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

Date: 21 Jul 2010 02:01:42 +0200
From: Matthew Case <lug.junkie@xxxxxxxxx>

I remember back in the day when I would do stupid crap that would nearly get
me killed for a $4 tag because of the love of the lifestyle.

Oh wait.  I never did that.  I guess it's a new/oldschool thing.

Remember that time I put all of your stories into a book and said they were
all mine?


Matt Case

On Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 4:42 PM, andy duncan <mcbstrd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

>   ... veterans always have much more sensible things to say - that's why
>   we are still here!
>   even so, the usual stereotypes prevail in the mix of bad journalism and
>   professional inexperience
>   AD
>   --- dannykdc@xxxxxxxxx wrote:
>   From: Danny Koniowsky <dannykdc@xxxxxxxxx>
>   To: mcbstrd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>   Cc: Joe Hendry <messvilleto@xxxxxxxxx>, messengers@xxxxxxxxx
>   Subject: Re: [messengers] Bike Messenger: A Job and A Way of Life
>   Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2010 10:47:32 -0400
>   Those are also just things that that rookie dude in the article said.
>   The more veteran riders in the article had much smarter things to say
>   than the dude whose bit hit 8 times in his 1 year working as a
>   messenger, and talks about "if youâre going to last long-term itâs
>   because you love the lifestyle"... hopefully he will get it one day.
>   On Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 10:38 AM, andy duncan
>   <[1]mcbstrd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>     when reading articles like this I often feel that a North American
>     journalist should write about being a messenger in european
>     provincial cities .... my work is not for example in the least bit
>     like a video game, and I am not prepared to mow down a row of
>     pedestrians just to get the job done two seconds sooner ....
>     my ten eurocents
>     love and peace,
>     AD
>     --- [2]messvilleto@xxxxxxxxx wrote:
>     From: Joe Hendry <[3]messvilleto@xxxxxxxxx>
>     To: Messenger list <[4]messengers@xxxxxxxxx>
>     Subject: [messengers] Bike Messenger: A Job and A Way of Life
>     Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2010 06:19:21 -0700 (PDT)
>     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 âa nuisance.â
>     Who are they: Urban bike messengers.
>     âWhat these people donât know is that the bicycle is more than a
>     sport and more than a job. . . the bicycle is a philosophy, a way of
>     life,â 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 Chicagoâs 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, âitâs partially my love of biking;â he said,
>     âbut itâs also just the freedom of not having someone look over my
>     shoulder.â
>     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
>     messengerâs 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.
>     âItâs like being in a videogame all day.  Thatâs why people love the
>     job, because youâre getting paid to race,â 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
>     âwith time you learn how to be more efficient.â A good messenger
>     will make about 30 runs and earn about $100 a day. That is one a
>     good day, Deportago-Cabrera said.
>     âTheyâre 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,â Fator said.
>     This is not a job for the fainthearted.
>     âIn order to do the job thatâs required of you, you have to be
>     willing to break the law all day long,â said Chris Horner, 27, who
>     has worked as a messenger for 2 years, adding, âyou basically have
>     to be fearless.â
>     Messengers are expected to know how to get around the city and where
>     to take packages.
>     âWhen you hear, âtake it to 233 S. Wacker,â if you take [that
>     package] in 233 S. Wacker, security guards will literally come up
>     and ask if youâre a bike messenger and tell you to go around the
>     back,â 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.
>     âIn general as a bike messenger if youâre going to last long-term
>     itâs because you love the lifestyle,â explains Fator. âWhen youâre
>     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. Youâre living that lifestyle all the time so
>     you have to love it because youâre not making that much money doing
>     it.â
>     âWhen youâre riding as much as we do you start to use all five
>     senses to get around the traffic. Itâs really impossible to
>     explain,â said Malone, âanother messenger, Josh Corby said âitâs
>     kind of like watching a river flow over some rocks you canât pick
>     out the path the river takes it just flows around and through and
>     just gets past the rocksâ.â
>     Deportago-Cabrera said: Thereâs a rhythm that goes with [messaging].
>     You feel like youâre a part of this organism that is the city. Itâs
>     like youâre delivering oxygen to different parts of this body.
>     Youâre an insignificant part of it but youâre 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.
>     âThereâs no stopping, thatâs why guys ride without brakes. You just
>     want to keep going around things and through things. You donât want
>     to stop,â Fator said.
>     âItâs when the pedestrians do the deer-in-the-headlights thing that
>     we run into trouble,â said Fator. âIf no one ever saw bike
>     messengers and they just kept walking, we would be an inch away from
>     you but we would be fine.â
>     The need for speed extends past the messengerâs workday into the
>     nightlife. âAlleycatâ 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.
>     âBasically youâre doing your job afterhours and trying to be the
>     fast guy,â 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.
>     âIt really got me amped on my job,â 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 âclose callsâ 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.
>     âIf 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,â 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 âdooredâ (hit by a car door) three times.
>     âWhenever [messengers] heal theyâre out there doing the same thing
>     because itâs a passion, itâs an adrenaline thing,â said Fator.
>     Of course, messengers know there is a risk. For many of them that is
>     part of the jobâs 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, âIâve 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 Iâve done my job.
>     To me, thatâs all that matters.â
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