Saturday, August 8, 2009
MS and messengering
Interview with Guenevere Nyderek by John Greenfield
[This will also run in Cog Magazine, www.cogmag.com]
Guenevere Nyderek has worked as a courier in Chicago for a total of nine years. In 2003 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She’s been messengering on-and-off since then and says riding helps her deal with MS. Nowadays she’s helping to organize the North American Cycle Courier Championships which comes to Chicago on Labor Day weekend.
How did you first get started as a messenger?
In 1996 I was going to going to Loyola University in Chicago and hating it when I said to myself ‘I don’t gotta be going to school anymore.’ I got a job at Apex and started making $550 a week after taxes. I had $5,000 in student debt to pay off so I worked for them for two and a half years living as cheaply as possible. I couldn’t spend money on cigarettes or alcohol and I lived off oatmeal and rice and beans. But I did a lot of painting during that period so it wasn’t a complete wash.
What do you ride?
I’m on an Olmo with gears. I used to have a cute little single-speed Benotto but it got stolen so now there’s a Benotto-shaped hole in my heart. I like my knees just fine so I never bothered to ride track. It’s kind of retarded but people do other stupid things for fashion so, whatever.
I don’t think I became an excellent rider until this year. I figured out the key to being successful as a messenger is don’t ride as fast as you can. I value control over my bicycle and I use gears to save my knees. People trying to ride really fast all the time don’t get it. It’s like the tortoise and the hare: slow equals longevity. But I didn’t figure that out until year 13.
What exactly is MS?
MS is a neurological disorder. Lesions, basically scars, form on the brain. It can affect your muscles, sight, hearing, speech, memory, sexual function and continence, depending on where it is on the brain.
How did you figure out you have it?
In 2003 my grandma had just died and stress exacerbates MS. Right afterwards I started having a hard time seeing in my right eye. My optic nerve got paralyzed and the two eyes didn’t match up. I was working at On Time that day. I have no idea how I survived. I was riding with one eye shut so I had no depth perception.
After I was hospitalized the guys at On Time dedicated one day to raise money for my medical bills. The messengers donated half of what they made that day and the company matched it. I really appreciated that.
How does messengering help with your MS?
After I got out of the hospital I got a job at a health clinic and when I’m working at a desk I become kind of a lazy ass. My condition got worse - I was having trouble seeing and was using a cane a lot.
But when I went back to messengering the benefits were immediately apparent – exercise helps keep my body working right. Cycling helps with my balance issues. When I’m getting off a bike though it’s sometimes difficult - I always grab a pole to dismount.
I have had some issues with pissing while working. I usually pee in alleys – I don’t care. When you’re working you don’t got time to find yourself a bathroom. If some cop tries to arrest me I’ll just pull the MS card.
What do you see in the future for yourself?
I don’t worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow. All you can do is live in the present and do the best you can with the time you’ve been given between birth and dying. I’m not worried about dying from MS. It’s more likely I’m going to get killed by that maniac in that gas-guzzling, larger-than-life SUV.