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I rode my bicycle to work today, as I do most days between March and November. As long as the weather is borderline reasonable and it stays light out late enough to get me home before the streetlights come on, it’s biking season, and I do most of my getting around on two wheels. I’ve got this twisted perception of the size of Kansas City. Anywhere I can go on my bike is “oh, just right in the neighborhood.” 10 blocks, 20 blocks, 50 blocks…hell, my neighborhood extends from Independence & Winner down to 63rd & Brookside. Pretty much any part of pre-1950 Kansas City is fair game. Elsewhere constitutes the boondocks of suburbia, and if I have to bust out my car to get there, chances are, I’m going to consider it too damn far. This philosophy means that I get everywhere I need to go hot, sweaty, disheveled, slightly out of breath, and with dents in my hairdo from my helmet. This is where my training as a jock girl comes in handy.

I was into sports as a teenaged girl, not because it empowered me to excel or drove me to succeed, or any of the airy-fairytales Nike would have you believe. I was into sports for two reasons. One, if you did two sports, you didn’t have to do P.E. and two, away games. Now when you think of girl jocks, you probably think of those ponytailed cuties in short-shorts chasing after volleyballs, soccer balls, or basketballs. You probably don’t automatically think of flushed-faced, stringy lasses collapsing across finish lines, heaving up their most recent meals. No, I wasn’t in America’s Next Top Model; I was a distance runner. Long-distance had a distinct advantage to the athletically challenged girl like myself. Nobody wanted to do it. I was guaranteed a varsity spot, simply due to dearth of participants. Distance running’s great for the klutzy amongst us, too. If you can consistently and repeatedly put one foot in front of the other, and just keep on doing so, then you are set.

The disadvantage held by distance running is that there weren’t ever any locker rooms. If we wanted to change into our civvies after a cross-country event or a track meet, we had to do that jersey-tent thing. Anyone who’s ever been a girl jock knows this routine–how to do a complete outfit change without ever taking any clothing all the way off at any point in time. You pull your arms inside of your sweatshirt. Then you slip your jersey off underneath the sweatshirt and wriggle it out the neckhole. You do the reverse of that maneuver to get your street top on. Then you pull your sweatshirt all the way down over your butt to mid-thigh and weasel out of your skimpy-dogs. When you have one leg out of your skimpies, you stick it into the appropriate jeans leg, then you do the other. Then you grab two beltloops and stand up FAST. Zoom! Your pants are up, and with the protection of your sweatshirt, again, you fasten the button and zip. Then you lose the sweatshirt, and you’re dressed in your real clothes, and are now ready to go scope out boys from other schools. Any girl who has ever changed out on the track bus or on the cross-country van could easily give superman a run for his money in a phone booth.

Most of the crap you learn in highschool you’ll never need again in your life, ever, but oddly, I’ve found my quick-but-decent clothes-changing skills are really useful in my current life as a bicycle commuter. There’s no restroom stall too cramped and icky for me to not be able to change in it.

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