I moved to Denver to follow my girlfriend, no job, no car, no plan. Just a bike, a room that I had found on Craigslist, and a vague notion that I wanted to work with people and food. Which is how I found myself pedaling off to the Growhaus bright and early one Monday for an informational interview and a morning of volunteering. Late as usual, I dodged potholes all down Martin Luther King Road, then juggled railroad ties and semis up Josephine and then back down York when I realized that I had gone too far north. I finally found the place, wondered if it was legal to lock my bike to a street sign, did it anyway, and marched my sweaty self inside.
The first thing that struck me was the humidity. The second thing was the Spanish. My own Spanish is a work in progress, but I’ve long longed for the language. Then I noticed the source of the words like water flowing around me: dozens of people, mostly women, sitting, standing, sorting food, toting babies. An iPad asked me to check in and sign a waiver; a pair of plastic gloves slipped themselves onto my hands. And then I was standing next to a folding table, sorting peppers into plastic bags, trading work for Spanish. Cómo se dice esto? Guantes. Y esto? Chilis. Oh. Duh.
Once the chilis were packaged, I asked what I should do next. I was told to “ask Arturo. The one over there, see? At the end of the table?” Arturo turned out to be a helicopter mechanic, a slight guy, a single dad with Mondays off. He was about to strap a trailer to his bike and deliver boxes of food to homebound folks in the neighborhood; did I want to come? Hell yeah. Did I want to strap the trailer to my bike instead? Um…
I had gone to a Denver Food Rescue volunteer orientation the previous week, so the whole pull-a-bunch-of-food-that-weighs-more-than-you thing wasn’t a complete shock. But still. I’m reasonably in-shape but under-confident about it. And I was hungry, which would make it harder to bike with a load, and I was already kinda sweaty and my knee hurt and…
Twenty minutes later I found myself executing a slow, teetering u-turn on my bike, closely followed by a DFR trailer filled with the boxes we had helped pack that morning. Arturo and another volunteer cheered me on and showed me the way.
I imagine the whole scene taking place in fast forward, accompanied by some frantic classical music (in fact, for a more realistic picture of how this felt to me, go onto YouTube and play Flight of the Bumblebee in the background while you finish reading this. I’ll wait). We would pedal pedal pedal to a house. Hop off. Take off the cover from the wagon. I carry the food, Arturo knocks on the door. ¡Hóla! ¿Cómo está? ¡Ah bien, bien, ven por favor! ¿Café? ¿Agua? Ah no, gracias. ¡Que tenga buen día! ¡Andale pues! Mark off the house in the binder. Close the trailer. Back on the bikes, next house, next conversation. It was a blur of gates and doors, monster potholes, weathered faces.
And then we were back. I needn’t have worried about my ability to pull the trailer; the whole trip took no more than half an hour, stops included. I felt good. I felt like an iron-legged, pedal pushing, grocery-delivering warrior. And an hour later, pedaling home to a new house in a new city, I felt hopeful about the possibility of belonging to this new community.
Post by Sarah Farbman