Living in a small town, your chance at fifteen minutes of fame comes up more easily than in a bustling metropolis or the vast anonymous wasteland of suburbia. If you do something long enough, like ride a 30-mile bike commute, someone is bound to notice eventually. You become a local character.
When a local reporter asked about doing a feature on me for the local paper I almost said no. Media portrayals always seem to get things at least a little wrong. When I did agree, it was with the hope that her skill and mine could put together a little dispatch from the foreign land of bike commuting that would present the essence to the reading public, to increase understanding and maybe even spark some interest.
I remember the difficulties of freelance writing. Those frustrations eased my slide into my current greasy trade. It was a challenge to get the story right and another challenge to get paid for it. I would read my own work and cringe at how I had accidentally misrepresented my subject. It was never libelous, just not quite tight enough to satisfy me. What had seemed good enough when I had to get it onto the editor's desk looked a lot worse when it was irretrievably set in ink and distributed far and wide. So I don't blame anyone when the story reads like they got the word processor mixed up with the food processor: Complete sentences, witty quips and wise observations went in, they hit "chop" and dumped the resulting chunks into a bowl. From this wad they fashioned new sentences. My actual words are there, but strangely associated.
It's hard to sum up decades of experience in cycling in a third of a page and a grainy photo. Friends and acquaintances were congratulating me on the article within minutes after the paper hit the news stands, but I can't read it without going, "but wait -- what about -- that's not quite right -- ."
By next week it will all be forgotten. Does that make it better or worse?
Whatever I do, whatever I say, I hope it makes the world a better place to ride a bike. I'll be riding anyway, so my world view has a healthy dose of self interest. Now I have to wait another 25 years for the local media to pay attention again. I can only hope that this week's article will have done some good.