30 Jun A Hopeful Commute
Art Teacher Tom Hasenmayer shares stories from his ride to work at Hope
Riding my bike to the Hope Partnership building from my home in Jenkintown is not what many would imagine it would be. As a matter of fact, most mornings and evenings are filled with joy. As I cross Cheltenham Avenue and enter Philadelphia on my bicycle in the mornings, my mood and outlook always changes because I know I have friends along the way and that something unexpected will always happen.
At the corner of 19th and Ogontz Avenue is the Rowan William School, where I say hello to the crossing guards every morning. I don’t know their names, but I can always expect a warm greeting. When I stop at the light to make a left onto Ogontz, the crossing guard on the corner always says, “How you feeling this morning?” No matter how I am feeling, I always feel better with his warm greeting. Even though I ride pretty fast along Ogontz, this one man’s greeting invites me to say hello and nod my head to all the people I see along the way.
As I wind down Ogontz, I enjoy seeing the Central High School students making their way to class. I love how they jaywalk and block traffic. They are so bold. Isn’t this what high school is all about, breaking a few rules, exploring what it means to be a young adult?
When I reach the end of Ogontz and continue on N. 18th Street, I enter Nicetown. On the corner of West Courtland Street there is a high school student waiting for a bus who always says hello to me. I look forward to these little encounters, because I know that if I were in a car, I would not experience the joy of these greetings.
At the end of 18th Street, I cross under Route 1 and ride through Nicetown Park. There are many young students walking to school along this path and I am often asked to do a wheelie. My reply is always the same, “I’m too old for that.”, which is usually met with some cajoling.
At the end of the path, I reach Germantown Avenue, where my favorite crossing guard works. We have little conversations every time we see each other. She knows that I work for Hope and wants to know more about the school. She has a granddaughter who is not middle school age, but will be one day. We talk about the weather and any other little bits of conversation before the light turns green. I always feel good after we speak.
Besides the regulars, I have had many positive experiences with the people in this part of North Philly. One miserable, rainy, cold morning, I was riding to work soaking wet along Germantown Avenue, when I hear, “Hey Mr. Hasenmayer!” I stopped my bike and saw an alumni of Hope, Ajiana. I asked her what was up and where she was headed. She told me the bus had just driven off without her and now she will be late for school. We were both having miserable mornings, but just seeing each other brightened the day.
Some of my favorite experiences are those that are unexpected. Like the woman who sees me getting out of a car one morning because I needed to drive and says, “Hey, where’s your bike!” To the guy at the train station, who sees my blinking lights, and says, “If they hit you with those on, they trying to hit you!” These little exchanges always make me feel good. Riding a bike for me is a great way to get to know people in the city and spread the word of our wonderful school, Hope.