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Published: September 15th 2004
7:43 AM and two miles from work. I'm waiting at a red light, ready to clip in to my pedals and turn left as soon as the light turns green. A car pulls up beside me, but I ignore it in favor of the traffic light. A familiar voice catches my ear though, "Hey man, whassup?"
I turn to see my coworker Leon sitting in his car. I smile and return his greeting, "Just trying to get to work...Ya know, I betcha I'll beat you into the office."
Leon chuckles and says, "You might be able to."
"Yup, especially since you've got to drive up to the seventh or eighth floor of the parking garage. Going round and round in circles, that really eats up a lot of time."
"Alright man, you're on," Leon replied as the traffic light turned green. I clipped into my pedals and proceeded to sprint through a left turn and towards the office. Avoiding a manhole cover, I began to calculate the quickest route to work. I glanced down at my rear view mirror on the bottom of my handlebar to see that I had a Toyota sedan behind me. Flicking up into the next gear, I pushed my bike past 20 miles per hour and dodged a pothole. Up ahead three cars and a bus had stopped at another traffic light, but there was a good two feet between the bus and the curb, and so I aimed right for the gap, slipping through to the entrance of the 7-Eleven parking lot, which I cut through in order to bypass the intersection and maintain my momentum. I flew by a beer-bellied guy trundling into his Thunderbird with a serving of sugar and saturated fat that easily exceeded the recommended daily allowance, startling him so much that he nearly lost his grasp on his cigarette.
Another quick sprint back up to speed and then I tucked down while spinning south, aware of the beads of sweat starting to break out underneath my shirt. I was only too happy that I had worn my office casual attire over my club ride cool outfit. When I got to work I could make a quick trip to the bathroom and strip off my sweat-soaked bike jersey & shorts and clean up with some baby wipes stashed in my desk drawer for just such occasions.
Another traffic light loomed 5 blocks ahead, one that was frustratingly slow. I considered running the red light, but doing so would only antagonize the unfortunate souls stuck in their SUV's. Instead I opted for a quick dogleg through the condos, staying alert for unleashed dogs in the de facto dog park along the way. A golden retriever looked up at me as I sped past, but seemed more interested in the tennis ball between her front paws.
I made another left at the stop sign, now riding on a four-lane divided street, alert to the sounds of drivers exceeding the speed limit in their rush to work. The stoplight ahead winked from green to yellow, forcing me to do some quick route calculations in my head. If I continued straight ahead I would have to make it through two more lights before I could turn onto Granby Street, or I could cut right on the sidewalk at the intersection and avoid riding against the flow of one-way traffic, skip across to the other sidewalk and turn left until I came to Granby Street, where I could get back on the road. Riding the sidewalk wasn't my favorite thing to do, but it was a better option than waiting through two traffic lights and possibly losing the race to the office. I cut right onto the sidewalk.
Luckily there weren't too many pedestrians before 8 AM. The last of a herd of cars went rolling by in the opposite direction, and I cut across the street to the other sidewalk. As I turned the corner and rode past the newspaper building along Brambleton Avenue I could see that the sidewalk had been torn up for twenty feet before Granby Street. With construction barriers all around it, there was no option of riding through, I would have to slip onto the street and ride against 35mph traffic in order to reach Granby Street. Again, it wasn't exactly my first choice, but I took it anyway, intent on getting to the office before my coworker Leon.
I planned on riding far enough into the intersection that I could circle around and be facing south along Granby Street. But as I bounced down into the street the light changed, and the Granby Street traffic began to move. I quickly scanned the line of cars, looking for a blinking turn signal that would indicate that someone was going to turn into my path, but I was safe. I cut right and began to ride along the crosswalk when I saw a hulking SUV making a left turn right towards me. I wasn't sure if the driver saw me, but I didn't stop to ask as I jumped out of my saddle and sprinted to the safety of the other side of the median.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I zipped past the federal court house, happy to finally be on Granby Street, the most biker-friendly road in downtown Norfolk, what with a posted speed limit of 15 mph. I was planning on breaking the speed limit. I pulled in behind a delivery van and drafted off of it to almost 20 mph all the way to the next stoplight. When the van signaled a right hand turn I kept my speed up and popped around to the left, flying through the next intersection as well just as the light was turning yellow.
A rolling stop at Main Street, and I was within three blocks of the office. I had no way to know if Leon had even pulled into the first floor of the parking garage, as he would be taking a completely different route in his car. I had to come to a complete stop at the next intersection, a mere two blocks away from the office, waiting for the light to turn green as a bus lurched across the road, blocking my path. "Come on, come on, come on!" I muttered to myself while leaning against a light pole, my legs quivering with anticipation.
GreenGo! I was off, picking up plenty of speed and scaring a few office workers as I barreled towards the quaint cobblestones encircling Norfolk's Confederate memorial obelisk. From my office window I could look down upon Johnny Reb, still defiantly keeping a northern vigil. I wasn't concerned with sightseeing though as I hit the cobblestones at 20 mph. Instead i was standing up on my pedals, legs and arms flexed to absorb the shock of a hundred feet of cobbles before I regained smooth concrete. A quick left brought me into the parking garage beneath our office, where the two attendants ignored my daily intrusion into their subterranean automobile lair. On a Monday morning the garage was blessedly empty, and I rode across the garage in direct violation of the rules posted above the bicycle rack. As I jumped off my bike cyclocross style, one foot still on the pedal while the bike was moving, then a quick trot next to the moving bike, I noticed that even the CEO had yet to arrive in his Cadillac. I parked my bike in the second closest spot to the door, the closest spot having been taken up by a K-Mart mountain bike that hadn't moved in four months. I bounded up the stairs to the door, waited for my electronic cardkey to be recognized, slipped through the brass and glass door and punched the button for the elevator.
And then, the wait. Everyone on twenty floors is riding the three elevators at 8 AM. Most everybody enters through the third floor pedestrian bridge to the parking garage. A minute ticks by, and I imagine Leon walking past the elevator, asking one of our coworkers, "Have you seen Wes yet?"
I wait, and wait some more. Finally, the elevator chimes and the doors open. I shove my cardkey towards the sensor and furiously tap the third floor button, remembering all the times inthe past when the elevator refused to stop at three, but instead went up to six before turning around and going back down to three. But I luck out, and the doors open on 3. A gaggle of office workers rush towards the elevator before realizing that I intend to get out, not go up, and so they all back up to let me out. I walk across the hallway and open the door to our office as a coworker comes walking up with a shipping box in his arms.
I can barely see Tom's silver eyebrows above the box, and as he passes through the doorway I ask him, "Have you seen Leon yet this morning?"
"Well, I can't say I've seen much behind this box."
My bike helmet under my arm, I walk over to Leon's workspace: empty. I ask his closest co-worker,
"Have you seen Leon yet?"
I drop off my helmet below my desk, kick off my bike cleats and slip into my office shoes while humming a tune under my breath (it's a beautiful day in my neighborhood). Figuring that Leon will continue his morning routine of getting a Styrofoam cup of coffee before even hanging up his jacket, I take my coffee mug off my desk and head to the break room and the coffee machine. As I pour some organic French Roast coffee grounds into the coffee machine, Leon, still wearing his jacket, walks up, and with a smile on my face I ask him,
"Cup of coffee?"
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