Sunday, April 02, 2006

Trying to hang and not get dropped

I spent my morning at the bike races, riding with the Category 5 men, trying my best to hang with the pack and not get dropped, as they say. And I didn’t get dropped until the last two laps, out of about 16 laps total. At that point, the race got much faster, and I just couldn’t keep up. This is considerably better than my first two races: in the first one I hung on for 2 laps, and the second one I lasted 7. I did, however, almost throw up when I finished today. But, and this is the strange part, it was fun. The almost-throwing-up part isn’t fun, but working that hard is.

I should explain, for those of you who might not know, that while there is a women’s race, women are allowed to ride in certain of the men’s races if they want to. I tried to ride in the women’s race once, and got soundly beaten. I couldn’t hang. That was the race where I lasted two laps. So I decided I should try another race, and I found that riding with the men is much easier.

Man is it fun to say that! Those women kick butt! Of course, I should also explain that I’m talking about a women’s race that includes riders with a ton of experience, possibly including some pro riders, and the men’s race I refer to is for beginning racers. So it’s not a fair comparison. But still.

On another topic entirely, I got absorbed in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed yesterday, which I’m preparing for class this week. I’d read it before and liked it, and still I’m finding myself drawn into in the story – where she takes on different low-wage jobs for a month at a time to see if she can make her finances work out, to see if a person can survive on those jobs. This time around, though, I’m a little more troubled by the way she talks about the jobs and the workers. I know she’s taking on some hard work in some difficult conditions and she’s doing it voluntarily. And when she complains or talks about “taking breaks” and going back to her regular life briefly, she is self-conscious about it and aware of the advantages she has over the workers who can’t do that.

But, still, I feel like she sometimes treats these workers as though they come from a different planet than “the rest of us.” For example, she is surprised that no one cares much when she reveals that she is writing a book about them and that she’s not really a working-class woman. And I think, why should they care? Why should she deserve special attention from them? She wonders if people will recognize she doesn’t “fit” in those jobs, as though her class status should be obvious to anyone. Yes, she does recognize how silly this is, but the attitude lingers. I think the book is important for the way it exposes the difficult lives of working people to those readers who simply don’t see them, but I wish she didn’t have the habit of treating these workers as objects to be studied, residing in a world completely separate from her own.