I hated my job but loved my commute.
A windowless office with the ambiance of a storage closet would make you hate work, too. Ironically, the company specialized in design and decor for events. Yet from 9am to 6pm I sat in the dark, literally, wishing the window decal on the wall were real. The lack of natural light was just one of several ambient infractions adding to my weekday misery.
Luckily, my commute was al fresco. The 40-minute Citi Bike ride from Downtown Brooklyn to Times Square invigorated my body and awakened my mind. No matter sun or snow, commuting by bike was the best part of my job.
Cresting the Manhattan Bridge in the morning was more satisfying than any jolt of coffee. The ascent was physically demanding, but paid quick dividends. Even though I’m from New York, seeing the skyline from a windswept bridge reignited excitement for the city like a first-timer. I got so used to the climb that I would count how many regular bikes I passed going uphill on a Citi Bike.
Over the bridge in Manhattan, the route to Midtown was surprisingly safe and straight forward: right on Canal, left on Allen, up Allen and 1st Avenue, left on 39th, across 39th to Broadway, dock at Broadway and 38th. I could do it with my eyes closed. Well, almost.
I was in a bike lane the whole time and the ride was calm and predictable. I knew the timing of the traffic lights. I knew where Access-A-Ride buses turned without looking. I knew to be extra vigilant on 39th Street where construction and traffic congestion usurp the bike lane. Charting a course through Midtown traffic stimulated senses in ways my job never did. It put me in control of me, free to choose my path and engage with a city in motion on my terms.
At work I passively sat at a desk trying not to fall asleep, waiting for someone to task me with something I didn't care about and wondering when I would get fired. The company was simultaneously expanding and contracting and struggling financially. Insecurities ran high. I reorganized my desk so that I could clean out with an hour’s notice, as was given to two teary-eyed colleagues dismissed that summer. Every morning I counted down the hours to lunch. After lunch I counted down to 6pm. After 6pm I wondered how many days I had left.
Whatever happened at work, Citi Bike was always waiting for me. I steered my blue chariot down the bike lane on Broadway. The wind hit my face, knocking preoccupations out of my mind as I distanced myself from office bull shit and the maddening Midtown crowds. By the time I hit Union Square I was feeling alive again. Bile drained from my veins and retreated back into the liver and gall bladder. Citi Bike had restored me.
When rain forced me to use the subway, I felt cheated. My day was incomplete and work worries wouldn't dissipate. A passive commute was as dull and unchallenging as my job. So I learned how to ride comfortably in the rain and left a suit and spare clothing in the office. I dressed defensively for bitter cold. Only on rare occasions did ice or deep snow force me underground.
Citi Bike didn’t just save me money on the MTA. It saved me from getting a therapist. The sturdy bike felt reassuring, and putting it in motion was empowering.
Coursing through city streets focused me on the ever-changing present, crowding out visions of the unhappy past and uncertain future. When I reached Brooklyn 40 minutes later, my work day didn’t matter. I had left my ills behind in Manhattan where they would wait until morning. For now, Citi Bike had liberated my mind and refreshed my body.