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Sunday May 02, 2004, 23:55

With the coming spring comes the inevitable bad judgment that comes from people having been cooped up inside their homes all winter finally being able to emerge, squinting, into the sunlight. The latest infraction, avoiding, of course, all mention of the fashion faux pas that abound in the city when people realize that it's too warm to wear whatever it was they were wearing yesterday, but haven't yet unpacked what they're going to wear tomorrow, was seen this past week or so as I was heading out for a morning stroll through the neighborhood. As I crossed the street, heading for the park, I encountered a child, sitting in a little red wagon.

Scratch that. A BIG red wagon.

Radio Flyer, the wagon maker of our collective youth, is still in business, and still going strong (and still, as all indications on their website would suggest, independently owned) and improving upon the decades-old design of the little red steel wagon. The behemoth that I saw in front of me was a high-sided vehicle of steel and wood, with wheels a good eight inches in diameter and a paint job proudly proclaiming "S.U.W." -- Sport Utility Wagon.

Now to be fair, it looked like a sweet ride. Wagons were never really known for their comfort, and as a mode of transportation they were loud and had substandard shocks. In fact, unless you were heading over a newly paved driveway, the little red wagon was a one-way ticket to a little red bottom. So I can only imagine the improvement brought about by pneumatic tires and leg room to spare (especially in this one instance where the vehicle in question was most certainly not going to be getting away with using the car pool lane -- single occupancy only, mon ami).

So what is it that makes my stomach turn at the thought of a wagon bearing a similar namesake to the car that damn near ran me down the other day as I returned home from my morning bike ride? Is it simply the tainted phrase "Sport Utility," or is it nostalgia for an icon that was never really mine to begin with? After all, I doubt that I really ever had much opportunity to ride around in a little red wagon, and the one that we did have growing up was probably not even a true blue (or red) Radio Flyer. Or just the realization that the "Bigger is Better" attitude that surrounds us has crept into the most innocuous of places. After all, you don't mess with a winning formula unless there is something better that comes along, something that the consumer will respond to. And if the urban dad of today can picture his tot off-roading it in his Radio Flyer, taking rocky roads and riverbeds with ease, then it becomes easy to see why the street beneath my apartment is overflowing with cars in which I could stand comfortably. I mean for fucks sake people, get some perspective.

That said, I have had my own little lapse in judgment in the past couple of weeks. Given my recent outlook on my current profession and my mutterings under my mortarboard that went something like "I will not be a programmer, I will not be a programmer..." ad nauseum until someone elbowed me and told me to "shut it, rain man," it was only fitting that this year, a good five years since my graduation from the hallowed halls of that fine institution in the littlest state in the union, would be the year in which I threw off the shackles of the tech bubble and entered a new phase in my professional career. And so it came to pass that I picked myself up by my newly polished loafers, ironed my shirt, learned to tie a half-windsor, and found myself staring down the business end of a full-time employment situation.

To be sure, there are some who might accuse me of blatant grass-is-greenerism, and to them, I say "shove off." The truth of the matter is that programmers with my abilities are common, and I like to think of myself as anything but. The truth has the potential to be quite different from this understandably biased perspective, but from where I am standing (sitting, to be fair), I would much rather be going than standing still. And my brain is twitching from too much of not enough. And so I switch, and I move and I shake, and we'll see where the next step leads me.

There will certainly be some transition, as I go from "my way or the highway" to simply "the highway" as the on-the-road life of a consultant begins to take its toll. And as much as I like to say that I would rather not spend my days surrounded by these same four walls, the truth is that I am really just going to be swapping them out for a different set of four walls, but within the confines of the new walls I won't really be able to walk around without pants anymore (and though I have not yet actually found out the company policy on this, I suspect that it is frowned upon, even on Fridays). But the big change will be the work, and there is a portion of my brain that I can just feel stirring that is about to get the biggest, loudest wake up call it's heard in a long, long time.

Which is all to say that when all is said and done, there is no better place to be than Gotham in the spring.

***

Related Article: Radio Flyer to move production of wagons to China (SFGate.com)

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