I was almost killed the other night. Really. That’s not so unusual because for the last number of years I’ve been riding my motor scooter all over New York. This has made me fair game for the city’s automobile drivers. Each trip I take turns into a mortality tale.
I love riding my scooter. I’m thrilled with the feeling of freedom it gives me and I’m crazy about not having to strategize parking solutions. What I’m far less crazy about is the way a lot of cars don’t treat me as an equal vehicle. How they see the lane I’m driving in as rightfully theirs. I’ve made so many gestures to these drivers that I feel like I’m channeling Marcel Marceau. I often try to turn around in my seat to point to my license plate…to indicate that I’ve paid a fee to use the roads, in particular the lane that I’m in. This has proven to be both ineffective and dangerous. I’ve ached to call the jerks over, to explain how efficient my scooter is, how I’m saving the planet; futilely hoping that they will either revere or take pity on me.
The bike is a heap, barely making it over 30mph. This is partly why I’m a marked man. No one in NYC drives that slowly, especially on the bridges from Brooklyn to Manhattan. This trip over the East River is usually white knuckle time for me. If I’m lucky, cars just buzz by me; more often they bear down on me as if I’m a jockey who could get a whip out to get the thing to go faster. As I’m having visions of being hit and tossed over the side of the bridge, I make mental notes of what clothing to remove, and in what order so I’ll be able to swim to safety. I have a gnawing feeling that this stress is not good for me.
Occasionally, when I’m riding, I’ll catch a glimpse of a reflection of myself in one of the storefront windows on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope. The image I see does not coincide with the one I carry in my head. Instead of a cool, dare devilish looking dude, I see a middle aged man with white hair peeking out from under his helmet; looking way too tall for the small bike he’s on. I’m feeling like Peter Fonda in Easy Rider but looking like Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond. This is disappointing beyond words.»
Photo by Kevin Slavin
Last week I brought my motor scooter in for a tune-up. I bring it to a shop nearby that is mostly a motorcycle shop but also does work on scooters. I’m reluctant to go there because I feel so out of place. The people who work there, their customers and the hanger-outers are mostly “bikers.” Everyone is very nice. And also very BIG. So there I am, surrounded by these huge Harleys and motorcyclists in their “leathers.” And then there’s me–with my little Yamaha, feeling like some amalgam of Woody Allen and Felix Unger. To overcome this feeling of prissiness, when it’s necessary for me to go to the repair shop, I wear old jeans and don’t shave. I usually try not to shower for a while, as well. But as I’m thinking about it , I realize that there aren’t enough days in the week for me not to shower to create the ‘bad boy’ image I’m looking for. So, now…I’m thinking tattoo. A tasteful one on my bicep. “Scooter (boy) Man”
Neil Stein lives in Park Slope where he is a real estate broker. He took up writing a few years ago and has been publishing the blog, http://ironicman.wordpress.com/ for about a year and a half.