So, remember how a few days ago I had some trepidations about cycling around town and what not. Well, after a mere few days…it turns out that I’m quite good at biking.
In fact, some might be tempted to compare me to a cross between Lance Armstrong in his prime and Alberto Contador, minus the performance enhancing drugs, of course. I might not go that far myself, but I’m beginning to zip around with mediocre of them.
The fact that I get passed up by girls is beside the point…I routinely dominate those in the 65+ age bracket. I think the light bulb moment for me was the realization that when you’re on a bike, you have to pretend that you’re driving a car. In other words, you have to put yourself in the same positions that you would if you were driving and trust the vehicular operators to respect your space. This does require a great deal of trust, but so does driving when you really think about it.
Second, when all else fails…it’s important to remember that when it comes to biking (at least in Cambridge) there are no rules. While you are ostensibly supposed to stick to roads (not sidewalks) and obey traffic signals…people’s adherence to these norms is quite ephemeral. When push comes to shove…bikers pretty much go wherever they like, whenever they like.
I did hear one old school codger shout down a fellow biker today for running a traffic light…but I think he was an exception (and mainly just annoying since he was getting up in other people’s business…one of my pet peeves). For the most part though, it is pretty much a kill or be killed culture, in a metaphorical sense.
The biking culture is certainly an interesting aspect of Cambridge that one must adjust to. Another is the required student parlance. For example, most interactions with fellow students…especially directly after classes…invariably involve the question, “how did you find the lecture?”
First off, it’s important to note that he or she is not asking you by which route you managed to arrive at the lecture, but what you thought about the content. Second, I’ve found from careful observation that the proper response takes two general manifestations.
If you liked the lecture, then you should give a slight sniff, tilt your head slightly askew with the chin up, let your eyes glance up into the great beyond, and say something like, “I found it…quite enlightening. It really made me question…the very essence of my humanity.”
If you’re on the receiving end of such a pronouncement, the proper response is a slight squinting of the eyes, a purposeful nod of the head, and a simple, “Yes, I agree.”
On the other hand, if you didn’t care for the lecture, you should shake your head grimly and say something like, “It was a bit descriptive for my taste…and I didn’t feel as if there was enough room for theoretical exploration.”
The proper response for such a pronouncement, in my opinion now, is to snicker and walk away.
I’m by no means saying that people here are pretentious or anything…I think it’s just part of the unwritten code. And as I’m sure you all know…I don’t mind taking a bit of poetic license with my renderings. It’s actually all quite fun really.
For example, I felt quite cosmopolitan today sitting in the little café in my departmental building, sipping a café mocha (from an actual glass mug), and reading The World is Flat. I’ve never been any place where I didn’t feel the need to stifle interest in an academic subject or intellectual pursuit to fit in. Here it is definitely the opposite. I’m sure that’s the way it is at any supposedly high level institution, but the British formality adds a little extra je ne sais quoi.
One last note, to go along with my bike riding, I invested in a backpack to make commuting easier. The best part…it’s made by Konvict Clothing. Yes, I know what you're thinking...I am that with it.
Once I saw the label, there was no doubt which backpack was coming home with me.