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?

Stay home.

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.

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    As a fellow New Mexico resident who agrees with a lot of this essay, may I ask who “the biggest asshole” really is? I assume its the owner of one of the Taos bike shops.

    That said, there are actually people in Fanta Se who fall into one of two categories. One, those who actually use their bikes as transportation (I can provide photos if neccesary of some pretty utilitarian bikes) and those who realize that being sedentary is not a good way to ward off getting really really sick if one does contract The Bug. CDC and professional literature can be found on this.

    But yeah. The excesses of the predominately honky and self-absorbed bicycle fraternity are legendary. Stay home, ride alone, and quit whining.

    –Khal Spencer, competing for the title of Narcissistic Asshole of Santa Fe, NM (NASFNM)

    1. We’re actually located in Albuquerque, but yes — I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said here, other than that we’re competing for Biggest Asshole Ever.

      I don’t disagree that bikes are major forms of transportation, *depending on the demographic the shop serves* and the location of said shop. For ours, we do a large volume of transport-related repairs, but it’s still not the majority, despite being the closest bike repair place to UNM. In fact, just last week, we had a custom build roll out for a guy who doesn’t own a car — his new ride is his only form of transportation. This is a very different situation than 80% of the shops in New Mexico, however, even from the shop I was at during the spring. And I want to be clear about that part: I was wrong about a few things. However, I’m an asshole, so I guess I shouldn’t say “I was wrong” aloud.

      My bad.

      (There are still the self-absorbed cockbags who own gyms that they refuse to close ‘in protest’, and who have come into my shop looking for a bike to buy “in case the state has the balls to shut [them] down”; that guy got asked to leave after being told that we don’t sell bikes to people who willfully endanger people in order to make a buck. We also had another bikepacker on Saturday, who found out that the two-week quarantine isn’t a joke and that yes, they will get called out for it. Oh, and that sales rep? Yeah — he had to quarantine and get tested for COVID after he found out that he’d been exposed… while on the road. So he called to see if he could reschedule his visit. *eyeroll*)

    2. khal spencer says

      Word, BA. I don’t disagree with anything you say here.

      There are good reasons for riding a bike for either transportation or to keep one’s health as good as it can be during this pandemic. We just got off the phone with a good friend in Los Alamos. Both her daughter and her daughter’s beau got The Bug, but both are young and in excellent health and after a rough time of it, have recovered. Both live in Utah. Our friend’s daughter just started grad school. Her boyfriend is a first line health care worker and EMT and probably got The Bug in the line of duty.

      Me? I cannot control my age other than, ahem, stopping the progression. I have to count on good judgement and good health to survive this, assuming I do survive this. My bicycles (plural) are ways of both getting around and more importantly, keeping my health in as good a shape as possible for all the usual reasons. Comorbidities generally guarantee death or a bad time of it due to Covid or a variety of other bad shit. In 2005 I blew out a back disk. My doctors said the only reason, at my age, that I was not bedridden was my fanatical exercise habits.

      Stupidity and narcissism notwithstanding, good health and self-reliance are good reasons to keep bike shops open. Only shop I know of near UNM is 2 Wheel Drive which thankfully stocks Co-Motions. Not sure what shop you own/work at but would love to buy you a beer or coffee and tip my hat to you for all you do. We are all in this mess together.

      Fellow Duke City resident, rabble rouser, and cyclist Patrick O’Grady of Maddogmedia.com has my email et al, if you want to touch base.


      Khal Spencer
      BTAC Vice Chair, People’s Republic of Fanta Se and general pain in the ass

  2. gog says

    Aww man. You just made me look in the mirror. I’ve been stuck here in Minnesota since March. No events. No eating out. Just riding my local routes and trails. And now there’s snow on the ground and I know that 90% of my pedaling is going to be on a trainer in my basement for the foreseeable future.
    I was really starting to think hard about taking some time off and heading southwards to find an isolated AirBnB and some new to me trails. Sure I’d be careful. I stay home and don’t meet with anyone now. I’d limit myself to bare minimum interactions. I’d do my best. But really the smart, decent thing to do is stay home, suck it up, and put the miles in on the trainer. Ugh. I hate being responsible.

    1. khal spencer says

      I sympathize. Back in Graduate School on Long Island, winter was when a couple of us set up the rollers in my advisor’s basement “rock preparation” lab, along with a Sony Walkman (yep, it was that long ago) and some rousing tapes. Take care up there. We in New Mexico are seeing a massive Covid surge that has even me scared.

    2. Thanks for being a sensible adult and giving a fuck about the folks out this way. We appreciate it.

  3. southcarolinamtb says

    Great perspective, thanks. Meanwhile, our county council recently refused to even consider a vote to enact a mask requirement because “they haven’t seen a decline associated with wearing a mask.” I think you have some healthy competition for BA! Luckily, you are claiming the Bike Industry space.
    I got gas this morning and just watched the people flocking in and out of the convenience store with no masks on anyone; only a few employees. I felt bad for them. I feel more than bad for all of us that are under continuous assault from people that just don’t care or respect others.
    I was at the LBS this week, but I do try to limit my time inside and I make sure to wear a mask. And I don’t mind coming back another day if there are already several people inside. I don’t want them to lose business, but I don’t want to put them at risk, either. It’s a tricky thing.

  4. khal spencer says

    Taking Miss Manner’s advice close to home, I wrote this: http://labikes.blogspot.com/2020/11/a-new-entrance-to-la-tierra-trails-but.html

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