Rob Greenfield: Hectic in New York City
We’ve been following Rob Greenfield as he makes his way cycling across the United States to promote sustainability. I didn’t plan on putting up another post about him this week, but when he writes such an amazing journal entry….I can’t help but want to share it.
Have a look at Rob’s day in the hectic city of New York.
Off the Grid Update: Day 82
by Rob Greenfield
I don’t even remember today starting. I guess this is life in the big city, where everything is hectic and everybody seems to know it. Where it takes so much time to get around the big busy city that there is so much less time to be doing things you actually want to do. I’ve found myself muttering under my breath annoyed with the people who were slower than me be it pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, or passengers on buses. It’s me, Rob Greenfield, I’ve been trucking it slowly across the country for the last 81 days and here I am muttering unnecessary words at the people moving slower than me on the street. That is completely ridiculous.
I’ve been here for less than 48 hours and I can see that it is changing me. My heart is beating at a faster pace and whole lot of excess energy is speeding around inside my chest. It’s alright for me because I’m only here for a week but if I was here to stay I would be extremely anxious about what it’s doing to me and I would not be comfortable with staying here. I am grateful for this opportunity to see the contrast and experience life from the perspective of a city person though.
The morning was a slow one and I hung out in Giulia’s apartment until close to noon writing and somewhat relaxing. Even then though I felt hamsters spinning in their wheels inside my chest. Imagine a hive of bees that eat nothing but hecticness (not a real word, I know) buzzing around in your chest and that’s what I felt. Hectic, hectic, hectic. That’s the word and the feeling flowing me from toe to toe, from hand to hand, and from ear to ear. Busy, busy, busy. I’ve got to be here and there and here right now and 15 minutes ago and in 20 minutes. This feeling doesn’t exist in the country life. I had tentative plans with a handful of people and the buzzing bees inside me rattled those plans out my ears and back in through my nose and then back out through the tiny little holes in the corner of my eyes.
Feeling hectic yet? You’re not even here. Remember? You’re sitting at your computer right now.
Navigating the city was a freaken ball. I love riding my bike through this concrete playground with all sorts of obstacles to dodge and speed past. All sorts of weird looking and beautiful humans to look at. All sorts of buildings to grab my attention. All sorts of stimulation for my mind. But with that being said I was completely dependent on the maps on my iPhone to get me the heck out of Manhattan. My cell phone died so I had to bust out my solar panel and sit on a curb while I waited for it to charge back up enough for it to turn on. I decided to forget all the tentative plans I had and take refuge in Greg’s place back in Brooklyn. I needed to harness the energy of the sun anyway and my big solar panel was back there. It took an hour this time to bike over the Brooklyn Bridge. Stressful? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes.
After I crossed the bridge for the third time the skies unleashed a load of pure water and the streets were soon running with it, probably not so pure anymore. It was exactly what I wanted. Rain to feed my dehydrated cells. Rain to nourish my brain so I could think straight. Rain to wash the sweat and dirt from my body. It wasn’t the right timing though as I couldn’t harvest the water in large quantities but I took advantage of it as much as I could. It would have been blissful if I didn’t have a backpack with my expensive computer in it to protect. My human body can take all the rain the skies can throw at me and then dry off naturally when the rain ceases but with material possessions to protect I didn’t feel free to bask in the glory of the rain. I still embraced it and even found a spout coming out from church that was sending a waterfall down to the ground below. I filled my quart sized water bottle two times from the flow and drank it all in. That half-gallon would certainly get me peeing clearly in no time I thought. The flow even lasted long enough to allow me to shower underneath it and soap up with my Dr. Bronner’s soap.
I walked away from that church with a belly full of water, squeaky clean and with a full bottle of water for later. The rain died and I got back to Greg’s house just a short while later. I sat on his comfortable couch and isolated myself from the world. With just a few windows I felt trapped in this cave. The air does not flow in and I find myself breathing in the same stagnant air that is sitting in this apartment all day long. Natural light is not flowing over my entire body but the apartment is plenty well-lit to at least not need a light from the time I wake up until past 8:30 at night. I had a lot of STUFF to do on my computer so that is why I was in the apartment on the couch feeling disconnected from the world around me. I don’t like it. It’s one thing to be in a house where I can easily walk outside or sit on the porch but in this apartment building I have to walk out one, two, three doors to get outside. They lock behind me so I have to bring keys. It’s so not free feeling. Nothing feels free around here with all the planning. I prefer a spontaneous life where I can come and go as I please. That doesn’t seem to exist to the extent I’d like in this place.
I received a call from Ron Singleton who I hadn’t heard from in a long time. We only met one time two summers ago in San Diego but he had left an enjoyable impression in my mind. He called out of the blue and we had a really enjoyable conversation for about an hour as I strolled around in the streets. This was the first time we had spoken verbally since the day we met but you know how Facebook is. It makes it seem like you know someone so much better than you do because you are exposed to them in your news feed all the time. It was great to catch up with the dude.
Greg had found me a leaky fire hydrant this morning and I went over there and was happy to find it was still dripping water out into the streets. I expected a real slow leak but upon my arrival I realized it was wasting a lot more water than I would have expected. I was grateful for the leak because it meant I had drinking water but that is quite ironic since my work is to reduce waste. That is possibly one of the most interesting aspects of this adventure, my hope for waste to live off of when I am trying to stop waste from occurring. I filled my bottle up twice chugging it both times as I sat on the fence nearby talking to Ron. I filled it up a third time as well as my one-gallon jug and cleaned up a bit before heading back to the apartment. I wished I had a 5-gallon bucket to fill up so I could wash my clothes but figured it’d still be leaking tomorrow when I return. Convenient waste for me…
Most people would walk by this leaky hydrant and not realize just how much water the “small” leak is wasting. I timed how long it takes to fill a one-gallon jug and it is 2 minutes. That means that 720 gallons of water is being wasted each day from this hydrant alone. A human needs 8 cups or a half-gallon of water per day to live. That means this hydrant is wasting a 4 year supply of drinking water for one person EVERY DAY that it is leaking like this.
I could have gone to bed a lot earlier but I stayed up until 11:00. Greg and Yael were gone the entire day and night living their busy city lives. Stuck, not free, and depressed are a few words I can use to describe my feelings but honestly I can’t put the words that I’d really like to it. It wasn’t a big deal though to have these negative feelings and I was cool with it knowing it was only temporary. Plus I’ve always got a smile on my face anyway and a couple of happy bees buzzing around my heart.
Photo by Brent Martin.