Being “That Guy”

Something struck me today as I was pulling on my riding gear after lunch.

I really enjoy being that guy.

Not that guy you hate (that’s a different guy, really!) but that guy you look at and wonder what the hell is wrong with him. The person who does things differently. The hard way. Who stands out just a little bit. Not because my way is better, or I am better, but simply because I take noticable pleasure in not following along. In doing things just because others aren’t. In being different.

Oh, let’s just say it: I’m contrary.

Not about everything of course. In many respects I’m probably considered a conformist. And you can always make the argument that any attempt at nonconformity is just conformity to a different norm (hipster, goth, metal). But there are the little things. The stuff that doesn’t matter, except for its own ends. Except in aggregate.

How about an example?

The motorcycle

Of course a lot of people ride, but it takes that special sort of idiot to ride when almost no one else will. I take pride in being that idiot.

Take today: it’s 35 degrees (F) out there. Barely above freezing. Downright chilly, even. But the sun is out and the roads are dry. It’s gorgeous and I’m riding. I’m happy. Now on a nice warm day, even this time of year, you’ll see people out on their bikes. But on a day like this it’s very, very rare.

So what do I hear in the elevator? “Isn’t it a little chilly out there?” Why yes it is! Thanks for noticing! Since I bought my bike a few summers ago I’ve ridden it to work every day I could, or at least every day it made sense. I’ve even ridden on days I probably shouldn’t have, because I love it so much.

And I love being that guy. I get a thrill from being the only bike on the road. I like it when people look at me like I’m crazy. I think at least I’m not sitting in a car like everyone else. It’s not rational, and it’s not sensible, but it feels good.

And hey, sometimes that’s enough.

The bicycle

I just made a big point about riding my motorcycle in any (safe) weather. Now in general cyclists are a lot more hardcore than motorcyclists when it comes to riding year round, so I make no claims there. I ride my bicycle all year as well but in Denver you don’t stand out for that.

So I make my claim differently when it comes to cycling.

Go out to the trails any time of year, any time of day around here. You’ll see cyclists everywhere. And they’re mostly riding big name big dollar bikes with ultra skinny tires and no frame clearance for anything else. They have high saddles and low handlebars.

And they’re wearing the costume.

No matter the age, no matter the speed, no matter the length of ride, it’s like there’s some weird unwritten code out there. No cycling without the tight pants and jersey!

That’s the Denver Serious Cyclist uniform: an impractical (though technically spectacular) road bike and padded shorts.

But I’m that guy. I’m the one going out for a 30 mile ride in cargo shorts and tennis shoes. I’m the one on a 27 year old Trek with chipped paint, high handlebars, a leather saddle, and the fenders that I’m too lazy to take off when the weather’s good. And my tires are fat.

Now I’ll never claim that my bike is better. But I will claim it is prettier, and I know it is more practical. And anyone who was ever a kid knows that you don’t actually need a fancy, silly, bike and clothes to have a good ride.

But even that doesn’t matter, because I just enjoy being contrary.

The little things

Of course it goes a lot further than just two wheels, but I’m sure this is getting boring.

I alternate wristwatches between a one-handed german beauty and an iPod Nano. I wore a livestrong band from the moment they were cool until several years after anyone bothered, and only stopped when it broke. I bought an Olympus SLR even though everyone I know bought Canons and Nikons. I don’t wear baseball caps but I do wear my Tilley.

And culturally it’s similar. I opt out of full body scans at the airport. I don’t watch live television. I never see commercials, and generally avoid advertisements. I don’t know labels or what’s cool. And I like it that way.

Now maybe I’m just culturing an affectation, but I think I’m sincere about everything I do. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t feel right doing it.

— Steve

Posted on 16 November 2011