At about the halfway point of our ride is another day camp that is held on the lush campus of a private school. (Annual tuition $42,805 not including an additional $7,000 for books, supplies, field trips, etc., in case you're wondering.) By the time my son and I are passing through, the drop-off is in full swing, and a phalanx of traffic coordinators guide a seemingly endless procession of SUVs with license plates from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut (not to mention a whole bunch of yellow schoolbuses) through a series of orange cones and eventually to the entrance where, eventually, parents discharge their little campers.
And of course the entire process repeats itself in the afternoon during our return trip home.
To their credit, the staff clearly puts a great deal of effort into managing all this traffic, and they're always very considerate of us as we pass, but even so riding through this shitshow of an obstacle course is a real pain in the ass.
Americans--even New Yorkers--have gotten used to the idea that driving kids absolutely everywhere is normal behavior. However, when you ride a bike the scales fall from your eyes (or, if you prefer, the pie plate falls from your hub) and you see that a school run with the complexity of an airport drop-off is fucking insane. And sure, call me smug, but it seems doubly insane to drive all the way from Connecticut or New Jersey (or Manhattan for that matter) and then spend 15 minutes idling in a drop-off line so a kid can kick a soccer ball around on a field in the Bronx.
Oh, sure, I realize it's typical of a smug cyclist to pass judgment on others' choices. After all, I'm sure plenty of these parents have perfectly logical reasons for sending their kids to day camps out of state. For example, it's probably on the way to their Manhattan offices, and once they've completed the dropoff they they likely head downtown and curse the bike lanes as they sit in traffic on the Henry Hudson Parkway. Also, like all cyclists I'm a giant hypocrite, because even though I'd rather chew my own foot off than drive my kids to school or camp on a regular basis I still pile them into THE CAR THAT THE BANK OWNS UNTIL I FINISH PAYING THEM BACK for all sorts of other stuff when the mood strikes me. (I've got a trunk full of beach chairs and I'm not afraid to use them.)
Still, when you ride a bike around the neighborhood it's hard--really hard--to watch other parents subject themselves to this sort of thing and not wonder to yourself, "What the fuck are they doing???" It's also hard not to meditate on the moronic choices people make because of cars, whether it's commuting to another city go grocery shopping (guilty), or driving into the city during rush hour, complaining about the traffic, and then complaining about the bike lanes used by the people who actually live there:
I've certainly never considered myself an environmentalist, and my inclination to ride bikes a lot of the time is motivated mostly by joy and impatience, but it's getting harder and harder to ignore the implications of the stupid decisions we make because we're dumb and lazy. And it's not just or addiction to cars either. Consider air conditioning:
One #NYToday reader on flip-flops at the office: “Disgusting, filthy, revolting, repellent, repulsive, sickening." https://t.co/kNoUdRA1lf— NYT Metro (@NYTMetro) July 19, 2017
Sure, it's easy to laugh at flip flops, the footwear of choice for fans of Jimmy Buffett. At the same time, let's consider the fact that we squander an insane amount of energy in order to air condition basically the entire city so people who work in offices can dress like it's winter all summer long. Incredibly, many people on this planet actually dress appropriately for the climate in which they live, and that includes wearing some form of sandal (which is what flip flops are) even in formal situations. After all, as far showing your feet at work, if sandals are good enough for heads of state then who the hell are you to complain?
("I dare you to say some shit about my sandals.")
Yes, all over the planet entire countries go more or less barefoot, but you push some papers around at a legal firm so you shouldn't have to see some toes.
And sure, feet can be pretty damn funky, but this person should maybe get some help:
Thomas Beatty, 63, who retired from a job in hotels in Manhattan, had a much more colorful reaction to flip-flops in a professional setting.
“Never!” he said. “Disgusting, filthy, revolting, repellent, repulsive, sickening, nauseating, stomach-churning, stomach-turning, off-putting, unpalatable, distasteful, foul, nasty, vomitous.”
We're justifiably outraged when the Saudis arrest a woman for wearing a miniskirt, but we're aghast at the notion of someone exposing their little piggies.
(By the way, Thomas Beatty is totally a closet foot fetishist, and he's afraid if he catches a glimpse of some bunions he'll want to start "toe-jammin'.")
And while thinking flip flops are ugly, gross and noisy may seem innocent enough, it's really just another symptom of the same uptight attitude that keeps people from riding bikes places because "Eew, I'll get all sweaty." Perhaps if we came to terms with the fact that wearing less shit keeps you cooler, and that a little sweating is normal, and that the economy won't collapse if both these things happen at work, then chances are we'd be free to make more rational decisions about how to get around. (Not to mention dialing back on the AC a bit.)
Plus, I know a guy who used to wear flip flops to the office, and his name was Jesus:
And when he comes back you'd better believe he'll be wearing Tevas and riding a Citi Bike:
You have been warned.