High on speed

I’ve been feeling a bit blah lately. Work’s been slow-to-middling, but still makes me tired enough to ignore my To Do list in the evenings – so I ride around all day in a cloud of guilt, and am chronically fed up, because of all the projects I want to get off the ground, but don’t have time for.

And today was worse than ever – only ten jobs, which means I made about £30, much of which I squandered on food. And there was lots of waiting around, and I’d forgotten to bring a book. I was meant to be meeting a friend of a friend at Waterloo after work, to hand over some presents our mutual friend had sent over from Delhi (and which I’d left with Lawrence (in EC1) for safekeeping), and I assured her that, since work was absolutely dead, I could almost certainly be there by 5.30, and probably long before.

So I sat in Golden Square (W1), watching the clock tick round to 4.30… 4.40… 4.50… and planning to make my excuses and scarper the moment it got to 5.00 (or maybe 4.59). But then, at 4.53, I was given a pick-up from an architecture firm on High Holborn (WC1), going down to the wrong end of Tooley Street (SE1). But all was not lost – I made it over to High Holborn in 10 minutes, and found out that the job had a strict deadline of 5.30, so if I made that, I’d probably not be that late for the Waterloo rendez-vous.

But I’d forgotten that, in general, the more urgent the job, and the closer the deadline, the more disorganized and ill-prepared the client will be. Several times I’ve raced to pick something up, only to find that the hapless sender is still printing it. And more often than not they’ll have a problem with their printer. And frequently the deadline has passed before the package has even left their office. This was no exception. The nice architect who’d booked the job apologized profusely, but there was something wrong with the CD they were sending, and his colleague was struggling to fix it, and could I please wait a few minutes?

So I waited a few minutes. At 5.15 he went to check on his colleague, made grovelling phonecalls to the recipient and my controller, and came back to tell me it would be a few more minutes. I made frantic phonecalls to Lawrence, to make sure he wasn’t going to shut up shop and go home before I’d picked up the presents, and the lady in Waterloo, to delay our appointment till 6, and apologize for making her wait around.

The CD was finally ready at 5.30 on the dot, and they generously assured me they weren’t too worried about it meeting the deadline any more. But I was more concerned about my own deadline. So I raced off, tearing through the rush-hour traffic with a fluency I only seem to command when high on adrenaline or panic, sped along Theobald’s and Clerkenwell, and swooped briefly into Leather Lane (where Lawrence was still packing up), where I apologized loudly, cursed deadlines and clients and architects and CDs, snatched the bag of presents, and tore off towards Blackfriars Bridge.

Half the commuters in London were heading in the same direction, and I had to elbow my way through whole fleets of motorbikes and scooters, which, ever since they were allowed into the bus lanes last year, have decided they’re allowed to use the cycle lanes and ASLs as well. But I had fire in my belly, and ducked in and out of them, before storming up onto the bridge, building up the kind of momentum I haven’t felt for months. As I raced along Southwark Street, I realized how long it’s been since I really rode to my limit – perhaps not since about 18 months ago, when I tried to keep the entirety of my 32-mile commute within two hours. I was panting, and sweating, and my legs were burning, and my face was glowing, and it felt amazing! My day-to-day riding consists more of skillfully weaving in and out of the traffic than breathlessly racing from one end of town to the other, and whilst the former feels like dancing, the latter feels like flying.

I pulled up at the delivery address at 5.49, deposited the package in seconds (they looked grateful), and sped off for Waterloo. It’s quite easy to get from London Bridge to Waterloo: once you’re free of the mêlée of Tooley Street it’s a clear run along Southwark Street and Stamford Street, and round the IMAX roundabout. I could do it in about 5 minutes if the lights were in my favour, and the roads were clear of commuters. As it was, I drew up at the station at 5.59 precisely, handed over the package, and continued on my way home.

There was no need to rush now, but I couldn’t help it. Rather than limping my way home at 5mph, as I normally do, I found myself storming past all the other cyclists, and flying up the hills. I haven’t had a high like this for so long, and it reminds me that there may one day be a reason to give up this (highly addictive) job. If I wasn’t permanently exhausted and always on the bike, I could race at the weekends, or go for long rides out into the country, or climb mountains, or go to the velodrome…

And the endorphins have very successfully banished my blah-ness. Ever since I got home, I’ve been bouncing around the flat, and I’ve got a massive jacket potato in the oven as a reward, and lovely warm glow, and a much better mood than I left the house with.

And in case you were thinking that was fast – it’s not. One of the alleycats the couriers occasionally stage takes the form of a ‘dash for the cash’ – everyone puts a couple of quid in a pot, and races from the Foundry, on Old Street, to Marble Arch, and then back. Whoever finishes first gets all the money. And the record is 20 minutes.


2 Responses to “High on speed”

  1. redbikes Says:

    32mile commute, then you have to ride all day as part of your job – No wonder you’re always tired!

    My commutes just 10ish miles each way and I sit on my bum all day.
    (Feeling rather lazy now!).

  2. thatmessengerchick Says:

    I’d love to pretend I was that hard, but actually the 32-mile commute was before I started couriering! And I sit on my bum all day too, technically…

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