July 03, 2007

DIKY: Do It Kinda Yourself.

One thing that has been stressing me out lately is how to get my less packable belongings to Portland. The books are heavy and will cost a fortune, but they go into standard-sized boxes with minimal resistance. In fact, little besides clothing is more cooperative than books in fitting into a variety of box configurations. My bike, for instance, is probably the least pliable and compressible item I've ever owned. Runner up for the position was my guitar, which has all the nonstandard shape of a bike without any of its durability in shipping situations, but that problem was neatly solved by unloading it onto Jacob this weekend*. For the bike, not only do I not have a conveniently envious friend to take it but I also actually really want to have it with me in Portland.

I refuse to add a bicycle to my list of plane luggage when I will also be carrying a cat, a backpack (like the kind you go backpacking with) and one or two duffel bags to boot. I don't even know if you can get an airport shuttle that'll fit a bike, and while TriMet is bike-friendly I can't begin to imagine taking that much luggage through a train transfer.

That leaves shipping, and shipping means a box. Bicycles are not box-shaped items. Boxes are rectangular solids, while bicycles are combinations of dozens of unrelated geometric shapes assembled so as to maximize the volume-mass ratio of the whole. A box the size of a fully-assembled bicycle is a ridiculously enormous item. What I am saying here is that I was required to partially disassemble my bike in order to put it in a box that FedEx would not charge me $150 to ship. But me, I am no bike mechanic. I can pump up my tires but don't yet know how to change one. I can spell derailleur but hardly know what mine does until it stops doing it.

I called a local bike co-op today to find out if they would box my bike for me, and they told me that they don't box bikes for people but I could come in and get a box and use their tools for free. But see earlier remarks under "I am no bike mechanic", and I hesitated to be the n00b who couldn't be bothered to take a bike maintenance class but would nonetheless hang around their work area misusing tools and getting in people's way and needing help. So I just picked up a box and stomped hopefully with it up the hill to Kingman where my bike has been living. And lo, I found one of my bike-geek former housemates standing in the front yard stripping paint of off his own bike frame and I asked in a competent, ready-to-learn manner** whether he'd help me with my boxing.

Lo and behold, he would. And he taught me things like "this pedal goes this way but that pedal goes that way" and "you can take this sticky-out axle thing out of your wheel like so". And now I have a bike in a box and I know exactly what it took to get it there, and I'm pretty sure that when I get to Portland I can buy a hex tool and a crescent wrench and put it back together myself or with the help of a housemate. I may not yet have the encyclopedic knowledge and sheer brute competence of the hardcore do-it-yourselfer; I'm still a do-it-with-some-help-or-maybe-yourself-if-it's-pretty-easy-er. It's not impressive and it hardly rolls off the tongue, but at least it will roll down the street.

Also, if I had gotten the bike shop to box it up for me, they probably would have wanted to be paid in money instead of hummus.

*Who may find himself short one cord which would help attach guitar to pedal to amp and which still resides in a box in my room. I will attempt to transfer it in some way before I leave.

**I have found that asking for help in a cutely bewildered, endearingly helpless way gets one told not to worry as the task is fully done by others, while asking in a competent and determined way gets one actually taught how to do it and asked to put one's finger here, hold that, do this, and other useful hands-on things. Sometimes***.

***There are certain people at whom I routinely refrain from shouting because they cannot learn to listen to me when I tell them which kind of experience I am asking for. They mean well. If I count to ten very slowly I generally remember this.

Posted by dianna at July 3, 2007 10:14 PM