An ode (of sorts) to engineers
Updated: Feb 24, 2019
Riding in an Uber to Dream School yesterday, I got to thinking about wheels. Not like the colloquial term for a cool car, but real, physical wheels. The circular, revolving-on-an-axel wheels. Laying back against the head rest, half trying to sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about or seeing them.
Out the window two men rode bikes down the middle of the street. People drove scooters. Cows pulled carts full of produce. Big trucks. Tempos. Autos. Wheels. Everywhere.
I have a tick, or for lack of a better term, a thing, where whenever I’m in a car or biking or walking or just moving through space in general I constantly try to count things and look for patterns. I always count the number of light posts on the street, I counted the individual flower petals on the wall we painted outside of Cantonment Railway station… stuff like that. The habit kind of annoys me, but I can’t stop it. Up until yesterday, however, I had never counted wheels. I had usually been on wheels while I was counting.
Counting the number of wheels on the Bangalore streets is impossible. Now I’ll never be satisfied, nor will I ever be able to sleep in the car again. Great. Why does my mind do this?
Wheels have been around for thousands of years. They are some of the least modified, most widely used invention over time. Our society would not be what it is today without wheels. We could not have become the urban, globalized world we live in. Cities would not be here. Both literally and figuratively, we would not be in Bangalore without the wheel.
But seriously, wheels are so essential to our lives it blows my mind! Not only were they carrying and moving me in the uber yesterday, but wheels on cars and busses and trains and bikes and unicycles have been taking me anywhere I want to go for my entire life. Our lives are centered around movement, and I have so many vivid wheel-dependent movement memories.
Looking out the window while driving down to California in my family’s 1998 Honda Odyssey. My skin feeling tight while biking north on the Burke Gilman trail. Pushing my younger brother in his wheelchair through downtown Seattle when I was eight. Roller blading around Greenlake as a kid. Trying to fall asleep while the dozen or so wheels of the sleeper bus navigated speed bumps, potholes, and road widths that just barely contained them all the way to Hampi.
The other day, responding to deserved criticism of his border wall plan, Trump gave a little shout out to wheels, “They say a wall is medieval, well, so is a wall. A wheel is older than a wall. And I looked, and every single car out there… even the really expensive ones… I said, do they all have wheels? Yes, they all have wheels.” Trump, sweetie, it’s not the same, and dating a wheel to a wall isn’t going to help you, but I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with you more on the basic cruciality of something. Wheels! Let’s let people keep using them to cross the border!
Later yesterday afternoon after arriving to Dream School my team had a brainstorming session about what catchy name, we should give the Mobile Learning Center. Good god. I realized that wheels are at the center of our entire GCIL project. They are driving me (yes, pun intended) crazy.
So, an ode to wheels, or better yet, to engineers. For being here, being amazingly smart people to grow with and learn from, and for inventing the wheel.