Here or There
“Red lights mean look to the left and right as you speed through. I don’t give way to pedestrians…in fact I ding loudly at them if they have the audacity to be in my bike lane, the cheek!”
One topic – Two different Countries.
Introducing Tessa Mudge. Tessa is a spectacular creature and is also one of my closest friends. Being pretty damn fabulous myself I tend to attract fabulous friends. That’s just the way it is. Tessa recently moved to Amsterdam and this week for the very first edition of Here or There we are writing about transport.
Take it away Tessa…
The Dam is the only place you’ll ever feel like top dog on the road as a cyclist. You cruise along on your rusty, squeaking, pimping (plastic flowers or Astroturf are the way to go) machine with the wind in your unhelmeted, (often rain damp) hair.
The standard issue bike for an Amsterdamian (pronouce the third syllable dum not daaaym or you’ll sound like a tourist) is an omafiets, or granny bike. This is because they have no gears and back pedaling breaks. Not great for rushing to a party or overtaking people; I can admit to being overtaken by a rollerblader on one occasion.
Another Dutch experience is the ‘dink’- AKA riding on the back of a bike, as my American friend translated. Being dinked is frightening, painful and thrilling. But unless you’re Sasha Grey you’re not going to enjoy this experience for more than a few minutes as a newbie.
I’m not a rule breaker. I can’t litter and skipping queues makes me feel nervous and guilty in equal parts. So it came as quite a shock when I embraced the lawlessness of bike riding in Amsterdam. Red lights mean look to the left and right as you speed through. I don’t give way to pedestrians…in fact I ding loudly at them if they have the audacity to be in my bike lane, the cheek! And everyone accepts this, smilingly. It’s quite refreshing, come join me some time.
…now from Amsterdam to New York
The NYC subway is like a dingy underground sub culture all of its own. Expect to see the unexpected and always remember the subway code of conduct – hear nothing – see nothing.
When I first arrived in NY, I was like a walking – talking target. My confused demeanor and foreign accent branded me fresh meat with every crazy in the vicinity keen to exploit my vulnerability. Riding the subway was a tiring ordeal involving me fending off a dozen dick heads trying to strike up conversation. I have since mastered my princess bitch face expression and am more often left to my own devices. Hear nothing- see nothing.
I believe New Yorkers have evolved to the point where almost nothing can shock them. A racially fuelled fight on the subway will evoke stony expressions of apparent disinterest. I however, have not yet reached this level of personal evolution and find the people watching fascinating. I am more than happy to risk quick side would glances at the male transvestite with the fabulous eye makeup and the break-dancers who busk on the train leave me fighting the desire to burst into spontaneous applause. I don’t – I contain myself because to do so would be a clear violation of the code – hear nothing – see nothing.