Thursday morning, 8 o’clock. In a company conference room where I am every Thursday morning at 8 o’clock. There are three of us ready to present our weekly work progress to a group of company officers. The three of us see it as a weekly colonoscopy.
I was in the room early to make sure my Powerpoint slides were ready. Yes, I was actually using that software upon which I’ve been known to wage war. Powerpoint, “for those who have neither.” But there I was, clicker in hand. We’ll discuss that another time.
One of my cohorts started to present first but a vice president stopped him.
“Wait. Let Bill go first. Did you see where his motorcycle was parked this morning?”
Translated, this means I arrived early and parked my bike in the spot that announces to everyone that I arrived early. Strategy at work. I was being rewarded for that go-getter attitude with first crack at the group. The operative word here however is motorcycle.
Before I could get clicking, another guy in the meeting, my boss, stopped me and addressed the group. In a combination of pity, shame, disdain, a dash of scorn and general poo-pooity, he said,
“Well, I wouldn’t call that a motorcycle. That (pause for effect) is what I call a little scooter.”
There it was. I was emasculated before my peers and superiors. He might as well have announced I had soiled my Pamper and was switching with the next change to trendy cloth waste-snaggers with pockets. That he heard my momma calling me for my nap and I was missing my kee-kee. That my binkie had fallen on the floor. Men don’t ride scooters.
My life flashed before my eyes in a two-wheeled testosterone roar.
I hung my head and clicked through my presentation, half afraid to speak in case my voice had raised a few octaves. I headed down to the cafeteria to gulp down some raw eggs and see if anyone wanted to fight.
But this man spoke some truth. Brace yourself. This may shock you. I admit I ride a scooter. Yes, I confess. It’s a scooter. A big scooter…what is called a maxi-scooter, but a scooter. A 375-lb., 250cc, 80 mph Honda Reflex Candy Glory Red scooter. A scooter that is highway-capable and requires a motorcycle driver’s license to ride.
Yes, this Marine veteran rides a scooter. Everyone knows a Marine is supposed ride a World War II surplus machine-gun equipped freedom-fighting man machine. Oh the shame of it all! I could get drummed out of the “Once A Marine Always A Marine” and the “Not As Lean, Still As Mean, Always A Marine” clubs. My secret’s out now. My bike is……a scooter. Here’s where I wail in shame.
What is this all about? How did motorcycles and manhood get linked? Why isn’t a scooter worth the steel, plastic, and rubber it came from? Why do I give a rip if my boss (who owns and rides two medium-size motorcycles) wants to make fun of my ride?
But he’s done it before.
I’ve ridden motorcycles on and off most of my life. My first motorized two-wheeled zip-around was on an old Cushman scooter. I was soon swapping my 64’ Chevy Impala car for a friend’s ’67 Honda 305 Scrambler bike on a regular basis. I was hooked. Even riding the thing to Big Top Supermart was an escape. Freedom. Manhood. Yes, I felt manly when riding. People seemed to treat me differently. Tough, Dangerous. Fearless. Sunburned.
Years later, I bought a Honda Nighthawk 750. Rode that one for several years. But evidently I didn’t ride it up the 48-mile trek to work on the Illinois Tri-State Tollway enough to qualify as a man. The same guy would stop by my desk regularly to remind me he couldn’t believe I didn’t ride on a particular day.
Truth is I do care how I’m perceived by others. Too much. It’s called face management and it’s common. We all do it. In my head I know my manhood has nothing at all to do with how I choose to propel myself down the street. Still….
My heart wants to challenge what’s his name to a grudge race. To go out a find a bike like his…I wouldn’t need a bigger one to make it interesting and settle this thing like the cavemen we are. Chicago Motor Speedway here we come. After that, we could arm wrestle and eat nails. Cover the event in the company newsletter.
More truth is we’re both crazy to ride these two-wheeled rascals at all, especially in Chicago traffic. I can get smacked on mine just as easily as he can on his. Still, he stung me and I’m stung that I let him sting me. Time to pull out the stinger and put butter on it. I won’t sting back.
I don’t call my bike a scooter. It looks great. It’s a lot of fun. I ride it every day. People regularly stop me to talk about it. It can comfortably go anywhere I want to go. I even fell off it once (another story). These days, it suits me well.
But wait, here’s Craigslist. “1974 Harley Davidson Superglide. Once owned by Evel Knievel. Must sell.” Hey, I’ll be right back!