Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Glory of the Bike Messenger

I work in Center City Philadelphia and like any good metropolis we have our share of bike messengers. Particularly in Rittenhouse, where my office is located. Sometimes they almost run me over when I jaywalk and they run red lights, but on the whole we have a pleasant relationship as pedestrian and cyclists. The picture below was taken at the entrance to the park, I walk by every day. These guys and girls have a distinct bike messenger look about them. I can spot one a mile off-without the giveaway bike or aptly-named messenger bag.

Photo by Julius Reeves

They are all tan and kind of dirty. That is to say, not entirely covered in filth, but not clean. They dress in cut-off denim shorts, skinny jeans riddled with holes, or in baggier pants with one leg rolled up. The insanely toned calf exposed almost always sports some colorful tattoo. Maybe it's a giant ankh or Betty Page on a bearskin rug, whatever it is it cost them half their rent that month. A lot of them have dreadlocks and the guys might have too much facial hair. The girls always have colorful hair and a whole sleeve of tattoos. 

Still they're kind of hot. That is to say, not perfectly sexy, but not too shabby either. Maybe it's seeing them in an office building where everyone is wearing business attire and they are so different they break up the monotony. There is something alluring when the monotony is broken. And they definitely do that.

Philadelphia Weekly said, "The small bicycle-courier community in Philadelphia is overwhelmingly male and young, nearly everybody a dropout from school, career or some other mainstream obligation."

In Copenhagen bike messengers are even hotter.

These are the guys that rocked out in garages throughout high school. The ones who were so bad, but so cute nobody cared. They're the Jordan Catalanos whose bands never made it. They are almost rock stars and rebels and they always smell kind of musky. They aren't all hot, but as a group. They've got it going on.

A friend, whose office uses bike messengers frequently, received trading cards for Time Cycle. I had a set. There were pictures of each messenger, complete with fun facts on the back. Nickname, years in the business, weirdest delivery, other hobbies, etc. They were hilarious. Even the pictures were great. Posing goofy on their bikes. Though none of them leaning* which was a real shame in my opinion.

Kind of hot, funny, athletic, brings you things in a timely fashion, what's not to love? Why isn't my protagonist chasing one of these bad boy cyclists? Oh, wait...they are mostly slacker types who smoke a lot of pot and are the older version of those guys in high school who cared more about their band than you and were emotionally unavailable. Making them still emotionally unavailable and moody that their band never made it. They will probably resent you for listening to mainstream music, which they would define as any successful music. They also probably care more about their bike than you.

I exaggerate. Of course not all bike messengers are the way I describe above. I, for one, refuse to believe anything but the best of Mr. Copenhagen. You have to admit it's a weird profession. When it rains, they are still out there, riding through the city. In the snow and ice, they deliver or they don't get paid. Something writers can definitely relate to.

It must be nice to do something they love all day. Some people might think it weird to sit and make up stories 8+ hours a day but I would love that. I wonder, what my uniform would be then, pajamas? If I ever reach full-time writerdom, I will be sure to roll up one pajama leg and work whatever the weather or state of my office.
You can tell this guy is just a model, he's fake dirty and too pale.
No one is fooled, buddy.
Where are your tattoos?

*My So-Called Life reference.


  1. Oh my, to be surrounded by Jordan Catalanos seems totally worth moving to Philadelphia. Sigh.

    But honestly, I had no idea these guys even existed any more. Don't you all have email in Philadelphia? :P

  2. I'm a receptionist at a law firm and definitely look forward to the cute messengers who come to deliver the mail!

  3. Hello there! Cool bike messengers. :) Keep on sharing more worthwhile articles soon.