The Intoverted Volunteer

The Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA) is a membership funded bicycle advocacy organization. They’ve been hard at work for over 40 years helping the DC area become a better place to ride a bike. This week they are holding a membership drive so I volunteered to help out at a sign up location on the Mount Vernon Trail near the 14th Street Bridge.

I arrived early and waited for the WABA staff person to show up with the sign up materials. It was warm and the sun was still shining. At around 5 o’clock I saw something that I have not noticed before. There was a torrent of bicycles streanming down the ramp from the bridge. This was especially surprising to me since I hadn’t seen many bike commuters in the morning. They were coming fast and all I could think of was how do you get them to stop?

After a few minutes, Lolly showed up. She is WABA’s membership coordinator. She had all the paperwork, clipboards, pens, and a gizmo on her smartphone for taking payments. And she had sidewalk chalk. After getting our bikes secured, she went up the ramp to write WABA and draw arrows on the trail. She is brave. And crazy. Meanwhile I decided that this membership gig called for some serious extroversion. Being a total introvert, I decided to put on an accent and bark like a hot dog vendor at a ballpark (Get your WABA memberships heah!) Cyclists just kept zooming past probably wondering what that lunatic on the side of the trail was yelling about. Many of them had ear buds in. I HATE earbuds. I thought, “This is going to be a long evening.”

I bike therefore I am Lolly

Then, as if by a miracle, a rider stopped. Lolly did her smartphone thing and I ran off with the chalk to write on the trail to the north and south. More ballpark vending ensued. This is TOTALLY not like me. I was really uncomfortable, but no guts, no glory. Another person stopped and another. One was a guy who had let his WABA membership lapse. He originally joined in 1973! He re-upped. Go team!

Mr. WABA 1973
Mr. WABA 1973

Dana, a jovial and somewhat insane bike commuter and frequent attendee at cycling get-togethers like Friday Coffee Club and the Third Thursday happy hour, stopped and pitched in. His voice and enthusiasm project better than mine and he worked the trail like a man possessed. More and more people stopped to sign up. I kept barking out my pleas for members. “Sign up for WABA or I’ll kill my cat!” (Note: I don’t own a cat.) Dana handed out some chewing gum to us which helped immensely as I was starting to lose my voice.

Our numbers grew again when Larry showed up. He had walked over for the Columbia Island parking area on the opposite side of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Unlike the rest of us, he looked like a grown up in normal office clothing. He started right in soliciting memberships. Somehow he managed to speak entire sentences to passing cyclists. Meanwhile, I was falling to my knees shamelessly begging for people to sign up. An old school DC lawyer once was overheard telling his protégé. “Never be afraid to make a fool of yourself for your client.” I took his advice to heart.

After a while Dana rode off. Thanks, for helping. We really couldn’t have done it with out you, sir. WABA owes you a tall latte and a fritter.

Occasionally, people would stop by to chat. An “old” (hey, he looked about my age but he self identified as old) man came by with a big yellow bucket sitting on the top tube of his bike. He had a fishing rod, broken into two parts like a pool cue, strapped to the top tube a well. The bottom of the inside of the bucket was covered with bait fish. He didn’t sign up but he talked a blue streak about fishing and his 1955 gas guzzling Chevy. I tried to be polite but the cyclists were still passing by and the sun was setting. What made it doubly stressful is that (a) I don’t know diddly about fishing and (b) I am an introvert (see above). After about five minutes, he rode off to land the big one.

In the process of the event, Darren Buck stopped by. We hadn’t met in the flesh before, but knew each other from various Internet dicussions. He will be working the same site on Thursday night with WABA’s Alex. Also Lane, one of the DC randos and a Friday Coffee Club regular, blew on by with a wave. And Bike House Chris, who was in the 2013 Hoppy 100 posse and an excellent two-bikes at once rider, came by to shoot the breeze.

Larry and Lolly at the End of the Day
Larry and Lolly at the End of the Day

We called it a night as the sun set. Lolly was a happy camper with a great big pile o’ memberships. Larry walked off into the sunset. Big Nellie and I rode off into the dark with my introversion restored.

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