I’ve just spent a week riding my bike 80-100 miles a day with 2000 customers and other folks on Cycle Oregon. I was looking forward to impressively blogging last week from the saddle using my new, all-singing-all-dancing iPhone, but it turned out to be a mute, club-footed wallflower.
On the few occasions I managed to get a connection, the entire emailing process was so slow I basically gave up. I have tiny fingers, yet couldn’t string letters together without making loads of mistakes. Somehow along the way the talk mechanism got discombobulated when I plugged in the headphones to listen to the iPod function, and even my former Apple developer pal who’s on dinner dating terms with Steve J couldn’t recombobulate it. And the number of times I accidentally brushed that shiny glass keypad and called the same person 10 times, or restarted a song 10 times … but it did come in handy as a mirror to get at the spinach stuck in my teeth.
Bah, it was worth the 10% restocking fee to try it out, but I’ll gladly revive my old Crackberry for now. For serious handheld wordsmithing, it’s hard to beat. (I just wish I could get PocketMac to sync my 1000+ addresses instead of choking at 350).
On the ride I had a lot of people coming up to me following an impromptu screening of my Route 66 digital camera movie. As usual, I spent a lot of time in bicycle-travel-Apple-moviemaking tech talk, and a lot of my conversations were with men. Married men. Men with girlfriends and intendeds.
At one point, from somewhere near by left shoulder I detected a shuffling, a certain disquiet. The man in front of me was blithely blathering about battery life and CCD artifacts, quite unaware that his soulmate was getting hot under the collar. I won’t go into all the minutiae but the situation escalated to an unveiled hostility towards me before hapless Harry was hit over the head with the proverbial frying pan and dragged back to the family cave.
Which brings me to the completely unrelated-to-iPhone topic of today: If you’re female, single, and a consummate networker, beware of unintentional homewrecking.
Your completely innocent banter with members of the opposite sex can be completely misinterpreted by their gatekeepers.
I never thought I would come across this phenomenon in my field, believing that bicycling promotes a truly genderless camaraderie. I mean, no one seriously turns heads clumping around like Quasimodo in lycra that looks like a rainbow threw up on it (thank you Janet Fitch for that insanely great simile). On a bicycle you’re focused on the most mundane hierarchy of needs, like how much oxygen is left in your lungs, how much food is in your muscles, and whether you’re going to make it before it’s dark or it pours. If you’re traveling self supported, it’s ‘what do I eat, where do I sleep, where am I going?’. You’re rarely focused on what your partner thought that you thought that they thought, or why they haven’t put the trash out.
My first brush with being a potential homewrecker came back in 2001, when I’d just landed at Bike Friday. I’d arranged to ride tandem on a 1-day event with a cyclist I’d been in friendly contact with for several years, but had never actually met. I was excited to meet him and his new wife at long last, and have two new friends in my life. The night before I was due to fly out he called me up. There was a problem … his wife suddenly turned to him and said, so, you have to ride a bike with this, this soulmate, right? He said there was no convincing her. I was flabbergastered, as this was the first time such a thing had happened to me.
It was a mad scramble to find another tandem captain at the eleventh hour, and I was not allowed any further contact. To his credit, he chose his marriage; I do admire decisiveness, far better than those who sit on the fence, dragging their dissatisfaction out for years unwittingly passing negative vibes onto everyone who comes in contact with them.
On another occasion I was chatting with a customer who shared his difficult family situation with me. I was completely unaware that my admiration and verbal acknowledgement of his incredible substance under dire circumstances was viewed as ‘making a move on him’.
A third case is where someone read my book and it so resonated with him that he announced to his wife that he’d fallen in love with me, but not that kind of love, understand, just this other kind of love and no, he wasn’t leaving her for me, just that blah blah blah. To which I said, thank you for the compliment, please cease and desist immediately from mentioning the words ‘love’ and my name in the same sentence in front of your wife …
So does this mean, oh sober suited sirens, you must shrink yourself down and keep your life contained, perfunctory, polite and painfully politically correct?
I hope not. Your magnanimous, well-intended outreach and measured mischievousness is what got you where you are. You’re a breath of fresh air in this era of bland corporate speak, phone menus and petty office politics. In this technologically connected but spiritually disconnected world, true networkers must continue to take risks in order to bring people together for mutual benefit.
You just need to be aware of what you’re doing.
Marianne Williamson has a great anecdote in her cassette tape called ‘Intimacy’:
You walk into a room with a man you love, and he spends all night talking to a beautiful woman. What is your reaction? “Bitch!” And: “How dare he, how dare he enjoy himself. I’m just going to be all insecure here and that’ll make me attractive …”
Ah, what a wonderful world it would be if people were able to stand on their own two feet, and catch themselves out when they fall prey to insecurity – I believe there’d be less war.
But where I used to adopt a high and mighty position, proclaiming that ‘you can’t break what’s already broken’, I’ve since softened after reading “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps” by Alan and Barbara Pease. It clearly explains why measured insecurity makes the world go round. Quite simply, men are easily titillated, or – nature is cracking that procreational whip – so a woman who keeps a tight rein on him with just the right amount of slack is simply … being smart. Knowing this makes the ride a little less rough if and when you inadvertently rock the boat.
What on earth has all this to do with being a fast company man/woman? More than you’d care to know.