I once briefly dated a guy who was too concerned about being perceived as nice to actually be interesting. “I’m not going to encourage that,” he’d say to a snarky but harmless joke. “Encourage what?” I was always tempted to ask, “having a sense of humor?” Thankfully, it didn’t last long, but essentially being called heartless bothered me a little.
I took this as a sign that I actually have a heart, despite the fact that friends have never quite called me nice. “You’re one of the most loyal friends I have,” my best friend once said, but “nice” was outside the bounds of my charming, pitbull-like attributes. I like to tell myself that biting sarcasm and an inability to hold my tongue make me interesting [or at least not boring]. That feeling that I should be nice[r], though, has a tendency to harsh my asshole vibe.
Being a [M]asshole was fine while living in Boston, but this feeling that I am ignorant of the fundamental concept of how to be nice returned once I moved back to Japan. I had finally found gainful employment, and one of the first things I did was nearly crush a secretary between the elevator doors. With about three other people watching. In the extremely awkward minute that followed, I got hosed down with shocked looks, before the three remaning secretaries arrived at their floor. They all made it a point to cringe a little on their way out, as if I’d pushed the “close doors” button on purpose and was eagerly waiting for the opportunity to do it again.
Which really didn’t seem fair, because if I wanted to kill a secretary, I wouldn’t use anything as ineffecient and unreliable as an elevator door. Please. Even a pedal wrench would be more effective than that.
This is probably where you expect me to say that the bike has made me this way. Fortunate enough to have been appropriately hazed by boyfriends who rode better, it would be easy to say that getting gears and getting dropped had a Black Swan effect to my ordinarily nice [that word again!] and delightful personality. If I’m honest, I suspect the opposite to be true. It’s not what initially attracted me, but I keep coming back to the bike because I believe it sometimes
requires allows me to be mean. And any sport that encourages stabbing the part of me that wants to be spinelessly polite while snarling, “it’s my turn, now” has my full, undivided commitment.
The hitch is that – with a few exceptions – most cyclists I’ve met are noticebly nicer than I am. Maybe it’s not so much that cycling requires a mean streak as it is that it requires the resolve to never shrink back from the things that are thrown your way. When you’re already gagging on social demands to be less abrasive, that almost-aggressive [Bouhanni-like] assertiveness can bleed into the rest of your life, like tan lines in December.
So it wasn’t the hazing boyfriends, but the bikes I’m blaming for having to re-learn docile submission of the Japanese variety. And as I found out the hard way, company elevators are no place to be belligerent or bold.
These days, I’m well-versed in the dance that I refer to as the “Elevator Fight.” I race any other women present to push the “open doors” button before we even arrive at the ground floor and insist, quietly and politely, that everyone leave before me. The attorneys don’t mind, but the secretaries can put up a bit of a fight. Sometimes they win, other times, I stubbornly insist on my subordinate status and make them exit the elevator before I do. It’s still a learning process.
Last night, at the end of my shift, I slipped into an empty elevator and crossed my fingers that the car would slide smoothly and without stopping, all the way to the first floor. It did and I walked out, shoulders hunched forward like I always do on the bike, but with a confident step. The secretaries might have escaped any unfortunate elevator accidents that day, but my mean streak was already giggling gleefully at the thought of tomorrow morning’s intervals.