Biking everywhere gives you many opportunities to meet the people around you while commuting. Friday was a perfect example.
Our yard backs up to Hill Road (a busy residential street in North Boise), which gives us opportunities to hear many interesting snippets of conversation while sitting on our porch as people walk by on the other side of the fence. We even started recording the best ones, such as “I don’t know why, I haven’t had any narcotics since Friday” or “Do you guys have bike… thing to raise the seat?” or even “While I’m not a huge proponent of child abuse, I don’t…” which I must admit, I’m extremely curious how that sentence ended. But not curious enough to follow them down the street to find out.
One of our favorite things overheard on Hill Road is Opera Guy. A few summers ago, we were in the habit of sitting on the back porch when we got home from work. A few times a week, we would hear a car driving down Hill with the music cranked up. Oddly, it wasn’t rap or metal, it was opera blasting out the open windows at levels I’m used to hearing only jet planes. We thoroughly enjoyed this and loved the expression on our friends’ faces when they heard it for the first time. Unfortunately, we were never quick enough to see who this was.
The following summer, I was walking home from a coffee shop in Hyde Park. On the half mile walk, I was in my own little world until I heard, in the distance, opera. I stopped and spun round, looking for the source. I don’t remember what type of car or driver I was expecting, probably a BMW or Lexus with the driver in an Italian suit (I’d be able to notice that as he drove by). What I do remember was being shocked at source, once I spotted it. It was a large silver-gray pickup truck with a trailer and stickers indicating the owner was in construction. I love it when my expectations are completely wrong. It implies there’s a much more interesting story than the one I constructed in my head.
Over the years, I’ve seen this truck and Opera Guy several more times. Each time, I’m curious to know more about him, but he’s driving and I don’t have anything to open the conversation with.
Friday morning, I was biking into work. I got to the intersection of 13th and Fort where I had to wait for the light to change. As I stood there, thinking about my schedule for the day to come, I heard familiar music. It was Johnny Cash’s Ghost Riders in the Sky. My head nodded to the music as the car approached. I turned to see it was Opera Guy driving. I had my in.
“What, no opera today?” I asked through the open window.
“What?” he replied as he turned down the music.
“No opera today?”
He laughed. “No, not today. Hey, you like opera?”
“Sure, who doesn’t?” I admit, this was more to keep the conversation going. I don’t listen to it much but I enjoyed the two operas I’ve seen.
“You just made my day. Here” He reaches out the window to hand me a CD of Kathleen Battle recordings.
Then the light changes and we go our separate directions. It was a short interaction, but reminded me of two things. First, I love the oddness of Boise’s North End where something like that could happen and the cars behind us didn’t seem to notice or care that we were delaying traffic a little. The second thing is how wonderful it is to bike everywhere. This would never have happened if I’d been in a car. Conversations like this (although usually without the exchange of opera) happen all the time when I’m biking. It helps me feel like I’m connected with the people around me and could talk to any of them. Also, it kind of made me want to put speakers on my bike and blast my audio selection to the world. I’m just not sure everyone would appreciate hearing a podcast about design. I guess there’s only one way to find out.