Harriet was in the Community Centre. She had arranged to meet Sarah there for lunch and a chat about her efforts at finding a job. It wasn’t going well and Harriet felt like she was failing at the first hurdle, just looking at the applications, before she even had a chance to apply for anything. She wanted to work legitimately, for a decent employer, doing something that would tide her through to establishing her workshop. But the kind of work that she would prefer to do required a reference from her most recent employer, Marie.
There were, of course, other options like ‘cash in hand’, and certain types of zero hours work, that seemed to be less concerned about references but also less concerned about employees rights, tax, paying on time, and numerous other pitfalls. She felt bad about being picky but also didn’t want to be ripped off, treated badly, or do a job that was immoral or unethical.
“Oh heck! That’s going to get annoying really quickly!” Sighed Harriet.
“That’s going to be an ongoing problem now.” Sarah agreed “What are your options? What else are you willing to do? Cycle courier? Cleaning? Caretaking?”
“Not courier work, too stressful, there are better people for that. Cleaning if I have to, I guess. Not my favourite task I’d admit.” Harriet thought about it “I’m only looking at something for a short term anyway, so even if I hated it I could do it for a while. Did you have something in mind?”
“Well…” Sarah glanced around her to see who was in the room and close enough to eves drop. “…and feel free to say no if you don’t feel right about it. Mitch left a vacancy here at the centre. We put a temp in place while he was ill but we need to look at filling the role permanently, probably with someone promoted internally but it will still leave an opening. I’m the senior manager so can vouch for you. You’d still need to apply and interview if it were to be permanent, but for a temporary post initially we can start you first, and if you wanted to make it permanent then you’d have a foot in the door knowing what the job is and who we all are. If nothing else I’d be your reference for a future job.”
“Hmmm, sounds good, but I don’t know anything about what Mitch did.”
“Oh, he was managing the centre’s building management services. There will probably be a part time caretaking, cleaning, portering type role going while we reshuffle staff and then once we know who is doing what there will still be a position to fill. Hopefully one you can do, if everyone offered promotion wants it.”
Harriet considered the proposition. “So, caretaking, that’s just looking after the building, cleaning it, and moving stuff about? Sounds OK. How much cleaning does it take?”
Cleaning wasn’t something Harriet particularly wanted to do much of, but she had a lot of experience of cleaning at the café, and when she was living with Marie, but looking around the centre it didn’t look like it would get too dirty, and would be easier then, say, cleaning a pub or a private house! Also, it didn’t seem like the kind of job where someone would be standing over her tutting if it wasn’t good enough.
“Currently it is only about an hour, hour and a half-ish a day cleaning on rotation around the building and a flexible five hours a week of other caretaking duties. A couple or three hours a day five days a week on average, say twelve or thirteen hours a week, though the caretaking might need to move about depending on bookings and activities. It isn’t a lot but it would mean that once you are done you have the rest of the day in the workshop. Even if you only did it for a few months it would help us out while we reorganised and advertised for someone else.
What do you think?”
“Ummm…” Harriet pondered, “How much of it is there to get around?”
“Come on, I’ll give you the guided tour of the place.” Sarah sat up enthusiastically. “And then if you think it is ok I can set some wheels in motion for you?”
“Lets do it, show us around!” Harriet decided. “As you say, it helps you, and it helps me. Nothing to lose from having a go. And you can always sack me if I am no good at it.” She quipped.
After the walk around the Community Centre Sarah promised to set up a brief interview, just as a formality, and to take things from there. It would be an early start in the morning, better then a late evening job, but it was also fairly close and easy to get to by bike by so Harriet could cycle there.
Awkwardly it would mean going past Café Marie to get to the foot bridge across the River Uffta but Harriet felt she needed to face that demon otherwise a whole corner of the town would become out of bounds to her. Harriet wasn’t going to let Marie have that level of control over her.
It had been a fairly easy day on the collection round. No excessive loads, nothing too horrible left in the recycling boxes, and even the weather had been kind and not left them chasing wind blown papers up and down the roads. The recycling collectors at the Environment Centre were not ones to allow any of their recycling collection to be come street litter if they could help it.
As with many easy days Daisy and Steve were able to return to the compound early. That often meant doing other chores that were outstanding, sweeping the compound yard, doing a run to the Council recycling centre with rubbish collected from the nature reserve, or the really back breaking task of turning and sifting compost! But today seemed like too nice a day to do chores.
“Do you fancy a go on a trike?” Steve asked Daisy as they unloaded the day’s collection from the back of Beryl, the recycling truck. “You can have a ride round before they are put away.”
“Oh why not, I’ve been putting it off for ages!”
As they returned to the Environment Centre to lock up Beryl Steve waved at Ann and called her over.
“Bring the trike, Daisy is going to have a go on it!”
“This will be fun to watch.” Ann grinned as she pushed the trike out to the open space of the car park area. It wasn’t a large car park, enough for a dozen visitor’s cars if they were packed in, but it had enough space to ride a bike around easily.
As Ann wheeled the trike over Daisy had a chance to have a proper look at it. The cargo trike consisted of two wheels at the back and one wheel at the front. From the seat forwards it looked a lot like a conventional bicycle with step through frame, painted yellow but bigger and much heavier duty, with a wheel and tyre that wouldn’t look out of place on a medium sized motorbike. The controls looked conventional, hand brake levers, gear change levers, and a strap to hold the brakes on when parked. Behind the saddle there was a large pick up bed, essentially a big open topped box, steel framed with an aluminium skin covered in the random and humorous stickers often found on the round. The two rear wheels were as heavy duty as the front and protected under patched up mudguards. In the pick up bed there were empty recycling boxes stacked up and held in place with a rubber strap made from an old inner tube, a couple of big woven bulk bags folded and held down with an elastic cord, and a supermarket ‘bag for life’ containing extra elastic cords and some heavy duty netting for windy days. There was also a small covered storage box on the front of the pick up bed for the clipboard and collection address list.
Ann guided Daisy through the controls. “It’s still in low gear, well, sixth gear, but that is low gear when it is empty!” Ann explained. Daisy looked dubious, and then wondered how you could possible need even lower gears. Doh, of course, it gets a lot heavier, doesn’t it! She thought. “Brakes are conventional, right hand front brake, left hand rear brakes, they are all hydraulic so really powerful.” Ann continued. “That strap is to hold the back brake on when you park it, or it will roll away. It rolls away quite easily if the wind catches it.” Ann demonstrated how the parking brake worked.
“OK, so I’ll hold the front brake, and let the strap off. And then start pedalling, yeah?” Daisy gave a nervous grin as she stepped over the frame and sat in the saddle.
“Yep, but look into the distance ahead of you and aim for the end of the car park.” Ann instructed.
Daisy slowly released her death grip on the brake lever and pushed down on the pedals. The trike moved forward slowly and then swerved off to the left as Daisy desperately tried to put a foot down to save falling over. “Arrghhh! What happened there?” she wailed!
“Yep, that’s normal.” Said Ann. “It’s hard learning that you don’t need to balance but you do need to steer. Have another go and see if you can keep it pointed ahead. Try not to think too hard about it.”
Daisy had another go and within a couple of turns of the pedals the trike swerved off to the left again. Once it started moving left there seemed to be nothing Daisy could do about it as her right leg flailed in the air and she reached out her right arm protectively in case she fell over.
“Noooo! What’s the matter with this thing? It’s like its haunted!”
“Haha,” laughed Ann “When you ride a two wheeled bike you lean into the turn so you always feel balanced. On a trike you can’t lean in and so the moment it starts to move to one side, your brain thinks you are falling over so you try to compensate. On a bike that would mean steering to get the bike back underneath your centre of gravity. On a trike if you do the same thing and that just makes it feel more like you are falling over, so you steer even more and end up sticking your leg out to get your body weight to move over. The more you try the worse it gets. You need to not try, so your brain learns that the falling over feeling isn’t real.”
Daisy tried again, consciously trying to steer right when her body screamed to steer left. That only resulted in the same falling over feeling but in the other direction. After another stop Daisy immediately tried again, this time with lots of wobbling and shaking she managed several metres in a roughly straight line at less then walking speed before she collapsed over the handle bars mentally exhausted with the effort of fighting her instincts.
“This is impossible!” She panted “I have no idea how you do it. I’m knackered just getting this far!”
“Don’t give up on it.” Ann praised “You are doing really well. So many cyclist struggle with even getting that far. Have another go but once you are going straight try turning, just a little bit and then holding the bars still to make a wide turn.”
Daisy did as she was told and started to turn, but she couldn’t prevent her leg waving about in the air all on its own as she tried to regain the balance that her brain imagined that she had lost. And with one leg in the air forward momentum was lost and the feeling of slowing down on a bike further strengthened the feeling of falling over. Daisy had had enough and climbed off the trike and then had to quickly grab hold of it as it began to roll away on its own. “Hand brake!” Daisy called out loud as she re-fixed the strap over the brake lever!
“Well done, Daisy, that was really good!” Steve said, as he and Ann walked over. “The other trike has a button on the brake lever to lock the brakes on when you stop. This one broke so we put the strap onto it. The button is easier to remember. But well done.
Lets put the trike away for now, and you can have another go when you feel up to it.”
“Crumbs! It is going to take me forever to do that, it just doesn’t feel right at all!” Daisy sighed. Inwardly she was determined not to let it beat her though. “If there is time can I have another go tomorrow?”
“Of course you can.” Said Ann. “It’ll be great to have another trike rider on the team. It is hard work but you don’t half feel good after the fitness kicks in.”
Ann and Daisy pushed the trike back into the lock up and secured the padlock.
“That was actually fun, and funny!” Daisy said to Ann as they walked back into the Environment Centre. “I am guessing it will do interesting things to my legs if I were to do regular trike collections. I reckon I’d have to give up on the skinny jeans!”
“Yeah, calves of iron, thighs of steel!” Ann laughed!