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To most people around here, I am just that ‘cyclist guy’ who fluffs around the place on his bicycle like a kid who never grew up.

Which is, to be blunt, nonsense. Kids don’t ride bikes these days. Kids don’t do anything at all!

It’s school holiday time at the moment. Today’s a fine, warm early autumnal day. I went for a lovely long ride (which means that I have to work later into the evening, but that’s the price that’s got to be paid…). I rode through a nearby town, enroute to a big recreational dam. But there’s no way that anyone would notice that it’s school holiday time. Because there are no kids. Anywhere. I mean, it’s as thought they all up and died. Or that some Pied Piper carried them off. There were no kids playing in the gardens of their homes. There were no kids skateboarding on the road. There were certainly no kids out riding bikes. There were no kids at the dam. There were no kids walking, there were no kids just talking. They are all indoors. Watching the TV or wired to the internet.

I know this because my internet connection has slowed down. The local demand for broadband is way too high. All the internet tubes are full with the prattle of kids who would, these days, rather talk on-line than face to face on the street.

Ah! kids these days… Go on. Google the title for this post. Altakaka*. Is that what I’ve become? Well, if I am, I may as well play to form.

I remember when I was a kid… I remember my proto-bicycling as though it were yesterday. Which is perfectly true as every day my tongue hits the back of a tooth that I bashed out when I rode into a branch; when I was 10. That stainless steel backed replacement tooth reminds me of all those rides we used to do; my mates and I. We went ‘exploring’. Which meant that we’d be off for hours and hours, riding through places not meant for bicycles at all. I remember carrying our bikes through rivers and creeks. I remember dragging them up scrub covered hills. I remember getting lost. I remember getting rescued. And it was not just me! Kids rode bikes. Bikes were everywhere. Kids riding on footpaths, kids riding on the road, kids piling their bikes up like crash sites at shops, kids at local sports grounds, kids riding to the beach, kids, kids, everywhere. Nowadays, though, it’s like some post holocaust world of cringing, hiding, terror-filled retreat. The only kids you see these days are the ones out to steal your wallet. Or mug senior citizens in the street.

Or so it seems. It must always seem that way to altakaka’s ruminating their grumpy displeasure at the fading tide of a youth retreating faster than they can run – they spend their time reconstructing the past as the ideal platform for a future where the past will be reborn as it once could have been, but really never was. [Were the days of Hitler, the Great Depression, George Bush and steel drainpipe bicycle frames really that great, after all??]

To risk joining that park bench ‘get off my lawn’ mean muttering crowd, I wonder, though, if the kids really have all gone. I wonder if cycling really has died, along with any other kind of physical endeavour. I mean, who are the role models these days? Our nation of couch-potato, super sporting-hero, footy-watching, pizza-chomping, golf-numbed, SUV-driving, mind-body detached blimps? Our nation of gymnasium fatties in a permanent Occupational Health and Safety neutered, prescription-drugged Nanny State daze. In the old days, the vistas that mattered were the landscapes through which we walked. These days, the vistas that matter are measured by the diagonal of our flat screen TVs. Manliness was once measured by how high you might have climbed, by how far you might have ridden, or by how far you could throw a ball or a weighted line. These days, manliness is measured by the size of the engine in your SUV. [Or for the post-modern post-baby boomed metrosexual banker boy set, by the carbon footprint of their Gucci indoor-outdoor eye-colour coordinated loafing shoes]. As for women, it’s no wonder they stay indoors…all those super deluded heroes must be a pretty depressing sight.

Role models. It’s all our fault. That our kids stay indoors. Coddled and cosseted, connected and sacrificed to their broadband screens. So what’s the NEXT generation going to be like if the youth of today are left to design the future of our race? Why bother with a body at all! Jump through the wire and swim in the digital stream.

But you can’t agree with this; because then you’d be an altakaka too. You’d be joining me on my grumpy solitary rides observing a world where the outdoors is generally experienced only indoors through the vents of an air-conditioned car. But there is one irony left to enjoy. We grumpy old altakaka’s: dentists, doctors, accountants and all and sundry cyclists/runners/swimmers and the otherwise self-propelled are probably fitter than most of the young upon which youth is so wantonly wasted these days… But an altakaka would say that, don’t you think?

* altakaka. Grumpy old f&^t living in the past. From the Yiddish.


One Response to “altakaka”
  1. lemmiwinks says:

    Great post Rod, thoroughly enjoyable even if scarily true. I’d wager I’m a fair bit younger than you but I still remember similar experiences from my childhood, riding along a muddy black soil track until the mud pack on my tyres jammed the wheels solid and I had to dig it out with a stick, sailing over the handlebars when I grabbed a handful of my new caliper front brake (previously I’d only had a coaster rear brake), and you did see other kids riding around.

    Like most people, when I was old enough for my own motorized transport I abandoned the bicycle, but I think the key difference these days is kids never adopt it to begin with. We are bringing up a generation of kids that haven’t ridden bicycles, haven’t experienced the independence or the hardships, they’re chauffeur driven by their parents everywhere. There’s precious little respect, empathy or respect on the roads these days, how much worse will it be in a few years time when a generation to whom the bicycle and it’s rider are an alien object, suitable only for derision and animosity, take their driving tests?

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