ICan Work

It’s been a while, so here’s a recap:

I came home from Africa back in November 2012 to be with family over the holidays. Since I was home, I thought I would look for big boy jobs in my field. I had some success during the search, but ended up with a job I never thought existed. I am now a bicycle technician with an organization called ICan Shine, a non-profit group which aims to teach folks who have cognitive and other disabilities how to ride bikes, and to encourage them to become more confident and independent.

For me, this means driving a big truck hauling a trailer full of bikes to gymnasiums all over the United States to play with people and get my hands dirty with tools and bicycle hardware. It was the only job I applied for that seemed to offer immense satisfaction, travel, and hard work; it was also the only one whose management offered me a position within a week of contacting me.

Sometimes things happen and just seem right.

I expect to work incredibly hard. The training sessions have shown me how difficult this position will be. Yes, I’ll be a bike mechanic, but that’s hardly half of the responsibility. I expect to see some new places. My schedule has me in Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, Michigan and Minnesota, so I’ll get a chance to see some new country and sate my wanderlust. I also expect to have a fantastically fun time working with my new colleagues and with groups of people who are jazzed to learn to ride.

I’ve started the journey, and I feel compelled to once again fire up my work-travel blog. The point of this whole website has been to express what interesting stories and lessons learned on the road as a migrant worker, and I feel this job is damn-near the epitome of interesting migrant work. What luck!

Enough altruism and catch-up. Here’s a story:

Myself and twenty or so people, who only days before were complete strangers, were tucking in to our Mexican entrees after having nursed 32oz margaritas. It was the evening of our last day at training so giant, colorful drinks and fajitas seemed necessary and well-earned after long hours staring at power point slides and paperwork. We found them just blocks away from our hotel near the St. Louis airport.

Our food was on our tables hardly minutes before a hubbub blubbered through our party. Concern over weather alerts made us giddy or nervous depending on who you looked at. soon our food was in takeaway boxes and packed with us in our trucks. A tornado cometh.

Outside the hotel, some of my new friends and I were enjoying the eerie calm and abnormally dark skies on the grass, while inside the televisions droned about high winds. A storm siren could be heard intermittently. Shops closed. I finished my fajitas sitting on a concrete planter wall before the crescendo of an approaching downpour spooked us into the lobby.

Power failed and the hotel’s inhabitants were ushered into a conference room. The same room where we had for days been training to become camp counselors. We were gathered in a corner, jabbering and enjoying the energy that results from natural disaster and margarita.

The rest of the night was a long, dark, and (many of us feel) a much needed chaotic decompression. What better than a power outage in a hotel and a few beers to relieve the stress built up over frustrating games of jeopardy and the impending season of protocol and responsibility? What better way to connect with a cool group of people just before seeing them off until next year’s training session?

We might have taken over the indoor pool and hoarded glow sticks for dancing and playing catch.

The next morning we drove our trucks on to Alton, IL where we would gather our supplies and split off into groups. As each trailer was packed, hitched, and driven to far corners of the country, I felt that feeling… what is it? Missing people feeling? Strange emptiness? For these cool people, these advocates for cycling, these heroes of special education and therapy who I’d come to know were off on their way, each to fight their own battles week after week for the next three months.

But the goodbyes weren’t to heartstring-tugging. We’d had a tornado to help knit us together first.

4 responses to “ICan Work

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