Running Errands by Bike

As part of my reduction in time spent on social media I’ve inactivated my Instagram account resolving instead to share them here with somewhat longer stories than I might share there.

Getting two months of cat food via curbside pickup

I haven’t been in a motor vehicle since early March and I’m surprised at how easy it is to do everything by bicycle or on foot. Not only that, the exercise puts me in an excellent state of mind. As I ride I see people out and about alone and in groups. Even though many are wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, it still makes things feel a little bit more normal than they do from 400 feet above the city looking only at what I see through this computer’s monitor. There are smells of trees, flowers, and even food from restaurants and backyard barbecues. Often there are other cyclists and many of us exchange waves even though we don’t know each other. I like that exchange of goodwill “Hey – we are similar humans in at least one day. I hope you’re well!” we say with our hands. Sometimes at crosswalks pedestrians crossing in front of me will say hello or thank me for waiting. These little momentary interactions with strangers are really precious now. Little doses of humanity that, like the feeling of the sun on my arms and the smell of freshly-mown grass outside are like a little bit of medicine to combat the feelings that build up as we all shelter in our homes.

The pet store I go to today is lovely. During more normal times, when we stopped in people would say hello to us. Though we don’t know each other’s names, we do recognize each other. Then, as we bend down to pick up a bag of cat food, very often, Rupert, a friendly boy cat will leap on our shoulders and ride there for the rest of our time in the store. When we get to the front we put our cat food on the counter and put Rupert down next to it though truth be told we would love to just have him come home with us.

And I thought Rupert only loved US!

Now, with the pandemic, many people are having financial troubles as their jobs end. Food banks are in greater use now as humans rely on them more to get what they need. This pet store also recognizes that affording pet food is also difficult for others so they’ve set up a fund for helping people get their pet food during this time. Though we have a chain pet food store only a 5 minute bike ride from home (as opposed to the 15-20 min one to get here), it is just this sort of community support that makes us want to support local independent businesses. This is how communities are built and sustain themselves even in hard times. If you have the choice between supporting a local business that contributes to your community or doing an online order from a major retailer, do consider taking the extra effort to support local businesses. Even though you may not realize it, they’re supporting you.

11 thoughts on “Running Errands by Bike

  1. When we go out for our evening walk, earlier we smiled at people we met on the way, most of them would smile back. But now we wear the mask and i have found it is better to first wave at each other then smile 🙂
    We have always bought grocery and vegetables, etc from our local shops. There are malls and retail shops but we do not go there. I have always held that we should support them.
    Just wanted to know 🙂 Are you in contact with the people you met in your cycling trip in India?

    1. Yes – I’m seeing the same thing here with masks. When I run or ride I don’t wear one as it impedes my breathing but I give more space. Still, that little connection is so nice.

      Years ago there were many more independent shops. Some big some small. Now, nearly everyone has to go to a supermarket to buy groceries. Even small retail stores for things like clothes and household goods are rare. Big companies came in selling more cheaply than the neighbourhood stores and eventually they couldn’t compete and died out. In some cases, companies like Walmart intentionally reduce prices and take a loss for some time when moving in to a new area to drive others out of business. Then, when the independent stores are gone, they raise the prices again to normal levels. But they’re still cheaper than an independent store could offer so nothing comes back. In some cases supermarkets have done the same thing, putting the small shops out of business. Then, suburbs only had big supermarkets so far apart you must have a car. This was OK when the suburbs were wealthy but now, as the wealthy move back in to the city, the poor move to the suburbs. They sometimes haven’t enough money for a car so the supermarkets are too far and they’re left with convenience stores that sell no fresh food and lots of junk food turning those areas in to what now are called “food deserts”. It’s very sad to see.

      I only hear from Jerry now and again. Others haven’t reached out though I still have the phone numbers of some of the first people I met from the Haryana police department. 🙂

  2. So, you’ve inactivated your Instagram account. But sharing stories in more detail here is even better. I have also reduced my Instagram activity, more so as I just don’t have the time. I think my time management is really bad. Your description of cycling versus riding a car is really nice. And reflects the outdoor person that you are. With respect to supporting local business, I cannot agree more. I do the same. I walk to the stores situated in a market a little away from my home instead of ordering stuff online. Some of my friends think I am crazy, but I don’t care.

    1. Yes – there’s something that feels a little cheap about social media. “Here’s a photo and a sentence. Please tap it twice.” I like to give a little more as there’s often more to the story than just a cool photo. And often, mysteriously, once I share a photo with a little bit of text, the impulse to share it further here fades.

    2. Also: My time management is pretty terrible especially when there’s an opportunity to fall in to something and endlessly scroll until time runs out.

      I find there are so many more opportunities in India for “buying local” than here. The options are here but not always easy to find. And often, they can be pricey. Go to a supermarket and buy bland, mass-produced vegetables shipped 5,000 miles and you’ll get them relatively cheaply. Go to a farmer’s market to get locally grown produce and you’ll often pay lots more – putting it out of reach of many.

  3. I love the cat who comes along for the ride as you shop. It has been so long since I drove that it turns out my battery is dead. Charlie offered to charge it, but I asked what the point was.

    1. It is pretty funny how things like that have changed. At first I missed travelling across town to go to stores or have a coffee. Now I’m content meeting people online, going out in to nature and enjoying the coffee and food I make at home. I am doing well interacting with people online and staying connected so I’m not missing other human contact so much. I will be glad when I can see a few close friends nearby though.

    1. I agree. I think that changes our minds even just a tiny bit. We can feel neutral or negative toward a stranger, but once we exchange even a small moment, we are no longer quite strangers anymore – at least in my experience. For example, if every day I see the same person on the bus reading a book in a seat near ours, after some days we no longer feel like they’re a complete stranger. They may not be a friend but now we’re part of the same group in some way.

      And I think that feelings of togetherness like this can be powerful. We behave better toward people we feel connected to. We are more likely to help them in times like this.

      At least that is my hope.

      1. I know what you mean. Exactly! I had a very interesting experience. A lady talked to me eventually after a couple of years when she didn’t see me for a while. It begins with eye contact, smiles, then hello…….and finally, where were you 🙂

        In general humans are very caring. It’s just matter of who starts to talk 😀

      2. That’s exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. I think the next step for us, particularly in cities, is to do more of that sort of connecting across economic, cultural, and social differences. This is how we can come together, I think.

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