Vehicles-like experience to get the pass. At the window the bored woman demanded our vehicle license and registration, which we had, quite naturally, left in the car. Eventually, having presented the zipcar’s paperwork, we did get the pass and drove back up to Exit 122, where we went through the wrong lane but they let us in anyway.
At Madigan Army Medical Center, we first missed the turn and then, when we got inside, spent a good long time wandering around totally lost. Nobody had given Every instructions on where to go or what to do at the hospital, but eventually we found a public space with tables all set up and other people tabling there. As we started to set up there, an Army guy appeared and escorted us to a different spot near the mess hall. He assured us that this was a good, high-traffic spot and sure enough, over the next three or so hours we did see lots of people and even talked to some of them. It was my first tabling experience and I think I did tolerably well. Nobody seemed horrified or disgusted at me, but I may not have been as pushy as I needed to be either. At about 1:00 we drove back to Seattle and I rode the bus back to the Bellevue Transit Center and then rode from there.
I am glad to have had the opportunity to see Every tabling and do some myself, and I expect I will do lots more of that type of activity in the upcoming 10 months. The major goal of my internship is to create a training program that trains volunteers to table for the Bike Alliance so that BAW employees don’t have to do it themselves. There’s no way the current staff — 5 people — could table at all the events in Washington state that they might want to have a presence at. My goal will be to help create a way to recruit and train volunteers to be that presence, to organize those volunteers, design a way to help those volunteers train more volunteers, and ultimately have an entirely volunteer-run Bike Alliance marketing program. This was just starting to dip my toes into my actual internship work. I am extremely intimidated at the huge job ahead of me. I know nothing about recruiting or organizing volunteers… but I’m sure I will by next November when the internship ends.
Today I took a break from riding my bike to do major bike cleanup. We brought the bikes inside, put ratty towels down, and did the cleaning in the warmth of the house. Then I made oatmeal banana cookies with chocolate chips and walnuts, which everybody agrees turned out very well and taste like banana bread cookies. In the afternoon the temperature peaked somewhere above freezing, so Mom and I took a nice two-hour walk to the Kingsgate Library through neighborhoods. It was very pleasant, if a tad chilly on the ears, which I forgot to cover. When we got home as I literally walked in the door, Dad handed me the phone and I had the pleasure of speaking to my husband,
who yesterday started his very slow cross-country journey (progress updates here).
I have really enjoyed these subfreezing days: They are sunny, dry, and still, beautiful biking weather and pretty much what I expect from winter bicycling. Alas, today we saw a warm front moving in, the clouds advancing like a wall. The weather predictions all involve precipitation, either snow or rain, for the foreseeable future. I may have to break out my studded tires for the Xtracycle if I want to ride tomorrow, since snow or freezing rain look likely. And I’m also thinking I should have asked for a pair of waterproof booties for Christmas, since my current neoprene booties do nothing in heavy rain.
And that, as they say, is that. In all I felt I had a pretty good, productive week. Tomorrow I may visit a church in Kirkland. Next week: Bike Alliance Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday again. I hope this 40-mile roundtrip commute gets easier before I have to do it 5 days a week. I have to say, though, I cannot wait until Bike to Work Week and the Commuter Challenge.