March 05, 2008

Now hit this part with a hammer until it comes off.

I'm in denial about the amount of schoolwork I have to do right now, so last night I went to a volunteer orientation for the Community Cycling Center. I did hit this part with a hammer, and it did come off, and it was good.

I've decided to do voluntary non-stressful shit with my spare time next quarter, instead of the voluntary stressful shit I have been doing this quarter by taking a class. Fuck my GPA enhancement project; it's not going to work anyway if I'm getting crappy grades because I'm too overwhelmed to do my classwork. So I'm going to pass up Gender In Crosscultural Perspective and Issues In Cultural Resource Management and instead I am going to volunteer at the CCC and maybe someplace else like the library or Humane Society. Bikes, books, fuzzy animals: all things that make me into a happier and less stressed human being. We like being a happier and less stressed human being.

*Interjection of sudden recollection: I have just remembered that I had a dream last night in which I got back a graded paper that I had turned in for some unspecified class. I was given a bad grade and scathing instructor comments for various crimes against grammar, including an absolutely unacceptable preponderance of run-on sentences and comma splices. When I looked back at what I had written, I found that I had indeed used an absolutely unacceptable preponderance of run-on sentences and comma splices. I was horrified. This shit has got to stop.*

So what is the Community Cycling Center and why does it need me to hit things with hammers anyway? I am so glad you asked.

The CCC is a Portland nonprofit. It's possibly the most Portland nonprofit in Portland, being entirely dedicated to helping people get bikes and ride them. They run a holiday bike drive in which they put together -- entirely from donations -- a fleet of 500 shiny, working, bitchin' kiddie bikes to be given away to bikeless kids in low-income families. They run bike safety workshops and maintenance workshops and urban riding classes. They give away helmets and lights and reflectors and other devices for not getting killed. They have a create-a-bike-commuter program for adults who don't have cars and can't afford them, and they deck out huge fleets of nice townie bikes with comfy seats and good street tires and fenders and lights and locks and cargo racks (and helmets), and from advertising through social service agencies they have a 3-month waiting list of folks who want to come have a half-day safety & maintenance workshop and get a bike for their trouble.

I know the first thing about fixing bikes, and at the moment that's about all. I cannot build complicated parts or replace broken whatevers or determine if this worn-out dealie is going to snap off and kill someone, and you might think this makes me fairly useless to the CCC. Not so! they say. Improbably enough they welcome volunteers of all skill levels, and they have a weekly drop-in volunteer night where you can help them take apart crappy donated bikes for parts and recycling and bit by bit learn things like this is how you take off a freewheel. And after you've done that a few times you start to know enough to learn things like this is how you take the rusty bits off a fixable bike without damaging it and then you're halfway to this is how you build a bike from scrap parts so the mechanics can tune it up and make it ridable. And it's a glorious combination of helpful for their projects, and useful for your own ability to figure out what the fuck has gone wrong with your ride now, and totally satisfying because at the end of the day what you are doing is taking big greasy things apart with tools.

Last night I greasily learned that there are occasions on which it is appropriate to hit a bike with a hammer, and they are not the occasions I have thought of on my own (namely, when you are frustrated by another goddamn flat tire). It turns out that the right time is actually when you are taking the fork off the frame. It's an amazing strategy; you carefully loosen this bolt and then you whack the fuck out of it until it lets go.

Here is how much that helped: through misfortunes of timing last night, I didn't get home or have dinner until 9:45 pm. I was surrounded by strangers and required to take in new information on an empty stomach... and all of this with looming school deadlines hanging around the back of my head?

Didn't really bother me. Turns out when the tool you've got is a hammer, anxiety and low blood sugar just look like ordinary nails.

Posted by dianna at March 5, 2008 11:09 AM