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The Glebite - Getting to Work

by Franklin McWhittle

The Glebite - Getting to Work
Franklin McWhittle

As mentioned in columns previous, I like to walk to work. It's a good way to get a little bit of exercise and a little bit of sun and it reduces pollution generated by taking the bus. You won't find a bigger group of earth killers than those bloody bus riders.

But I digress-as much as I enjoy my walk to work, constraints for time created by my high-pressured job have forced to me seek new environmentally friendly transportation alternatives that will get me to work quicker than walking does.

A bicycle would seem like the obvious choice, but the only problem is, I never actually learned how to ride a two-wheeler. My parents were rather protective when I was a child, and they were so afraid that I would get hurt, they refused to let me even try to learn. Riding around the neighbourhood with training wheels at the age of 17 was a particularly humiliating chapter in the life of Franklin McWhittle, that's for certain. Small wonder I didn't have many girlfriends in high school…..

I've been meaning to learn how to ride a bike for years now, but I've never got around to it. The thought of my wife out on the street holding me upright as I wobble feverishly from side to side like a drunken Centretown resident is probably a factor behind my reluctance to learn at 53 years of age. I can't say that visual would do much to help my image in the neighbourhood as a bit of a 'square.'

The next thought to cross my mind was in-line skating, which I see all of the young and attractive people doing along the canal, but I quickly shot down that idea when it dawned on me that in-line skating involves remaining vertical for extended periods of time, much like biking. I can't remain erect on ice skates, so why would in-line skates be any different?

Finally, I thought of another trend that I could try-a scooter. These ubiquitous devices are light, compact and require a bare minimum of athletic ability to operate, at least according to the huckster who sold it to me.

After shelling out for the purchase, the scooter stayed in the front foyer of our house for a couple of days before I mustered up the courage to actually ride it to work. The first dilemma I encountered was how to fit my Tilley hat underneath my protective helmet. Aside from its fashionable appearance, the Tilley is an essential tool for its impregnable protection from harmful UV rays. I managed to get the helmet on top of my Tilley, but it wasn't a very comfortable fit. I wonder if Tilley makes helmets-they should really look into it if they don't.

In hindsight, I guess I should have tried out the scooter on the street before I decided to take it directly to work. I discovered that it's extremely difficult to keep those things moving in a straight line. When I finally got out of our driveway, it took a good four or five minutes before I could even figure out how to turn the device-I thought it involved some sort of weight shift or sophisticated leaning. It was only after a couple of wipe-outs and some advice from little Robbie Wilkerson next door that I figured out that the machine was steerable by using the handlebar contraption. The sales chap at Scootermart never mentioned that in his sales pitch.

I'd like to say the rest of my journey was a breeze, but, well, I ruined a perfectly good pair of Hagar slacks, amongst some other things, including my pride, my dignity, etc….

'Highlights' of my two hour scooter journey to hell down Bank Street included almost taking out a couple of elderly ladies on the corner of James Street, scooting head on into a fiercely immobile wastebasket in front of a gaggle of sedentary bus riders waiting to board their gaseous, super-polluting beast of burden, and coming dangerously close to being sideswiped by a taxi cab. At least I did learn how to say 'have a nice day' in Persian. At least I think it was Persian. And I think it was "have a nice day."

The ironic thing is, the device I purchased to make my commute to work quicker actually slowed down my journey by a significant amount. It was about 10:30 by the time I finally staggered into work looking like I spent the night brawling in the Byward market. Why, I was so late, I almost wound up missing my carpool ride to our department's monthly afternoon picnic with the Minister! Talk about stress!

The scooter has stayed in my office for a couple of weeks now. It makes for an interesting conversation piece, and I think it makes me appear more youthful and athletic than I truthfully am, as long as none of my colleagues actually ever see me attempting to use it. I guess I'll just have to start getting up earlier in the morning if I want to get to work sooner.

Maybe after dark this evening when nobody's looking, I'll ask my wife if she feels like going for a bike ride of sorts.

Posted on July 27th, 2001

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