Re: [messengers] Bike Messenger: A Job and A Way of Life

Date: 20 Jul 2010 23:58:38 +0200
From: jacobs <jacobs@xxxxxxxx>


how can anyone take an article seriously that hasn't even been proofread?

jacobs
bbma.org


On Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 9:19 AM, Joe Hendry <messvilleto@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

>
>
> Bike Messenger: A Job and A Way of Life
> Chicago Talks, July 20, 2010
>
> By Katy Nielsen
> They blaze through red lights, skid around pedestrians and nearly collide
> with oncoming traffic. Sergio Rodriguez, a criminal defense attorney from
> Chicago called them “a nuisance.”
>
> Who are they: Urban bike messengers.
>
> “What these people don’t know is that the bicycle is more than a sport and
> more than a job. . . the bicycle is a philosophy, a way of life,” explains
> Chicago bike messenger Travis Hugh Culley, author of The Immortal Class. His
> book reveals the art of bike messaging through his firsthand account,
> shedding light on a misunderstood group.
>
> Among Chicago’s 200 bike messengers, there is a sense of pride in what they
> do. Mike Malone, 27, has worked two years as a bike messenger in Chicago,
> “it’s partially my love of biking;” he said, “but it’s also just the freedom
> of not having someone look over my shoulder.”
>
> On a typical day, the messenger will get a chirp from his boss on his
> Nextel with information about where to pickup and drop-off a package; he
> scribbles down or memorizes that information and takes to the street.
>
> So what exactly are bike messengers carrying? For the most part, they
> deliver architectural blueprints, court documents, camera parts and
> subcontracts. Messengers can carry up to six or more packages at one time.
>
> They also buy their own gear and carry it with them all day. A messenger’s
> equipment in addition to his bike includes a walkie-talkie, tire pump, spare
> tire, levers to take a tire off, bike lock and a collection of tools.
>
> As soon as the messenger receives orders from dispatch, the focus becomes
> moving the package from point A, to point B as fast as possible.
>
> “It’s like being in a videogame all day.  That’s why people love the job,
> because you’re getting paid to race,” explains Grant Fator, 27, a messenger
> who has worked in Chicago for a year and messaged in Austin for six months.
>
> Messengers are sprinters; getting on and off their bikes as fast as they
> can and locking them up in three seconds or less. Most runs are a mile and a
> half, and to put that into perspective, the distance from 1200 South
> Michigan to 1200 North Michigan is about three miles. Timing is everything,
> so messengers have to plan their routes carefully.
>
> Nico Deportago-Cabrera, 26, a veteran bike messenger explained that “with
> time you learn how to be more efficient.” A good messenger will make about
> 30 runs and earn about $100 a day. That is one a good day, Deportago-Cabrera
> said.
>
> “They’re going to pay you more the faster you get to a place, the more red
> lights you run. I have literally seen messengers plow pedestrians down; I
> have seen messengers try to gun the red light and get smashed by a bus,”
> Fator said.
>
> This is not a job for the fainthearted.
>
> “In order to do the job that’s required of you, you have to be willing to
> break the law all day long,” said Chris Horner, 27, who has worked as a
> messenger for 2 years, adding, “you basically have to be fearless.”
>
> Messengers are expected to know how to get around the city and where to
> take packages.
>
> “When you hear, ‘take it to 233 S. Wacker,’ if you take [that package] in
> 233 S. Wacker, security guards will literally come up and ask if you’re a
> bike messenger and tell you to go around the back,” said Fator.
>
> In order to avoid encounters with security, messengers must learn how to be
> unseen. This is one of many unwritten rules in this line of work.
>
> At lunchtime, messengers congregate at the Thompson Center, mostly because
> of the cheap food, public bathrooms, protective awnings and because its
> central location. On nice days, it is a place where messengers do bike
> tricks outside.
>
> At the end of the day, each messenger turns in a manifest, a record of when
> and who signed for each package. This is how a messenger is paid. They bike
> home and, because messengers are often roommates, swap stories over beers
> and cigarettes before going to bed.
>
> “In general as a bike messenger if you’re going to last long-term it’s
> because you love the lifestyle,” explains Fator. “When you’re working from 8
> a.m. to 6 p.m. six days-a-week it pretty much envelopes your life. You are
> just dead tired all the time, but you are doing great work. You’re living
> that lifestyle all the time so you have to love it because you’re not making
> that much money doing it.”
>
> “When you’re riding as much as we do you start to use all five senses to
> get around the traffic. It’s really impossible to explain,” said Malone,
> “another messenger, Josh Corby said ‘it’s kind of like watching a river flow
> over some rocks you can’t pick out the path the river takes it just flows
> around and through and just gets past the rocks’.”
>
> Deportago-Cabrera said: There’s a rhythm that goes with [messaging]. You
> feel like you’re a part of this organism that is the city. It’s like you’re
> delivering oxygen to different parts of this body. You’re an insignificant
> part of it but you’re essential to it.
>
> The job of bike messaging, when described by messengers, is an art form. It
> is something not everyone can do and few people master.
>
> Messengers describe weaving through traffic like following a line through
> the city.
>
> “There’s no stopping, that’s why guys ride without brakes. You just want to
> keep going around things and through things. You don’t want to stop,” Fator
> said.
>
> “It’s when the pedestrians do the deer-in-the-headlights thing that we run
> into trouble,” said Fator. “If no one ever saw bike messengers and they just
> kept walking, we would be an inch away from you but we would be fine.”
>
> The need for speed extends past the messenger’s workday into the nightlife.
> “Alleycat” races are high-speed scavenger hunts for bikers. Racers show up
> to a place at a certain time, pay a few bucks to the organizer, and right
> before they get the signal to go, each racer is given a manifest with a list
> of checkpoints.
>
> At each checkpoint there is someone waiting to sign off. The first one to
> complete their manifest wins.
>
> “Basically you’re doing your job afterhours and trying to be the fast guy,”
> said Fator.
>
> Deportago-Cabrera was the 2009 Cycle Currier Champion, and he has competed
> in cities all over the world, taking him as far as Tokyo.
>
> “It really got me amped on my job,” said Deportago-Cabrera of alleycat
> races.
>
> For messengers, street credit means everything. That credit comes from
> surviving the winter in Chicago as a messenger and winning alleycat races.
>
> The lifestyle of a messenger is high-risk. Injuries are part of the job. Of
> 113 Boston bicycle messengers who responded to a self-administered Harvard
> survey 90% reported injuries on the job; however, only 55% of those injured
> sought medical attention. In total, there were 25,000 “close calls” reported
> by the messengers over the course of their job experience.
>
> Fator, like many messengers, does not have health insurance. Messengers can
> buy liability insurance through their companies, but it does not cover
> hospital stays.
>
> “If any insurance stuff needs to be taken care of and it gets sent to your
> dispatch; 8 times out of 10 you lose your job over it,” said Fator.
>
> When messengers get into accidents, they try to escape that situation as
> fast as they can. Fator expressed more concern about his bike braking than
> his body. He has had eight collisions with cars, and has been “doored” (hit
> by a car door) three times.
>
> “Whenever [messengers] heal they’re out there doing the same thing because
> it’s a passion, it’s an adrenaline thing,” said Fator.
>
> Of course, messengers know there is a risk. For many of them that is part
> of the job’s appeal.
>
> Travis Hugh Culley said this his book The Immortal Class: Unforeseeable
> problems can surface, threatening serious injury, extreme fatigue, and
> frustration. But if a biker can keep a good outlook in the face of wrong
> addresses, rude recipients, flat tires, dying radio batteries, unruly cops,
> hotheaded security guards, and injured friends, he can become indispensable
> to a company.
>
> People become messengers for different reasons, but they all share the
> passion for riding their bikes through a beautiful, living, breathing city.
> As Malone said, “I’ve found something that I love to do and can make a
> living at it. At the end of the day, it makes me happy. At the end of the
> day I feel satisfied that I’ve done my job. To me, that’s all that matters.”
>
>
>
>
>
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