Sunday, January 04, 2009

Plea For A Rickshaw

Many of you have sent in dreams about bicycles and it seems important that I feature at least one today. I myself have had recurring anxiety dreams about driving automobiles since I was a little kid. Today's dream is a hybrid of both—bike and car—and comes from Connor in Montreal, Quebec. The fourth of our 31 Dreamers writes:
I had a morning dream that was a little more intense than the usual half-asleep dream. I was leaving an anonymous workplace with some friends, the street was vaguely familiar; an ideal building and urban space—it might have been from [the Canadian TV series] Degrassi. Anyway, one of the friends was my buddy Rob, there was a faceless co-worker, and a tag-along who remained nameless but was of South Asian descent. After walking aimlessly we started talking about where I worked and what I did and how we were hiring youth workers. The tag-along expressed an interest in the job and it seemed like I was probably going to hire her—she was studying youth intervention. So finally we get to my car and decide to pile in. Once inside I ask Rob for the handlebars of his bike to replace my steering wheel, with no hesitation he hands them over (the entire bike and two people magically fit in my back seat for some reason). We start driving but I'm having a really hard time steering the car and this gets progressively harder as the dream goes on. 
We are rolling around some nameless suburban landscape, looking for something, when all these friends from my past come rolling by on bicycles. We decide we'll catch up and join them. But because of the problems steering the car with the handlebars, we are losing them fast—in fact the roads are getting narrower and we are moving really slowly and the car has morphed into a gas-guzzling Buick from the 70s. Finally we see them and need to make a U-turn into a driveway. When we do, the car sinks into the gaps in the driveway. It’s a very unusual driveway and when we get out, we can't understand it—it's kind of a metal bridge that has lots of sections missing. If you looked at it from above it would look like this:
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Anyway we're stuck in this gap and finally the old guy who lives there (and has his car parked ahead of ours) comes out and tells me that there should be no problem: "Just back right out."
The dream ends with me scratching my head.
Connor, I gather that the influence of the Degrassi television universe is a bit more pervasive in Canadian culture than in that of your yankee neighbors. Of its four TV serials, only Degrassi Junior High was afforded U.S. syndication and it was confined to the cult audience of Public Television. Thus Degrassi's tentacles of teenage drama are more likely to wrap themselves up in the Canuck subconscious spaces between Generations X and Y, and you, good sir, are no exception to this trend. But I digress (or is that "Degrass?"). Let's look at your dream:

Your dream puts you somewhere on the path between youth and adulthood. You begin as a person posited squarely in the adult world: you supervise young people; you have the power to hire others at your job; you own a car and you sit at its helm, deciding where it will take you and your friends. At the same time you want to retain your youthful identity and so replace your grown-up's steering wheel with the controls of a younger person's vehicle—bicycle handlebars. 

Suddenly you find it difficult to master this combination of puerile spirit with adult responsibility. You are not in total control of your direction. You seek things without being sure what they are. This is when your youth passes you by (all your friends on bikes) and you suddenly feel yourself outmaneuvered—trapped in the Buick of behemoth maturity and trying to navigate life's paths, which have narrowed with age, affording you less mobility. You try to bang a U-ie back to your salad days, but find yourself snagged by the driveway of your predecessors who have settled in suburbia. You step out of your vehicle and see that you are in fact stuck on the bridge between your two worlds—young and old—unable to move. The old man "who has his car parked ahead of [y]ours" (a person who took your path years ago and ended up squarely on the adult side of things) takes one look at your situation and says, "Back up sonny. You're not ready for this yet." This is the advice that you left with at the end.

However, there is further advice encoded in the middle of this dream. Who is this nameless tag-along with the South Asian ancestry whom you're probably going to hire? Your dream shows your interest in who she is and what she says peaking at about 6½ on a scale of 1 to 10. She is the spirit of youth—not of your own fleeting youth, but of younger people from whom you and I have much to learn. She reminds us to not get so wrapped up in juvenile nostalgia that we overlook people who are actually younger than us. (And yes, I suddenly jumped into this part of your dream with you because I want to adopt its messages as well. You can call me "faceless co-worker" from now on.)

The other thing that's fascinating to me is that when you plunked those handlebars onto your dashboard, you inadvertently converted your car into an auto rickshaw (also called a tuk tuk, pictured above). Rickshaws are essentially 3-wheeled covered motorcycles and are used as taxis all over Asia. Compared to the 4-wheeled automobile, the rickshaw is easier to maneuver, uses less gas and takes up less space on the road. We in the West have much to learn from the auto rickshaw—imagine if half the taxicabs in New York were replaced by rickshaws! Traffic and pollution wouldn't be nearly as bad. In your dream, your jury-rigging of the handlebars into your car seems like a plea for something different. Something that can navigate the narrow lanes between youth and maturity. Something that is stable and yet can handle a 360º turn in tight spaces. Something that is both fun and practical and takes you where you want to go. Connor, what you need is a rickshaw. Both on the streets of Montreal and on your road to happiness in life.
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Today's book is Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India by Gita Mehta. Sadly it makes no mention of the auto rickshaw, which, given the subject matter, is surprising.

1 comment:

Morgão Papelão said...

31 Dreamers has adopted Connor's depiction of the broken bridge as an official line break for this blog:

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Watch you step!