Have I mentioned that I am a professor at a medical center? I study health policy, specifically relating to preventable cancer risks (the big three being tobacco use, poor diet, and sedentary behavior). University faculty have an established career trajectory. After a certain number of years, your work is reviewed and you are either promoted or fired. Eventually everyone’s number comes up.
And so once a year, in early May, I end up with all of my coworkers in a windowless conference room all day, discussing each others’ activities and achievements while consuming immense quantities of caffeine, and then voting on who will be promoted. It is stressful and exhausting, but like Winston Churchill said: democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.
The university where I work, however, prefers the traditional academic Star Chamber method, so once the department makes a recommendation, candidates get to wait a year or longer, sometimes much longer, for the final verdict. And the university has, in the past, overturned departmental votes. All of this backstory is relevant to me because for over a year I have been in limbo. My university separates decisions about promotion from decisions about whether you get long-term job security (tenure). Thanks to some unusually bad timing on my part, I ended up having both questions under review simultaneously. My department voted for both, but the university kept its counsel.
Getting promoted is not a sure thing, and thus success is a cause for celebration. The traditional celebratory purchase by the successful candidate is a matched set of pretentious chairs. (Note: it is not necessary to be an alumna/us of a pretentious university to buy a pretentious chair.) I was recently informed, in writing, that my promotion was approved by the university. Hooray! I am not going to be fired! But here in the HotC household we are opposed to sedentary behavior. Tradition or not, I had no intention of buying chairs.
So I decided to buy a bike that cost the same amount instead. In any logical world, my celebratory purchase would be a cargo bike with an electric assist to haul both my kids up the ridiculous mountain we live on, which I have been dithering about for some time. However there were a few reasons to consider a different kind of bike. Most critically, I was still unable to decide what kind of cargo bike I really wanted. Another medium-tail? A long-tail? A box-bike? And I could still ride our existing cargo bike, the Kona MinUte, when Matt is away and I needed to haul both kids, even uphill. What’s more, an electric cargo bike would cost more than a set of pretentious chairs. And getting another cargo bike seemed contrary to the somewhat impractical spirit in which people buy pretentious chairs. Despite my opposition to the chairs themselves, I wanted to get into the spirit of things.
All this suggested that if I were going to get a bike, I should perhaps get a different kind of bike altogether. And so I did.
(Last but not least: I still have another personnel action pending, for the equivalent of a lifetime appointment at this university. My mentor waited three years before getting word about her appointment, so I am not exactly holding my breath waiting for updates. The traditional celebratory purchase for people in this happy event is a house. Yet we are in the somewhat odd situation of not really wanting to buy a house, as we would be perfectly happy to remain in campus housing until we die. And so if I secure this outrageous good fortune at some future date, I will get a cargo bike—with electric assist—instead. Two new bikes would easily qualify as ridiculous excess. But then again, even two bikes are cheaper than a house, and Family Ride says you can never have too many. Who am I to argue with that kind of expertise?)