Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Motorcycles, Part Deux

At the scene of an unnecessarily fatal motorcycle crash.  The decedent was not wearing a helmet, to protest helmet laws.   The low-speed crash was completely survivable, but he landed on his head, with predictable results.

A recent headline from my hometown illustrates some of the inane silliness that results when men mix with motorcycles.

We just sold our house in Central New York, and not a moment too soon.  Taxes are through the roof, the local schoolteachers are making $100,000 a year, factories shut down decades ago, jobs, other than schoolteacher or prison guard (same thing?) are hard to find.  It is a socialist utopia.   The State Government can't balance the budget, but now you can get Gay-Married.  Progress!

Anyway, one of the forms of idiocy up there, long before the current story, involved motorcycles.  Every local Pennysaver and free rag sheet would have a posting for a special "Poker Run" or other motorcycle jaunt held by the local motorcycle club.  These "runs" would usually go from bar to bar, or from one point to another.   And usually, they were designed to raise money for a charity.

And, as you might guess, the charity was usually some motorcyclist who was seriously injured during last year's poker run, or as usually was the case, their next of kin.  Usually, the notice in the "Scottsman Pennysaver" would read something like this:
"The Rochester Area Iron Knights are holding their annual poker run, leaving from Bugsy's Saloon next Friday afternoon at 5:00 PM.  Sponsors include the Central New York Chapter of ABATE and the Allan's Harley-Davidson.  Proceeds this year go to pay the medical bills of Todd Smith, who suffered a serious injury during last year's poker run, which was held to raise money for the widow of his late brother, who died during the poker run the year before..."
You get the idea...

Motorcycles are a lot of fun, but as I noted before, people turn left in front of you.  You could do everything right, wear a suit of Kevlar and a brain bucket,  and drive sober as a Nun - and still, some numbnuts is going to hit you.   It is like they set out to do it.

And that sucks most of the fun out of motorcycling, frankly.  Like I said, I got out when I got hit by a cop - who was a Harley rider for 30 years.  If he was going to hit me - who wouldn't?

And if you ride a bike, even for a few years, and have friends who ride motorcycles, chances are, you know someone who has had a horrific bike accident - with a Frankenstein-like rebuilding with plates and pins, or with an even worse result - death.  My motorcycling experience was less than a decade, and yet I had a half-dozen friends end up in intensive care, and one dead.

Now, think about how many people you know who have died in car crashes - or have been seriously injured.  Yea, I know a few - but after 40 years of motoring.  The odds of getting killed or injured in a car crash as just so much lower - in terms of miles traveled.

While motorcycles are fun, they are hardly an economical means of transportation, in terms of cost per mile, as they depreciate rapidly (even Harleys, these days - the factory still cranks them out, but the number of buyers with $15,000 $25,000 cash is dwindling) so the cost-per-mile is pretty huge.  And most are not driven many miles - far less than a car.

Then there is this whole sort of posturing genre, where some dudes play at being bike gang members, complete with leather vests with big patches on the back with mean sounding names, and other "culture of belligerence" type of accessories.  Problem is, most of them are just playing at it.  And the ones who ain't?  Well, you don't want to hang with "Pool Cue" Jones - and no, he didn't get his nickname from his prowess at Pool.

Ya gotta ask yourself at some point:  Where are you going with this?  Is being a bad-assed biker really helping your own personal bottom line?  Improving your marriage?  Setting a good role model for your kids?  A smart career move?  A role that you are now trapped in?  A dead-end?  Ridiculous when you turn 50?

You are the people you hang with, and if you want to play-act at being a "gansta" when you are just a white boy from the suburbs, it can go horribly wrong.  Similarly, playing at being a motorcycle gang member is probably a bad normative cue as well.

Of course, like with marijuana use, you can't tell people otherwise.   "Live to Ride, Ride to Live!" people say, parroting a corporate advertising slogan.  A great normative cue - for the guy selling the motorcycles and the whole "lifestyle package".  But a realistic philosophy of life?  Not really.   In addition to being pathetically shallow, it is hardly realistic.

Motorcycles are just pieces of machinery.  They don't breathe or have personalities.  If you believe this, you've been sold a bill of goods and are likely to believe just about anything - like buying Glenn Beck's Gold.

I feel bad for the family of this guy who died.  He was trying to make some political statement and it backfired horribly.  He put himself on the line for some political statement and where did it get him?  Nowhere.  He took his eye off the ball - his own family, his own life, his own advancement - all things that would be bettered by wearing a helmet - or just selling the silly-assed bike and finding something constructive to do with your time than to protest helmet laws.  He used his energy to help an organization not himself.  And it really is a pretty silly organization.

But that's Central New York for you.  All the smart people left - decades ago.  A riding season of maybe 3 months, and people who can barely afford it, go into hock for a "bad-assed bike" instead of funding their retirement.  It is a very sad, depressing, and depressed place to live.  And frankly, I have no regrets leaving it.

I have no regrets selling my bike.  It was fun - for all of about 10 minutes.  Anyone who finds things like that - and jet skis - endlessly fascinating is really not terribly bright.

Sorry.  There I said it.