It was June 21. Whistle Stop CoOp café and bike shop beside Othello Station was a hoppin’ full house. To think that half an hour before the party started, I was afraid no one would show up!
Our barista, Reese Kindle was a reincarnation of Lloyd Doss from “Sons of the Pioneers.” His friend, Ehran Fox, sounded like Joan Baez. Cheri Giducos from the UPS Store across the street belted out “I Will Always Love You” like Whitney Hueston herself. Kathya Alexander, our Whistle Stop Writers’ Workshop leader, told a couple riveting tales about growing up in the Arkansas during the Civil Rights Movement. It was like watching a movie. And there were more great musicians, story tellers, and even an amazing poet.
You may recognize June 21 as summer solstice, but here at Whistle Stop, and in fact across the Nation, it was “Dump the Pump Day”, promoted by the Sierra Club. So Whistle Stop teamed up with them to hold an open mic to kick off our “Live Free or Drive” campaign. Funded by a grant from Seattle Department of Sustainability and the Environment, “Live Free or Drive” enables Whistle Stop to give away free bikes and transit smart cards to income qualified people who want to commute by alternative transportation.
One customer told me that even if Whistle Stop never breaks even, we are never-the-less a big success. We adorn this corner in the Nation’s most multi-cultural neighborhood and build community by promoting bicycling and transit. A tiny voice crying out in a wilderness of cars, we are successful by reason of being what we are. A graduate student in architecture wrote a paper about Whistle Stop pointing out how much more environmentally friendly it was to recycle a trailer than to build something new. A PhD candidate in anthropology came by to interview us for her dissertation and agreed to run for the Board.
I didn’t know what to expect when we put a trailer on the vacant lot by the Othello light rail station. Likewise, I didn’t know what to expect when I put a sign on the corner kiosk: “FREE BIKES AND ORDA CARD - ASK AT WHISTLE STOP.” But let’s face it, it’s the unexpected coming into life that teaches us. As Charles De Bois once said, “The important thing is this: To be able to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”
The people who come in and apply for free bikes and ORCA cards are folks whose lot in life I would not have known otherwise. When I asked one of them, a soft spoken nice looking woman her address, she told me she had none. She is homeless. One gentleman told me his daily commute will be to a therapy center for people with AIDS. He wants the bike to improve his health.
After Mohamed Yussuf, Editor of Runta (Truth) the Somali newspaper, showed up at the Mosque with his new bike, several of his friends, including the Mullah, came to Whistle Stop next day to apply for free bikes. Previously they had believed that real Americans only drive cars. Unfortunately, it turned out a couple of them will have to learn to ride before we can give them bikes.
So following the wise counsel of Charles Du Bois, an old lady on a bike becomes an MC for a talent show, a turner of upside down somersaults in effort to promote a little side show called Whistle Stop Co-op. The next stunt I’m planning is to get a small Bob trailer and tow a sandwich board sign advertising Whistle Stop Co-op up and down Martin Luther King Way handing out flyers. All this might not save Whistle Stop, but this old lady has nothing much better to do than try.
What else is new at Whistle Stop? Besides coffee, beer and wine, Panini sandwiches, all day breakfast, and more. Whistle Stop now has ice cream bars. Doesn’t that sound yummy? Come by and try some.
Visit our website www.whistle-stop-bbb.org. If you would like to help Whistle Stop create community through bicycling and transit, click on Democracy Works, then "donate." Also visit www.facebook.com/WhistleStopCoOp.