Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bogart, Bicycles, Three Drinks and Flat Tires

Back before there was Google there was a reporter who worked for the Chicago Sun-Times named Sydney J. Harris who frequently did columns of "things learned enroute to looking up other things".

Google often reminds me of Harris, pulling up interesting tidbits when I'm looking for something else. In the archives of "Modern Drunkard Magazine" I found this little story about Humphrey Bogart:


After another especially heavy night of drinking he showed up on the set in his pajamas and refused to work. Instead he rode around the lot on a bicycle shouting, "Look, no hands, no hands!" Finally studio head Jack Warner himself had to come out and speak to him.

"Bogie, what the hell are you doing?"
"Riding my bicycle."
"It’s time to go to work."
"I don’t feel like working."
"You don’t, huh?"
"That’s right, I don’t."
"Well," Warner said, "there’s a lot of people in there who feel like working and they get paychecks that are less than what you spend on scotch."

Ever sensitive to the plight of the working man, Bogart sheepishly got off his bike and went to work.


You can read the full text of the article at:

In addition to leading me to a Bogie and bike story of which I'd been unaware, Google did deliver up that which I'd originally been seeking: the exact phrasing of Bogart's "three drinks behind" observation.

"The whole world is three drinks behind," Humphrey Bogart proclaimed in 1950. "If everyone in the world would take three drinks, we would have no trouble. If Stalin, Truman and everybody else in the world had three drinks right now, we’d all loosen up and we wouldn’t need the United Nations."

I'd been thinking about this, not because I share Bogart's view on drink, but because I share his view on time.

It's very easy to get caught up in thinking that if you aren't busy or rushing that you are wasting time. In my experience, the only real way to waste time is to spend it doing something you don't enjoy. We all have those things in our lives that waste our time, the things we don't enjoy but must do anyway. But if you can take some time away from the rigidly scheduled, packed from dawn-to-dusk go-go life, you might want to look at what you like and what you don't. If you like rushing and the thrill of the chase, great. You're living your dream. But if you want to slow down, there's no shame in that. And I don't think you'll lose time. As near as I can tell, you'll still get 24 hours given to you each day. Just like the rest of us.

Years ago I figured out that I don't like driving. And I really don't like sitting in traffic. In 1987, I stopped driving and I stopped sitting in traffic. I go places on my bicycle. I like doing that. Sometimes it takes longer and sometimes it really doesn't. And even when it's raining or dark or cold, I really do like it. I like being a cyclist. I never really liked being a driver.

When I started biking everywhere, I became more punctual. This is a side effect of what I call my "flat tire buffer." Even though I run pretty stout tires on my bikes, I know that punctures are always a possibility so I add fifteen minutes to my time estimates. Since most days I don't have flats, I arrive with time to relax. Maybe I read a book. Maybe I jot some notes. Maybe I watch a squirrel watch me from a tree. Maybe I just watch other people rush by.

Perhaps the world is three drinks behind. Or perhaps its' schedule is fifteen minutes too tight. Thanks to imperfect tires, I've found that I have the time to think about things like that.


Anonymous said...

Nice stuff, Kent; I've enjoyed reading all your entries. I've bookmarked your site and will be back.

Anonymous said...

This is why I read anything I see that you've written. Keep it up!

Gary Blakley

Sabertooth Salmon said...

Very nice!

Unknown said...

This is a great point about the lifestyle of bicycle commuting. I always feel that I'm getting away with something when I'm on my bike, like a kid during summer when school is out. Rather than doing something 'important' I spend hours gliding around on two wheels and not answering my phone. And I justify this behavior by labeling it as environmentally responsible, which makes me look like a saint. Win-win!