The Nail That Sticks Up Gets Hammered Down


After about four weeks in my new position working at a major military command here in South Carolina, I’ve finally worked out the logistics of my twenty-four mile round trip bicycle ride to work. I pre-position uniforms, towels, etcetera, so all I carry on my back is lunch. I don’t ride every day. Driving my car twice a week allows me to switch out laundry and gives my middle-aged legs a rest. So, I feel pretty good about staying fit, having time to listen to Star Ship Sofa on my iPod, and reducing my personal impact on the environment. Hell, I’m even making space in the crowded parking lot at work. Good for everyone, right?

I walked into the building this morning, and preparing to swipe my security badge, and a very polite contracted security dude quickly approached me.

He said, “Sir, you can’t take that bicycle in the building.”

“Since when?” I asked. “I’ve been riding to work for a month, and no one has said a word about it.”

“It’s always been the policy, Sir.”

“Well, this is the first I’ve heard about it. I live a forty minute ride from home. Can I talk to your supervisor about making an exception so I can just go to work?”

“Sir, there’s a bike rack outside.”

That was quite a reasonable thing to say. However, I ride a full-carbon Colnago I brought back from my last duty station in Italy. Bike rack, exposed to South Carolina sun and rain for ten hours? (not to mention my lack of a way to lock it) I don’t think so.

I spoke with the security manager and asked for a one-day exception to avoid being late for work. No-Go.

“It’s just the policy, Sir,” he said.

“May I ask why, just out of curiosity?”

He proceeded to make stuff up with a straight face. “Well, you bring in dirt and debris from outside.”

People wearing combat boots streamed past us into the building.

“And it could be an evacuation hazard in case of fire.”

“OK,” I said. “I get it.” After a few minutes, I persuaded him to let me stash it in the elevator room, which he assured me is secure and observed all day.

“Hey,” he said. “Are those cleats you’re wearing?”

“Yeah, they lock into the pedals.”

“I’m a little concerned about what they’re doing to the floor.”

I stared at him as I removed the offending bike shoes and showed him the harmless rubber and plastic on the bottoms. I walked to the locker room, barefoot and fuming.

Perhaps I should learn to take fast food breakfasts in the morning instead of exercise, trade in my Toyota for a two-ton pickup truck that gets nine miles to the gallon, and BE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE.

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