I am a master anthropomorphizer. I fall in love with objects, and if they don’t strike me just right, I’ll never have a good connection. Case in point: my bike.
I have an adorable bike. It’s just my size and cute and red and easy to ride. It’s a Schwinn. I heart! Except…I’ve never felt the connection with my bike that I felt with, say, my ’51 Chevy pickup, affectionately named The Deathtrap since, you know, the gas tank is right behind the bench seat without any sort of guard. Or our 2001 Honda scooter, Cyndi Lauper. Or even our car, Bessie. Maybe it’s because I never named the bike, now that I think about it.
It’s essential that I have alternate transport: we’re a one-car family so sometimes I have to get myself places unmotorized. We also live on a bus route and it’s only a very-walkable mile to the heart of downtown, but those two options don’t always work with my schedule. At least, that’s what I told myself when I decided to buy a longboard.
They just look so cool. They’re like moving conveyor belts of suave. I saw guys cruising the flat streets of Des Moines’ downtown for two years and I thought, That is the life for me.
And so one weekend this May, I went to our local skate shop and told the man behind the counter, “I want to buy a longboard. I have never ridden a skateboard. Can you give me a 10 minute lesson?”
And the very friendly store owner did. I spent a few minutes picking out a board that felt good. In retrospect, my board is probably a bit long for my height, but I liked the feel of it otherwise. When I’d selected my board, homeboy had me pretend I was walking up a flight of stairs to determine my footedness. (I’m a regular.) He instructed me to lead with my hips. He also gave me an important piece of advice: if I’m going to crash, try to drop to my knees.
And that was it.
Armed with a new board, a helmet, and completely dorky knee pads, I was on my way. I tried to spend the evening learning how to skateboard from adorable teenagers on YouTube, but they weren’t terribly helpful.
So I just took it slow. I went out a few times a week, committed to traveling by longboard when possible, and I’ve gotten better all summer. I can’t slide, and I can’t bomb big hills, but I no longer jump off and walk down the small moguls in our neighborhood! I’ve joined the Facebook group of our local longboarders, and I’ve even named my board: Cloris Leachman.
I feel, at equal turns, completely fucking cool and totally un-cool. I will never, ever ride without a helmet, and the look of it deducts at least 10 Cool Points. When I get scared and hop off my board I make a little squealie noise, so that’s another few points. But still, I love this board.
And other people love it, too. This kid on the right? He was waiting in line to ride a pony and abandoned his spot to ask me question after question about my board and to tell me how much he wanted one. These kids below, with the turtle? They yelled at me from across the street, “HEY LADY. LADY! WHAT IS THAT. WHAT. CAN WE SEE IT.” Even riding the street downtown, people actually reply when I say, “Good morning!” instead of continuing on in their escaped-from-the-cube-farm-for-a-few-minutes trance.
Maybe humans are primed to have a propensity to bond with transportation — or maybe I’m just like this because my first transportation that was mine was a horse. A good horse feels like a partner — my horse was a dick, but I felt safe with her. We explored the countryside of Nebraska in the late, late, late night hours, and sometimes hit the streets of my hometown when no one was awake.
And — talented anthropomorphizer that I am — this is the feeling I get with Cloris. I feel like we get each other. Longboards are chill rides — they aren’t built for tricks and you don’t have to speedboard with them or carve down major hills. Plenty of longboarders are just in it for the cruising. So this is my ode — and my voucher — to longboards for anyone looking for alternative transportation. They’re no harder to learn than a bike, I haven’t crashed in three months, and I started learning at age 27. Your excuses? They’re gone.
Anyone else got an alternative-alternative transport? Outside of bikes and buses, what do you get around on?