I sweat. A lot.
In high school, I always wore a T-shirt beneath my basketball jersey, lest I dive for a ball and end up careening around the gym like a greased-up eel on a Slip 'n' Slide. When I come home from working out, I sit in the floor so my wife doesn't have to burn any of our furniture.
I don't mind it. Sweating lets me know I've put in a good workout. It does, however, prevent me from doing something I've always wanted to try: biking to work.
The benefits are obvious: It's healthy, it's green, it saves money on gas. The number of Americans who bike to work each day rose about 30 percent from 1990 to 2007, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking. Each May, the League of American Bicyclists organizes Bike-to-Work Day, wherein cities across the country promote the idea of schlepping your Schwinn to the office.
I live 2 miles from my office, and while I'm not a serious cyclist, I do it for fun just about every day.
But who wants to arrive at the office every day sweating like a feral hog? Not me. Especially in Florida, and especially in summer.
Then again, my office does have a shower. And we're all adults here, aren't we? So one recent week, I threw caution to the wind. I should make clear that my experiment had nothing to do with my health, my wallet, my commitment to the environment or some desire to escape the daily rat race. It was about whether I could handle the aftermath.
It was all about my sweat.
It was about 80 degrees when I pushed off on Monday. The ride was unremarkable, traffic was light and I managed to stay in a bike lane most of the route. I arrived a little dewy, but my normally unmanageable hair mostly held its shape. Changing in the bathroom was easy, and I splashed and dabbed myself dry in mere minutes. Hey, this could work, I thought.
But it didn't stop there. Now properly warmed up, my hypothalamus kicked into second gear, and perspiration seeped into my clean clothes. For the next half hour, my shirt was mottled with droplets dripping from my torso.
At the end of the day, as I changed into my commuting clothes, I noticed that my T-shirt, which I had stored in my backpack, was still a little damp. Ew.
Days 2 and 3 were about the same. I got there sweating just a little, but by the time I reached my desk, I looked like Swamp Thing.
I found myself making compromises when packing my workplace attire. Each morning, I wondered: Do I really need a tie today? Can I get by in just my tennis shoes, or do I really need to pack those chunky leather Eccos? Thank God my job doesn't require me to wear a suit. I'd never make it.
I also kept a closer eye on the weather. By Thursday, I was glancing out the window every 10 minutes to monitor the familiar black clouds that form every day come quitting time.
On Friday, the clouds burst. Inevitable, I suppose, but I'd come this far ...
Getting drenched through my rain jacket on the ride in didn't bother me. Showering at work made me feel sort of skeevy, but it was nice to warm up. Problem was, the rain soaked through my backpack. My shoes and trousers weren't too bad, but my dress shirt was waterlogged. I survived thanks to a co-worker who loaned me a company-logo T-shirt.
That evening, I weighed the results of my week on two wheels. The extra exercise was nice, and my car barely moved all week. On the other hand, I felt chained to my desk during the day. At home, my laundry doubled in size from most normal weeks. And I could never shake the feeling that for the first time since fifth grade, there was a smelly kid in school. And it just might be me.
But at least no one complained about it -- at least not to my face. As a matter of fact, one morning, I bumped into a co-worker at the elevator, backpack and bike helmet in hand. I explained the premise of my experiment, whether I could live a healthier lifestyle and not be self-conscious about my sweat. "I think it makes you look cool," she said.
Cool. Insanely overheated. In the end, can anyone tell the difference?