“Dreadful” Day

Thursday June 19th…I am up early, packing what I will need for eight days up in Aberdeenshire…The Bikerz troupe will steer north after their gig at Gylemuir school.

It takes me an hour to sort my necessities… and winnow down to day pack and messyngerbag and a banjo…my gear’s gotta be cycle-schlepped along the Union Canal for a couple of miles. (Chris :show the swans?)

The loud house-phone jangles my concentration.
It’s nine and I have to be out the door immediately to make it to the school by nine-thirty.

It’s my boss, the youthful, affable, easy-to-work-with if somewhat stressed Iain Withers.

He doesn’t sound happy.

“We…er…are not going to need you to come in today” he began.

Whew. Two minutes later I’d have been gone, and he would have told it to my (All2Readable) face which probably might have betrayed the shock I was feeling as he went on, slowly: ” we are not going to…..ehm….you’ll not be needed… for the following week either..”

“Oh, Iain, this must be very hard for you to say!” (God! Always ‘momming’ people! Even when I am bothered!)

For three days I have watched him masterfully juggle seven spinning plates…and let him know that if there is anything he needs me to understand, that he should repeat it twice, ‘because I’m deaf and retarded’.

(This is how I feel. Usually it’s like this. He says something the first time. I realize that it’s directed at me and that there are at least two levels of meaning. Then I say, “Beg pardon?”

Then the second time it comes clear(er)..and then I repeat BACK what I THINK i understood.

“Active listening” it’s called. Proves to the other that you understand.
But obviously there was TONS I was not grasping.
Like how a lady with a tree on her helmet and a banjo on her back

might be a rotten fit for the smoothly running corporate inspired Fiction known as The Bikerz.

Perhaps if I had gotten a clue, a work description, training?

It’s not a record for me (I have been fired before even starting a job once)…but this time, three days into the two week contract, I was cut loose.

I would say “made redundant” , but that is impossible. It presumes “replaceability”–as in: a new Jacquie to plug into the Riderz traveling road show.

The Lady has been observing as well as teaching.

Perhaps inspiring…or warping–depending on your opinion of disheveled dreadlocked dervishes: at the end of the day at Towerbank school, two girls had successfully woven themselves a dreadlock to show me….

“Right, very nice hair, girls! ”
I didn’t think to myself: “Wait’ll their mums get a look at that!”

Or was it the autographed foreheads on those four boys? In indelible ink? Aughh…

Back to Her Royal Wryness and her decrees: HRW the queen pronounces this killer demonstration of bikerly derring-do ( and –don’t-try-this-at-home…) a mixed bag –some good and some bad.

Tis guid that there are professionals zipping around to ten or eleven schools around Scotland with a positive bicycle message, complete with brochures, waterbottles and red “Riderz” shwag bags.

It might be guid that an entire school see near-world record standing bunny hops, jumps, and even full back flips off a curved wooden ramp. Not really sure, since it may just foster that Spectator/Star dyad that I am so ambivalent about….

But stars they are: the five riders (Duncan, Lynne, Fraser, et al) are very good at what they do, like the kids, clearly enjoy themselves in the show, and work like dogs to get the set-up just right (and safe: in damp weather the ramps become scarily slippy, and all attractions have to be ribboned off to keep the kids out of trouble).

Downright bad: encouraging kids to be noisy viewers instead of noisy DO-ers?

Also good (but should have been the morning activity, and then be followed by the show): skill-building exercises (riding along an elevated “timber trail” as well as my patented track-stand lesson, and the “nervous novice” (I call it chicken shit) ‘look where you want to go’ game, which involves riding along a board on the ground….,plus a little workshop called bike doctor (the things they were teaching went beyond the normal capacity of your typical p-5 and 6 students, but I might be wrong. Certainly a TON of kids brought their bikes–something you don’t normaly see in California, where most kids are driven to school. An additional segment on Planning your route to school. It was something, seeing those kids all kneeling on their maps outside on the playground as Mark Symonds, the Edinburgh Council school bicycle travel coordinator –down on all fours– shares his expertise with each. All leave with maps and a guide to safer cycling.

It will be interesting to hear what (or if) bicycle ridership among students rises perceptibly in the wake of this impressively worked out Concept.

But were the services of the biggest ad agency in Scotland and a PR agency to boot really get the job done better? Wouldn’t it be a great idea to spend one-half of “wow!” (The term I’m using for the only hinted-at budget for this two-week media blitz) on things that are happening (and succeeding) at the grassroots level?

Do the schools assess themselves, and make up (or gather) their own data?
The Marin Bike Coalition has unverified (and way over-estimated, i.e. fudged) numbers. We ‘wowed’ away 22 millions in three years. Have barely anything to show for it.

Ours is JUST one COUNTY, with rather savvy (some non-cycling) bike “advocates” whose motto has always been: follow the money.

iF the Bikerz gets a hundred out of the roughly 600 children who see them to get on their bikes regularly, it will have been well worth it.

I hope so. I put at least a hundred autographs on outstretched hands, and expect there to be a spike in the population of unembarrassed, pedal-poised girls sporting “treadful” hair under their flowered helmets.

~ by jacquiephelan on June 21, 2008.

One Response to ““Dreadful” Day”

  1. Hi J,
    The “great” Sam Hill here, or so some think…notice the lower case “g”! Very interesting observations on the Riderz blitz of Scotland, and fare I might add. A very unique experience meeting you, I’m sure our paths will cross again and enjoy the rest of your stay…..:)
    Have a read of some of the commentz kidz have left on the graffitti wall: http://theriderz.co.uk/

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