Monday, October 31, 2005

Something smells...

And apparently, it's me!

It poured all day today, but I didn't have class until 2:00. Trust me, this is not a cause for elation; it's hard enough to attend class at all when your PhD flatmates never have to be anywhere for anything (what, exactly, do they do over here?) -- it's worse when you have to sit in class until 5 at night. Wednesdays are my really fun days: 10 to 4, straight classes with no breaks! Woo-hoo!

Sidetracks aside, by the time I left, a considerable amount of standing water had accumulated on the streets. Shivering students were sloshing past on their bikes, pants soaked through, hair matted to their heads,, well, no one wears helmets here except we Americans, so never mind.

I grinned and deftly donned my Seattle bike gear: neon yellow jacket screaming "Don't you dare hit me!!", rainproof ski pants (the lightweight shell kind), REI full-finger gloves, reflector leg straps and -- coolest of all -- waterproof helmet cover that doubles as a reflector. Finally, I added my prize, a symbol of all my dorkiness that will forever mark me here: my waterproof backpack cover. God, I love that thing. I can bike for miles and nothing inside my pack ever feels the rain. Sure, it's a giant, flat gray and uglier than a garbage bag, but it is the Best Invention of All Time. This makes Velcro look like a first grade science project.

It's true that I stand out a bit, as most Cambridge students seem to prefer the "I'm going to die on this bike anyway, so I might as well look good doing it" statement. You see girls in miniskirts, guys in long, dangerously flapping trenchcoats, old ladies in long, sweeping dresses...I've lost count of the number of women who navigate their bikes in stilettos -- I tried boots once and promptly caught a heel in my pedal, then pulled the whole contraption on top of myself trying to yank it out before the light turned green. Between that and the mad determination of most cyclists to cause substantial pile-ups because they're too lazy to steer in a straight line, I prefer to be as obnoxiously visible as possible. I'd rather stay dry and unsplatted than be fashionably soaked and pretty on the pavement.

So I sped down the hill and arrived at the tech building bone-dry, despite the vicious downpour. Now, the only difficult part of my wardrobe is that I have to remove all of it before I enter a classroom -- teachers don't seem to appreciate it when I drip-dry on their floors. It consequently takes me a few moments to get ready: peel off the gloves, shrug off the jacket, pry off the helmet, unwrap the leg bands and take off the pants. Gotta love the looks that last one receives: "Hey! Is that girl taking her pants off in public?"

Yes, yes I am. Alas, they always lose interest when they see the real pair underneath the shell.

Anyway, I was in the process of disrobing when a couple of my friends walked past on their way to the same lecture. One checked out my things, which immediately sent me into a pointless exposition about the merits of waterproof backpack covers. Midway through my drivel, she cut me off and said:

"You know, you just reek of Seattle." Then she patted my arm as I turned crimson. "It's okay," she assured me. "It's a good thing."

It's never a good thing to hear the words "you" and "reek" in the same sentence. I should probably just start wearing Gortex and Birkenstocks while munching granola and be done with it.

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