Miss Manners: Manners In A Time Of COVID
“Manners in a time of COVID-19 and the unequivocally white, abled, colonialist rejection of them” seems like a mouthful to start a column with, yet here we are with me unironically penning that line and you reading this as your guts likely start to churn.
I suppose I could’ve called this “the basic principles of how not to be a dick during a global crisis” or perhaps “a quarter of a million Americans have died and all you give a damn about is some stupid fucking bikepacking story” but those seem slightly redundant.
Whatever the title could’ve been that would have sparked discomfort among those most deserving of it, I’m lacking. This seems as good a place to start as any since I’ve been lacking a cogent argument about COVID-19 and the bike industry for months. Well, at least since March that is, when I wrote an essay calling out American bike shop owners on their foolishly insistent claims of being “essential”. I still feel that way, millions of dollars and entire generations of new riders later.
I’m even more convinced of it now, if I’m being honest.
We all know and understand the depths of depravity inside of the two-wheeled world; anyone reading this is here for something other than the self-aggrandizing horseshit and puritanical mundanity the cycling world has continued to churn out. For a few of us, our love of two wheels hasn’t blinded us to the workings that is the sausage-making factory bike world; the double-edged sword of loving this perfect mechanism and being repulsed by its wholly imperfect culture is one we’ve buried deep, and likely twisted a few times over.
The contrast of an out-of-state traveling sales rep coming to my bike shop a few weeks ago even as New Mexico recorded its highest COVID-19 case rate yet is a perfect example of this bike-world knife: more interested in expanding his active accounts list than obeying emergency state health orders or even protecting the safety of a potential account holder, this proselytizing salesperson only wanted to talk about how he’d be circling back from Arizona next week. Arizona, the same hotspot that kicked off New Mexico’s skyrocketing COVID rates and disproportionately affected our indigenous populations.
What was he selling? How crucial was this thing? How “essential” were his goods, you ask?
They were fucking tire inserts.
Like CushCore, but cheaper.
So essential that it required an in-person visit violating multiple state health mandates.
And I’ve seen these violations over and over and over again since March through the carelessness of so many Texans flooding into Taos that they closed highway 68. The recklessness of tourists from all points beyond, craving solitude and escape while endangering the people of a state that forever sits in the lowest fifth for American median household income, without any regard for our vulnerable populations.
Here they are, bored and greedy and infectious.
But this is the story for so many bored, selfish and ignorant people on two wheels this summer, isn’t it? A now-infamous “bikepacking” article about an “arduous” trip through Bears Ears in June, despite the author being asked by so many to stay away. Or internet tales of the guy who bikepacked his way south through at-risk and underfunded communities only to end up in Pie Town, New Mexico, with a broken bike that he inexplicably didn’t have the detailed specs for while calling Albuquerque shops for urgent help. Or the belligerent assholes from Seattle who showed up at my shop’s door and were left on the sidewalk after begging for a derailleur cable because, while riding all summer through multiple COVID-infested western states, they realized that the height of their lack of preparation was to not bring an extra cable.
And on and on and on, while people continue to die.
All along, I wondered if I imagined these things, because this level of stupidity is a level only a culture overrun with entitled white people could achieve by claiming “special permission” to access land while the Navajo community is ravaged by a virus and then writing an article about it? That’s an elevation of the entitled idiocy, quite frankly, turning your everyday Karening into an art form.
Bikepacking during a pandemic. Playing bike tourist, claiming immunity from the safeguards, intentionally gambling the futures of strangers trying to keep the pieces of their lives together in the hopes that someday, they can return to work or at least attend the funerals of the family members whose deaths were entirely preventable.
How to not be a dick in the time of COVID?
DISCLAIMER: All views, thoughts and opinions expressed by Miss Manners belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to The Cycling Independent or other groups or contributors.