To air is human

OK, let’s talk about air. Nothing makes me want to smack my forehead against my handlebars more than coming face-to-face with one of these:

Why? Come closer. Look:

Good Lord, people, what visionary MBA came up with this idea? (“Hey, let’s charge 75 cents for air!”)

Are you kidding me? It’s AIR!

Besides, I can’t believe these things actually make any money because who carries change anymore? Who uses cash at all anymore? Nobody. Which is why nobody has change anymore.

And on those occasions when you do walk into Safeway with a 10-dollar bill and buy something for $9.29, the checker perkily asks: “Round up for prostate cancer?!” And you think to yourself, “Sounds good to me” — not because you believe that this will be the 71-cent test tube that breaks the back of prostate cancer, but because you don’t want to deal with the nuisance of coins rattling around in your pocket.

One of the nice things about those parking meters they installed in Portland is that they take debit cards. Of course, that means it’s easy for them to insidiously charge you more than they could ever charge if they were making you pump coins into them.

Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that roughly 100 percent of the parking tickets I’ve endured here in Eugene (and I’ve endured my fair share over the years) had nothing to do with me not wanting to pay or overstaying the maximum time allowed by the meter.

Rather, I got a ticket because I decided I had to risk it after fishing around in my pockets and digging underneath my car floor mats and coming up with nothing more than two pennies, a bottle cap and a Presta-to-Schrader valve adapter.

And you expect me to have change on my bike? My bike doesn’t even have floor mats.

If you want me to pay for air, at least get with the times, people. Put a swipe reader on this thing and make it debit-card ready. Or, I suppose, you could just make it, you know: free.

Oh heavens, no, say the Chevron bean counters! It’s not just air. It’s compressed air. That takes electricity. Electricity costs money.

And I suppose we shouldn’t forget that properly inflated tires on a car will improve one’s gas mileage. So, if one were a cynical person, one might suspect it would be in the interest of gasoline companies to actually discourage motorists from using this machine.

But to hell with them, because all is not lost. And who wants to spend their hard-earned quarters at a gas station anyway. And why am I talking about parking tickets? All I really want to do is get my bike tires up to pressure.

So, yes, there’s a better option. For air, that is. It’s an open secret that plenty of cyclists have known about for some time.

Raise a glass in toast and say “sssssssssssssssssst!” for Berg’s Ski Shop. It’s like our own little bit of Mayberry right here in Eugene:

Wait. Is that free air? Yes, it is!

Coming right out of the side of the building? Yes, it is!

And is that a built-in pressure gauge? Yes, it is!

And it’s on all the time, even when Berg’s is closed? Appears to be.

It could be better only if a smiling man in a crisp white shirt and bow tie trotted out to fill your tires for you.

A neighbor of mine who has lived near here for something like 60 years, has told me that the Berg’s location used to be home to a gas station – or what they called in those days a “service station.” You know why they called them “service stations” back then? Because you could get service there. You know why they call them “gas stations” now? Because you can get gas there.

Anyway, if you look at the west side of the building in which Berg’s resides (and where the air hose happens to be) you can see that this may well be true.

I can envision an old service station. Or perhaps a Denny’s.

Anyway, “Air for all,” is what I say. And thanks to the good folks at Berg’s for being nice to cyclists.

:: UPDATE :: I should mention that the Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life on Fifth Avenue also has a free air hose outside their main entrance. I think it usually is there only during business hours — although I think employees have been known to forget to take it in at night.

Hose by the door at Paul's Bicycle Way of Life (the Fifth Avenue location)

Part of the reason I love the Berg’s hose is that it usually is working, even if Berg’s is closed. Bike shops usually aren’t open yet when I’m on my way to work. (And it helps that Berg’s isn’t far off my route.)

2 thoughts on “To air is human

  1. I knew about that air spot but had forgotten! Thanks for the reminder.
    Pretty much every bike shop in town has a hose or a pump for folks.
    Anyone know of other free spots?

    1. Thanks, Shane. I added an update to the post about the Paul’s air hose, which is outside by the front door. I’m sure any bike shop would be happy to help people out with this, but they’re often closed when I’m on my commute — especially in the morning.

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