The sidelines of life
July 28, 2007
We live in a day and age ” a society ” in which we have corporations and media outlets pushing us to get out there and “do.”
Whatever “doing” entails. Nike tells us that we need to “Just do it.” The message is that doing is better than watching or observing. Adidas’ mantra is “Impossible is nothing.” We can climb any mountain, swim any channel or race any endurance race we want if we just buy into their company’s philosophy (and buy the products). The tie that binds these slogans is that they tell us that we have to be active to be worthy Americans.
I don’t buy this philosophy. In life, there are doers, and there are observers. God love the observers. Or maybe they’re not observers. Maybe they just decide to participate in a different way.
Operation or ByPass?
Had enough of the cryptic, non-detailed rhetoric? Let me give an example of the type of people we need more of in this ultra-competitive world.
I was covering a shift for a co-worker a couple of Saturdays ago, and because it was a Saturday and no one would be at the office to care about my appearance or stench, I decided to ride my mountain bike to work. It took me a half hour to make the trek from Edwards to Eagle-Vail, the home of the Daily.
Even though there was a buzz around the office the week before about that day being the Triple ByPass road cycling race, I totally forgot about the race when I was planning on riding to work.
I put in a couple of hours at the office, we hit our evening deadline, and I was getting ready to ride my bike back home for my dinner break and to grab my car to drive back into the office. (I didn’t want to ride home after midnight, as it gets pretty chilly up here after dark.)
I headed out the doors and hopped on my bike. I rode just a little ways before two guys in orange vests waved to me. I figured they were construction workers getting in some overtime on a Saturday. I waved back.
As I rode on, I passed a guy whose matching helmet, jersey, spandex shorts and shoes were worth more than the bike I was riding. He urged me to pass him because his shifters were messed up. At that time, I still had no idea that people had been biking from Evergreen to Avon.
I ride on and catch up with a couple of riders ” riders who have bikes valued higher than my 1993 Nissan and 1987 Jeep Wrangler combined. Still no idea that the Triple ByPass is wrapping up around that time in that neighborhood.
So there I am, riding down U.S. Highway 6 toward Edwards in my 6-year-old Old Navy shorts that are tattered at the bottom, a Mountain Hardwear wicking T-shirt and riding a clunky old mountain bike.
Miss Orange Vest
I ride at a pretty good clip of between 22 miles per hour and 24 mph. I approach the roundabout at Beaver Creek Boulevard and see cops on the sidewalks and more people in orange vests; the absence of hard hats should have alerted me to the fact that these orange-clad folks weren’t road construction workers. I
checked my speed and got ready to lean into my turn (I was going to transfer over to the bike trail and finish my ride to Edwards off the highway) when I saw one of the women in orange with a broad, bright smile bubbling with excitement.
As I approached, she clapped her hands and bounced with anticipation. She exclaimed, “Yeah. Two blocks left. Pedal hard! Finish strong!” Call me a dummy, but it took the last part of her cheering to remind me that I was now in the last two blocks of a 100-mile race, and I conveniently skipped out on 97 or 98 of the previous, grueling miles.
My bike and my attire should have stood out like a sore thumb. I should have been easy to notice as a 100-mile road-race fraud considering that I hardly had broken a sweat in the two miles I had ridden to that point.
That boisterous, energetic woman made my afternoon. I finished my ride to Edwards in 22 minutes, shaving about 8 minutes off the time that it took me to ride that same distance just that morning. I credit the 22-minute finish to that woman. I credit her with it, and I applaud her enthusiasm for cheering.
We need people on the sidelines. I wasn’t competing in the race that day. She didn’t know I wasn’t a competitor, but she cheered me on to competing against my personal record of earlier that day.
Maybe that woman’s idea of “Just do it” or “Impossible is nothing” is being the best gardener on her block. Maybe it’s being the most accomplished at what she does at her 9 to 5. Whatever. Maybe she is a triathlete and doesn’t compete in 100-mile road races. Whatever her case may be, she was on the sideline that Saturday, and I’m glad she was.
If your inclination is to be an observer, just remember that the world needs you, too. And don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about being an observer. The racers, the competitors, they need you and life needs you. This is my great big thanks to you, Miss Orange Vest. Thanks for cheering me on.
When not “competing” in the Triple ByPass, Matthew Seckinger is a copy editor for the Vail Daily.