It gives a certain kind of job satisfaction which is very different from what you get from being... well, anything else I've ever been. Your goals are short-term (get this package to that place by this time) and achieving each one gives you a little dose of satisfaction. If you get to the end of the day and you haven't been late, lost a package or been hit by a car, you know you've done your job as well as possible. That's in stark contrast to being, say, a theoretical physicist (or a software developer), where the doses of job satisfaction are (hopefully) much larger but are much further apart, and where you can easily go for days without feeling like you've achieved anything.
But still, a very fascinating article. I'm a bike commuter in SF, and I can related to some of the bullet points.
A software engineer is a life full of a surprising amount of importance. Frequently you're working on massive systems that affect the lives of hundreds, thousands, or even millions. And he trades it in for a "real" and "romantic" job of being a envelope peddler?
I mean, good for him. Do what makes you happy, but don't try to slyly say, "P.S. You have no soul and your job is meaningless."
Growing up, our family bought a completely gutted house -- no drywall, plumbing, wiring, nothing. One crazy summer, we did enough work to make the place livable, and in the following years, we re-sided it, fenced the property, did finishing work inside, and more. In addition to this, I had jobs (since I was about 12) mowing lawns, "mucking" horse stalls, siding, roofing, stocking shelves, and more that I can't recall off the top of my head.
To me (and I assume to anyone else who has spent years doing laborious work), this is the definition of real work. A task that works your body. Not "real" as in meaningful, but "real" as in true. Work that does not leave you stressed at the end of the idea, both because heavy exercise releases endorphins and because most of the time, your work is (temporarily) done at the end of the day.
Now if the original author had said "real job" instead of "real work", then I would have agreed with you. My dad did not attend college and has had a labor job my whole life. He always told me to work hard in school and to be smart, because I didn't want a job where I had to do real work like he did. That to me is real work.
I get the same satisfation from a good day's work from either, and I think this notion of a "hard day's work" s exactly that: a romantic notion with no real basis in reality. If anything, it's just another example of how modern american society is anti-intellectual.
And I find it tiresome and hackneyed and often part of a post-hoc rationalization for people who couldn't hack it in a job with more responsibility. Which is not to say that's exactly what this author experienced, but it's certainly an archetype I've run into in the valley more than once.
Ultimately, people should do what makes them happy without any delusions about what is "real", what is "meaningful", and what is "productive".
There are some hazards, however:
Its good that no one was seriously hurt and that this fool's true color showed early before he could do any real damage. They can't all be heroes, I guess. That's what makes the ones that are special. This joker was probably hiding in the broom closet on 9-11.
According to veterans of this event, the cops have been holding a grudge since 2004. Several of them lost their jobs due to committing perjury in the aftermath of the Republican Convention ("he was resisting arrest!"), and they aren't happy about that.
It's been a great experience, and I almost never miss my 350Z.
Biking to work (or going to a gym, etc., etc.) regularly hits many of the same points the author addresses: You will be generally happier and have more energy (both physical and mental) if you get exercise regularly. Fact. (Also, it works better if you pick fun exercise, because you'll actually do it.)
It isn't practical in some cities / for some people, but if you can, give it a try.
Reading this article makes me want to become a bike messenger myself (I'm not far from Toronto, actually), and maybe do freelance coding on weekends.
My max commute, by the way, was nearly 20 miles each way, thanks to an unexpected office move. That lasted about two months...