It was a typical January night in Kittitas Valley: a chilly twenty degrees, scattered snow flurries, and plenty of snow on the ground. Fortunately the roads were mostly bare however, and I was able to be on my bike commuting to work.
While riding my bike home from a day at work, I like to notice my surroundings as I roll by, while at the same time think about the day’s events. It sometimes seems to be a little bit of a balancing act between paying attention to the here and now as well as thinking creatively about work or home.
I think I was in the midst of the later thoughts – creative daydreaming as I like to think of it, when a large pickup truck slowed down, pulled alongside me, and rolled down its passenger side window. In general, while riding my bike and a vehicle – especially a big one – slows down alongside me, I get a little nervous. A truck is big and a bike is little; meanwhile, the notion that this was at night as well as it was a large truck heightened my senses, and made me feel a bit uneasy.
“I appreciate your interest in safety, young man,” a man’s deep voice came clear and loud through the window. Looking into the cab, all I could see was darkness.
Somewhat surprised and not sure what to say, I said, “alright!”
Just as clear and deep, he replied, “thank you.”
“Sure!” I said, still struggling somewhat as to how to respond.
He accelerated and drove off into the night.
Over the past few months I had upgraded my rear light system to improve my visibility, and my lights must have been be working!
I rode on, following my familiar route home. The interaction made me feel really good. It is always nice to be appreciated. The driver didn’t need to slow town and interact with me, but he did. He took that extra step to be friendly, put out some good energy, and appreciate something I was doing.
I rode a couple more miles, thinking about the interaction more, and it occurred to me that there was an additional aspect of the interaction I liked. He said, ” young man.” I am not exactly a young man, but he couldn’t tell. It was dark and I was wearing multiple layers of clothes and a bike helmet. He assumed I was young because I was commuting home on my bike.
I rode a few more miles, thinking all the while about the interaction. He thought I was young because I was doing what many consider to be a young person activity – riding a bike rather than driving. Meanwhile, riding my bike – exercising – was in fact likely helping to keep my body young. Hmm. I was perceived as young because of the activity I was doing. Chronologically I am not young; but, by doing the activity, I was promoting physiologic youth. I liked the full circle of these thoughts.
That January night I was reminded how good it feels to receive an appreciation, and how important it is to give appreciations. I also received an affirmation of how exercise, regardless of age, promotes a “youthful” state of health for the body and mind. I received these gifts because an individual made the effort to notice, slow down and say thanks.