getting above the inversion
Grandma went home the day before yesterday after spending the past few weeks with us and whenever she leaves I feel like a boot camp survivor: Battered and bruised, mentally tougher. Scarred, maybe. Burning rubber at the airport terminal after guilty bittersweet goodbyes on the curb, I still always come down with a case of the sad empties for a day or two after she has been gone. I know everyone loves grandmas. But we love Grandma a lot. I’m so grateful the boys are close to her even though she lives on the other side of mountains and great plains in faraway Lake Michigan Country.
The boys’ mom was gone this past weekend for work, down to the Columbia River Gorge. The scene I’m sharing tonight is from another time she was absent and we were lucky Grandma happened to be visiting. This was during the time of a memorably prolonged, ridiculously stubborn inversion that covered the Puget Sound lowlands with fog for weeks. Through and through, I’m a gloomy-weather person (behold the light of books) but this particular inversion had become so oppressive as to produce the general emotional sensation of being strangled by a damp comforter. I could barely withstand the rain-less drear anymore when Adam’s school closed for an in-service day and Grandma gave us her blessing to pack lunches for a day of wandering in the mountains, where evidence existed the sun had not burnt itself out. She even made our lunches, she wanted me the heck out of the house if it meant a brick had to be thrown in the direction of my head and Adam made to drive us out of town.
I thought I was going to tear my clothes off and roll in the nearest elk wallow I was so happy to be out of the fog! It was peculiar to look upon this scene and imagine everyone in Seattle going about their foggy existences. I’ve never felt more faraway from home.
Last Friday, I rode the cargo bike all the way up our street. This was perhaps one of the more impressive feats of athleticism in my history. It felt athletic to me but the end result was I felt like a centaur the rest of the weekend: The lower half of my body was reduced to one of those sand-filled, orange construction barrels you see on the highway. My upper half was still all of a man, minus bow and arrow. Four words: Immediate Onset Muscle Soreness.
Sheesh, last week was the first time since the cargo bike experiment started that I felt like a moving target on the road. I’ve worked diligently to find safer, quieter back-door routes to Oliver’s preschool, some mornings I’ll backtrack a couple blocks for safer passage or tackle a more fearsome hill because it means less traffic. Coming home is always quicker and pretty breezy (and bumpy down the old-time cobblestones at the top of our hill). Unfortunately, a certain reality creeped in like fog on Friday when a school bus driver overtook me on 15th Avenue East (i was hurrying home to get Adam on his bus) and brought tons of steel within twelve inches of my two hundred and six bones, nearly sandwiching me between his bus and cars curbside. We arrived at a red signal together where I diplomatically (there were children on the bus) pantomimed with open arms as to my lack of, er, personal space. The Cyberdyne Systems Series 800 Model 101 Version 2.4 Variant Bus Driver regarded me coldly and pointed backward to indicate I was welcome to ride behind him and while I was contemplating this he left me in diesel fumes, accelerating away faster than the average drag racer. Dumbfounded and shaken, later in the morning I consulted with a friend who is a bus driver for Metro, bicycle advocate and someone of the highest integrity, in order that I could be availed of an honest assessment regarding the situation and he advised me to report the bus number to the school district. I’m taking a raincheck on that advice: Presumably, the Terminator is driving the same route for the entire year and the last thing I need is to be an easy-to-run-over reminder of a demerit (-1?) on his employee record. Instead, I’m thinking of baking a pie for him. Innocent and careless accidents, inattention, wildness, sheer stupidity: It’s a jungle out there and I certainly don’t need anyone gunning for me to up the ante.
The neighbors filled up their hot tub with a fresh batch of water. The ants who took up residence in the kitchen a few months ago have abruptly disappeared. Speaking of school buses, Adam’s driver is still learning her route and it resulted in an hour and a half delay on the first day of school (Grandma waited in the rain, Oliver Fern and I found her sitting quietly on a chopped-down tree by the side of the road). Lucky for us, Adam’s driver has whittled down the learning curve a half hour. She seems like a nice person who isn’t prone to running pedestrians or bicyclists over but therein lies the paradox of the wild west road in America: Even some of the nicest people turn into buttholes at the steering wheel. Trust no one.
This afternoon, Oliver and I set up beach chairs at the bottom of the hill to wait for Adam. Passerbys smiled or gaped at us, waved a couple times even. Because I’m a sweet or weirdo dad hanging out with my kid on the side of the road? Oliver and I passed the time reading books and counting bicycles, 33 pedalers in a half hour along this section of the designated Lake Washington Bike Route. I was expecting gobs more bicyclers, my unrealistic expectations perhaps stemming from the fact I’m reading a weird little book about Amsterdam In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist. At any rate, we observed mostly zippy people on road bikes. No big guys on their big bikes. A vaguely crazy man stopped his car in the middle of the road to engage me in a discussion about the Bridges to Nowhere in the Arboretum and ask my opinion about the once-proposed freeway that would’ve obliterated gobs of neighborhoods, splintering hundreds of backyard chats if not completely drowning them out. Our discussion was a stimulating one but I was starting to wonder in-the-world if he had a point aside from a desperate need for spontaneous human contact. And then Adam’s bus suddenly arrived.