Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How full is your bike?

Photograph one of a series by Alain Delorme

I saw this photograph, and loved it right away.

Beyond the spectacular palette and the riveting subject matter, I immediately thought of the dilemma we sometimes face of working on a lot of jobs at once. If you step back and look at the load, you shake your head and you say "impossible". But if you are riding the bike as someone carefully balances one more, two more, five more projects on top, you somehow find a way to balance them. You make time. You compensate. And as long as you keep moving, you almost don't notice.

Of course stopping and starting become the issue. And as with any delivery job, stopping and starting are a serious part of the deal. Inertia sort of plays against you -- you'd rather hold onto the job then stop long enough to deliver it properly. Just one more meeting. just one more week to really finish it properly.

You're not nearly as nimble -- when a truck blows by, when an innocent pedestrian steps in front of you, or in a narrow alley strewn with trash, vermin and the occasional drunk. Right? Welcome to advertising! You'll probably crash. You'll likely drop jobs all over the place. The unforseen stop is WAY worse than the calculated stop.

There's something to be said for the accomplishment of moving a lot of stuff at once. If you ever actually get it all where it's supposed to go. But clearly this can't be done without sacrificing time. Energy. Focus. Accuracy.And these are precisely the reason that all those jobs seem to stay on the back of the damn bike forever.

The funny thing is, the people who can most easily recognize the bike is overloaded are the ones who aren't riding it. The open-mouthed gapers who look on with fascination. Marveling. CAN he do it? Which turns into a sort of morbid jenga-like fascination: what if I put one MORE box on there? Would THAT tip it over? I mean, CLEARLY he has the other 423 boxes under control. What's a 424th box?

And what if you are the customer? When this guy pulls up to your door, do you get the sense you're not working with a quality company?

If you are the dispatcher, do you start to ask this guy to park his bike around the corner and walk into the office with a single package under his arm to preserve the illusion he's hand delivering them one at a time?

When you feel overloaded, do you just stop the bike and dump it all in the street? Do you refuse to ride it until someone takes 1/2 the stuff off? 2/3 of the stuff? Would it seem normally loaded with one absurdly large box (and a two-week window to ride it 100 miles)?

Have I beaten the shit out of this metaphor?