Monday, February 18, 2008

From Burping to Blogging

How a blogger is born

Student and triathlon days, and I was in Cape Town preparing for a race in Simonstown. Cycling back from the Newsland’s pool I stopped at the Constantia H&RC intersection (now Virgin Acrtive). When the traffic light went green, the truck immediately beside me pulled forward and to the left and knocked me over. It crushed the front fork of my bicycle as it went over it (I mean flattened it as you would jumping on a coke can), but I managed to get my fingers into the grill of the truck, and fortunately my legs somehow escaped being pincered under my crushed bicycle (or worse, ridden over and squashed).

It was a small miracle that the truck stopped almost immediately after going over me. The driver said he saw the tip of my cycling cap square in front of his windscreen.

Since I was a poor student now out of pocket and without a bike, I called SAB (owners of truck) and said: “Hey, your driver rode over me and my bike. Any chance you can give me some bucks for so I can get a new bike.”
In a very kind and gentle way the marketing manager of SAB said I could go to hell. I don’t know if he thought I was a chancer, but whatever he thought, I didn’t appreciate being ridden over by one of his truckers, or his lazy dismissive reaction to the physical and bicycle carnage I’d suffered.

So I wrote to the Cape Argus and my letter was published. It was then that I began to realize, if you can’t win a private battle you can win the war (in terms of public opinion). Maybe SAB didn’t HAVE to pay me anything, but SHOULD they have? As this bastion of our community (that they market themselves in every conceivable schpiel), this massive money making machine, can’t they give a little back? It would have been great PR if they had said: “Look, we don’t know what happened, we’re still sorry about what happened since our truck was involved. As a gesture, let’s help this guy out. DISCLAIMER: We won’t help anyone else out suffering similar circumstances, sorry.”

I have been in a couple of legal scenarios, and have won every single one. Those that were too ridiculous to take to court (for example my wrangle with Cycling South Africa - which would have cost R20 000 just to take to court, just to get a stupid licence to ride my bicycle?) or too petty (with Margaret Raftery at the Free State Universities English Department or Lynne Slettevold - dodgy Exhibition venue owner) I fought in the public domain. It is very very simple. If you have nothing to be ashamed of, then why would it worry you if the public knows about what you've done (or didn't do?) And if I am giving the facts and honestly sharing my own circumstances then you’d better believe if you have acted in bad faith, it might not be so good if the public learns about this.

This is how blogging and citizen journalism can do something to redress that awful stubborn-ness some people have when they behave as though they think they have a right to misbehave and think they can get away with it. But sometimes when a wider audience is aware of a transgression, the option to 'say sorry' seems slightly less horrifying.

It’s a just cause if no other course of action gets the grievance-causing party to recant, repent or even just apologize. In many cases (with Raftery and CSA) the main problem is that these people simply ignore you; hoping you will go away, stop being a troublesome flea. Excuse me. What is wrong with people who can’t say they are freaking sorry when they’ve obviously caused a lot of distress to someone else?

And then when I was in Korea I learned to what extent the web can inspire. It can be a force for change (No Imact Man is another great example).I was posting workouts on a Triathlon blog called Beginner Triathlete, and a few mates and me would comment on each others progress. It occurred to me that it might be fun to start a blog about training for my third Ironman attempt. To put it out there what i was doing, not so much for others, but for me. To have a record so I would know what to do (or what not to do) next time. It was about personal accountability. That’s really how NVDL came about - originally titled: Third Time Lucky. I was lucky. And it all started because I was trying to train for a another race, a triathlon in Simonstown.

Despite a pretty bad injury to my hip (I couldn’t walk for about a week after the truck accident, the race was at the end of that week), I handled the very stormy (choppy sea)and gusting conditions (on the bike up Red Hill) better than most. And found when I started to run that my injured hip had finally loosened enough to allow me to run. I finished Simonstown third in my age group, and won a sixpack of Ohlsson’s. Burp. Now I blog.

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