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Practicing Patience

Yesterday I started a series on civility and courtesy at bikeNewportBeach. This post today feels a little more personal, so it’s posted here.

Patience comes easier for me as I get a little older, or maybe it’s just because I work out of the house. Let me explain.

These days if I find a long line at the coffee shop or the bank I see it as an opportunity to linger awhile.

It could be the bike rides that encourage this new-found patience. My pace on the bike is modest; I’m no former athlete trying to regain my youth. I’m just pedaling along at 12 or 14, maybe 20 mph on a downhill, so I’m going nowhere fast. Why get all in a twist? I’m moving in slow motion compared to most.

Working out of the house is a factor. Yes, it’s nice not to commute to a job and also nice to be home with my wife all day, but I do sometimes suffer a little cabin fever. Especially challenging for me is editing audio — that’s what I do — and I sometimes do it all day, or for days in a row some weeks. It’s monotonous as I sit and listen to one of my interview subjects, really closely listen. If I take the time to smooth out all the little clicks, coughs and sneezes then I know my audience will enjoy listening and they’ll listen longer. All this adds up to me spending a lot of time in my home office, so when I get on my bike I’m usually planning to ride for hours, to get away for the whole afternoon, to relax, but more to renew. Of course, it’s a great time for chatting and a long ride often means a break for lunch, too.

Some days are filled with tasks and chores; some of the busiest involve trips to the bank, the notary and the post office. In Corona del Mar those are all just a few blocks apart which makes for a stimulating walk.

All this leisurely biking and walking takes time, so when I’m really bogged down I’ll work late at night. I’ve always been a night owl. Years ago, as I started my software company, I recall working till 3 in the morning on many occasions — it’s quiet which is good for concentration.

You’re getting the picture by now — I’m not sitting in rush hour traffic. When I do get in the car I’m immediately aware of two things: I’m traveling much faster than usual and my visibility is compromised greatly. No surprise, I drive slowly, partly because of my increased awareness as a cyclist of the dangers on the roads. Literally, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I’m yielding to bicyclists and pedestrians at every opportunity, in part because I know what it’s like to be on the other side, wondering if it’s safe to step into that crosswalk. No, I haven’t always driven like this; I was once as Type A, even aggressive, as any, but no longer.

My world has slowed down as the radius of my daily experience has shrunk more than at any other time in my life. The bicycle’s range defines my reach, my world. Several advantages come with this new orientation: I bump into people I know and that often leads to pleasant interactions. I’ve made new friends just a block away; we walk to the movies. There are these social benefits to slowing down, to moving at a human pace and because I’m seldom in a hurry it’s been easy to be patient. If I’m driving a car or riding my bike, I know the people in my path appreciate that I slow my speed to let them pass and in this microscopic, personal way I’m contributing to a more courteous experience for those that share the roadways.

Does it take more time to be patient? I try not to calculate the alternative and instead appreciate the slowness of time and my place in the community.

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