Friday, August 17, 2012

Only the Pure of Heart Shall Pass

He stops 4 ton vehicles with a small flat piece of metal on a stick

Who are you?

I am the flag man. Who are you?

I am the bike commuter.


Hi there. What is your lot in life?

I man the flag. What's yours?

I commute the bike. What are your tools of choice?

Lightweight safety orange flag. Hard hat. work boots. Nerves of steel. A sign which I spin in circles to balance the flow. Patience. You?

Lightweight yellow fixie commuter bike. Helmet. Street shoes. Frames of steel. Pedals which I spin in circles to balance the flow. Patience. What are your methods?

Day one of the drain project

I make eye contact with drivers. I watch for openings in oncoming traffic and time my changes so that smooth coordination and fair alternation of passage along the route is achieved in a safe and civil manner. Communication is key. Clear and direct signals. I make my intentions known. You?

Ditto. Can I ask you one last question?


Why haven't you spun your sign around in like five minutes? There's quite a backup developing here. Maybe you should let some of the drivers who are honking and idling in this summer heat go ahead. The impatience is palpable. They are beginning to wonder, in short, what the hell is going on. If it wasn't so hot out, they might roll down their windows and begin gesturing or yelling in your general direction.

For the cement fabric of the city shall be sliced up, run through with trenches, and plated with steel.

I care not about their honking, gesturing, or would-be yelling, for I have come to an understanding, a key decision in a moment of clarity, standing here in the sun, spinning my sign.

An understanding. A moment of clarity. Here? Flag man for the drain project? Tell me, what is this key decision?

Thank you for asking, bike commuter. I have decided that only the pure of heart shall pass. The unworthy must wait. Must sit and idle in the sun, as it were.

I understand. The concept is easily grasped, flag man. However, I must then ask yet another question: how can you distinguish the pure of heart from the unworthy?

Ah, but you must know, bike commuter, if anyone does! Those who honk and gesture, simmer and steam, yell and fall apart, immediately assume the worst of each others' motives while sitting in their comfortable air conditioned vehicles, listening to digital music over six speakers, and able to reach out and speak to anyone in the world, or text, or check their--you get the idea, those who so readily lapse into anger and violent irrational thoughts, is it not obvious that they are not pure of heart? While lacking no thing, with the world's history of art and information and all communication at their fingertips, still they reach for the caveman club in the face of one man with a spinning sign on a stick? And that they should not pass, for their own good, and the good of others? 

Bike commuter thought for a moment. I'm unsure, flag man, of the wisdom, or advisability, of what you're up to. Myself, I've never felt qualified to make such judgements. But I have to wonder, are you going to let me pass? I'm not yelling, or gesturing, or losing it because of sitting here so long, and in fact have enjoyed talking with you. May I proceed?

Flag man's looked at his spinnable sign, which trembled just for a moment. Yes, your heart would seem to be near enough to qualify. Ride on, bike commuter, and do good in every moment.

Thanks, flag man. You going to let them go, too? They're really going to pop their corks if you let a bicycle go but not them.

Fear not, bike commuter, my shift is almost over, and our drain construction labor almost done for the day. The steaming drivers shall be on their ways soon enough. And I'm confident that eventually, they will understand how it works around here, how it is with the flag man. Honking, gesturing, yelling have no value at my station. Civility and cooperation, equanimity and compassion, are required to pass this spot. Commute the heck out of that bike, wouldya?


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Iron Rider, your comment reminded me of the book, and I thought about it, and also the time/place I first read it, all the way into work. Shanti.


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