Maybe 2 to 3 times per week, especially if I am riding in the early morning or into the evening, I’ll look up while I’m riding and see a day worker ahead of me, also on a bicycle.
He won’t be on a fast bike though, and chances are the chain on his bike will be dirty, if not outright rusty. His bike will probably have never been washed or cleaned, and he might be the 3rd, the 5th or even the 10th owner of it.
He will be riding at a much slower pace than me — a measured pace. Measured, inasmuch as he will be conserving energy for the labor he is on his way to perform all day. Or if I see him in the evening, measured because he has so little energy left from the labor he has given in exchange for the meager cash in his pocket.
A day worker, by popular definition, is someone from another country, generally Mexico or Central America, of legal or illegal status, who works for cash in support of the agriculture or landscaping industries. Day worker is an appropriate term. They work all day.
Because I am riding at a faster pace and riding for different reasons than he is, as soon as I see him, I know that I’ll be passing him. Honestly, I’m always ashamed to do this. Ashamed, not because I’m faster than him, but because I’ve got it so good.
He probably paid $20 for his bike at a thrift store or he might have gotten it for free. He doesn’t know what brand it is. He doesn’t care. All he knows about his bicycle, is that it gets him to work faster than walking, so he can make more money.
In the evenings, I often see him with a white plastic bag dangling from his handlebars or from his hand. Inside the bag there are tacos from a local Taqueria. He might stop in the park and eat them along side a couple of other day workers who are in the midst of a similar commute. Or, he may take them home to the trailer or apartment that he shares with several other people — possibly several other families.
It’s time for me to pass him.
The shame in passing him, as I’ve mentioned, isn’t because I have strong legs or because I have an expensive bike. The shame is because I’ve got it so good in my life. I don’t work nearly as hard as he does or nearly as much, yet I have much more to show for the work that I do.
My shame, of course, comes from my being born in a different zip-code than him.
I’m maybe 10-yards behind him and I want to call out “passing on your left“ which is the customary call for passing another hobby cyclist. Since he’s not a hobby cyclist and since he may not speak much English, I just look over my left shoulder to ensure no cars are approaching, I sweep to the inside of the road a bit, and pass him quietly with my head down. I might glance his way and if he glances back, I’ll smile and say hello, but this doesn’t happen too often.
My strong legs place me far ahead of him in short order. I feel as though he’s staring at me the whole time and that he thinks I’m a fool and that I know nothing about hard work. At this point, even if he doesn’t think this about me, I do.
I continue to pedal and I contemplate what his life must be like. I wonder if he has family here with him or if they are all below the border. I wonder what type of room he sleeps in at night and how much money he wires home each week by Western Union, so his family to the south can have a better life. I think about the amount of work he’s on his way to do or what he might have already done that day.
I keep pedaling.
Eventually, my thoughts of him thin and fade. I’ll begin thinking about my next client or getting my mom out to the thrift shop for an hour. I might wonder what my daughter is doing at that exact moment or if my cat is comfortable at home watching Animal Planet from the top of the sofa. A better sofa and a bigger TV, I think to myself, than the man on the bike that I just passed probably has.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 4
15.2 mph avg
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Curtis Mayfield. Enjoy…!