Thursday, May 8, 2014

On Nicknames And The Machine

I have never been one to name a vehicle.  My first car, a grey Volvo lives on as my forever password -a password so good that my sister who co-owned the car with me now uses it too.  (We are aware that this is a negligent security situation.)  Subsequent vehicles were either too red or too blue.  It all seemed so forced.  There was a time in life when your friends asked you, "Does it have a name?"  And it seemed to matter.  I'm glad those days are over.  The peer-pressure to name your vehicle.  Was that a point of anxiety for anybody else?  Someone cooler who had thought up the perfect name for his or her car was usually in your company and suddenly your car was so boring.  And there you stood as its owner too boring, too careless to bother.  How could you?

But really, the pressure's off.  Nicknames are to be stumbled upon.  They are handed down to you.  It can't happen any other way, as far as I'm concerned.

I always wanted a nickname growing up.  Didn't we all?  There is something wonderful about terms of endearment.  I remember, how could I forget, when my favorite summer camp counselor rustled my hair while I stood in the canteen line and called me "buddy."  Actually it was "Hey, buddy."  With an intonation somewhere between an exclamation point and the solidarity of a period.  Like we'd been friends forever but he was still really excited to see me.  After I begrudgingly moved ahead in line, out of his jurisdiction, the girl next to me who witnessed the whole thing looked at me with mouth wide open.  I met her with a dropped jaw.  Did that really just happen to me?

Inconsequential attempts were made in high school to assign me a nickname.  A few would stick on the soccer field, but mostly I was just "the twins."  I do not have a problem with this.  These days Eric calls me Melis which I like, but he is pretty sparing with its use.   That is a subject for another day -how speaking a person's name in greeting or in general conversation is falling out of fashion in this country.

I take you on this meandering trail to make an announcement.  I finally own a vehicle that has a nickname!  Even better, it's a bakfiets -a cargo bike and it's red.  The machine.  The nickname is courtesy of a friend of Eric's, an extremely likable Irish gentleman who happened by it one day.  "Is this your machine?" he asked.

It was previously owned by a young lady in Roxbury.  A single-mom, minding her own business, unschooling her son, cruising around Boston's rough patches on her bakfiets.  We exchanged stories, handed her a check and drove it off the lot.  Or rather Eric biked it home.  We installed some harnesses and bought some WD40.  We brought it to Bicycle Belle for a new back break and rear tire and she sails again.

I am beaming.  I am grunting up hills I didn't know were there.  We ring the bell.  We are waving.  People are staring.  They are smiling.  We have a bike song.  We are having so much fun.

It does come with challenges.   Although steering is not one of them.  You wouldn't believe how easy it is to drive.  It is heavy and the center of gravity is low, so tipping isn't an option.  Pedaling is another story.  It's less of a recreational ride than I envisioned and more like a work horse and I'm the horse.  I tried to explain to Naomi while I was pedaling how hard I am working to get us home and it silenced whatever request she was making.  Also, everything is taking longer that I estimate.  Loading Naomi and Verity into the bucket takes some time.  Helmets need adjusting, harnesses need tightening.  We go slower than I estimate.  Which leads me to my next challenge.  It's becoming Verity's new favorite place to nap.  I need to get a water-gun, for real.  But I'm not sure that would work.

One thing is for sure:  Our radius just got a lot bigger.  

I'd like to thank those individuals who encouraged me to follow my dream of owning a bakfiets on the outskirts of Amsterdam.  ;)


  1. Oh! I love this! I can just picture the three of you cruising around, enjoying a much yearned for spring. So, so fun ... & great writing, M.

  2. Rowan was looking over my shoulder as I read (and by "looking over" I mean standing on me and trying to touch the screen of course) and pointed right at that first picture and when I said "that's Naomi and Verity" he responded "two! Happy!" Indeed.