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A day in the life of a bicycle courier

What is it that makes cycling around and bringing people their groceries so enticing to me? In Berlin the streets are crawling with delivery bicycles, one in every colour almost. Wolt in blue, Lieferando in orange, Getir in purple, Ubereats in green, Flink in pink, Gorillas in black. At some point in the night, all you see are delivery bikes zooming around in a multitude of colours fulfilling every last late night wish.

As I speed by on my bike, smells of dinner wafting down from apartments, I wonder about the different lives people are living. Sometimes I have a look in the shopping bag and imagine what food is being prepared or what cravings are needing to be satisfied. More than anything though, I think about how wacky this world has become. Ordering one pack of cigarettes to your door, is quite frankly insane. But it is my job, and so instead of feeling annoyed, I feel amazed. I see people in their homes, in their most vulnerable spaces, spaces where they are themselves, no pretences for the outside world.

I could go on and tell you a hundred stories, but that would require a short novel I think.

When I started this job, it was January. Cold, dark and gloomy January. If ever you want to appreciate something, start doing it in the worst weather conditions, and then things can only get better! Now, every day there are more and more tiny leaves unfolding, more pale skin appearing from under clothes, definitely more sunglasses. The biggest change has been the sun though, now it actually has warmth in its rays and stays up till 9pm, as apposed to the 4pm back in mid winter. My favourite time of day is dusk, when people are out and about, the sun low and hitting the buildings at angles that are almost irresistible to stop and take a picture. I have started a little collection of photographs I take on the job, which you can see below. I often think I have the best job, getting to see parts of the city at such a time, glowing, slowing down, settling into itself. Getting comfortable for the night.

So why is this information even relevant to our bike trip and why does it deserve a blog post?

Even though I ride an ebike at work (yes I ride an ebike), I am getting fitter climbing the stairs people have become too lazy to climb themselves. I get it though, living on the fifth floor without an elevator and then feeling like a few beers…rather a drag.

Im not complaining, I just find it fascinating. I love the fact that I can challenge myself on every flight of stairs. I still feel out of breath but I can walk and occasionally run up the stairs without a pause.

Working as a bicycle courier (for at least some months) is proving to be a fantastic way to get somewhat fit and save some money for our trip, with a bit of entertainment thrown in for free. Plus, I get to see and appreciate (and sometimes criticise) life in Berlin from a very different angle.

Every building has its charm. Be it a beautiful old carved staircase with peeling paint, luscious overgrown backyards, stained glass windows in geometric patterns..or even the more modern rooftop gardens and fancy playgrounds with their designer flowerbeds. The latter are often very appreciated towards the end of the day because when there is a touchscreen doorbell, there is an elevator!

Doing this job has brought to light quite a bit about humanity. Well, more like the humans that live in Berlin and order groceries to their door. As a delivery person, I have slowly realised that to many of my customers I am no longer in fact human. This does not surprise me, or anger me even, it kind of feels sad, and unbelievable. It has also made me much more aware of every single human being around me. Each and every one of us is a part of a whole. A whole society, community, a city even. Every one of us is part of a system that (supposedly) works. Human beings are incredible in this way. There is a catch though, being so caught up in a system makes it much more difficult to ever try living without these luxuries we have become so used to. These are the kinds of things i think about when riding around, the fast paced city life flying past me.

I am excited to change lanes and live a life where delivering every last wish to ones door at 11pm is not a possibility, not even a necessity. Are people even happy when they receive their frozen pizza and cigarettes ? The world seems to be facing something like a stress pandemic on top of all the other chaos that is happening right now. And then groceries at your door appear right when the to do list becomes longer than the hours left in the day. Perhaps this is the definition of stress.

Being able to write this blogpost and know that soon my life will be so completely different (besides for spending the whole day in the saddle) makes me feel incredibly lucky. Soon all of my possessions will fit onto my bike, and the main concern of the day will be where to set up our tents at the end of it.

For now though, I will relish the warmer days, feel the sun on my face and breath in an occasional insect. Every day is a new little adventure, watching and being a part of a city so eccentric, diverse and full of life is honestly an honour.

I am however very much looking forward to the days on the open road!

- Emma Maeyer

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