Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Smugsy revisited.

My encounter with Smugsy really "bugged" me. Bad pun intended. To illustrate, I took a couple of photos of a Praying Mantis hanging out on the porch the other day. It's a bug, you know. A hungry one too, it seems, as it explores the cat's food dish. You notice the dish is empty. Our cat's 19 and a half years old. She doesn't do much anymore but she can still eat!

Several of you made some pretty astute comments about the situation. About Smugsy, not the cat. There's some aspects that seem relevant to commuting on a motorcycle. They deserve a little further exploration. This blog was started to encourage the use of a bike for everyday transportation. In the process we're going to bump up against preconceived notions. Everyone's got them, favorable or not. Everybody's also got a reason for riding. Those reasons are as varied as the riders themselves. As a motorcycle safety professional I personally disagree with some of those reasons. Particularly when someone rides a certain bike just to make up for something that's lacking in their psyche. News flash: If someone isn't enough without it, they'll never be enough with it.

When we look past the world of bikes it's apparent that this compensation happens in many other areas. Cars, trucks, houses, lifestyles, you name it. People who drive hybrid cars like the Prius are a cross section of humanity. Like riders, they are either really trying to do something responsible or they're looking for validation. In a lot of ways I don't actually care. They can do their thing and I'll do mine. I've got my reasons to ride and they're not really anybody else's business. Unfortunately, life isn't that simple for a rider.

Motorcycling, at least the recreational side of it, is getting more mainstream all the time. When the weather's nice, I see a lot of bikes that are ridden to work. I work a lot of weekends trying to add even more folks who ride to work. It's a great trend but we're still in the minority. There's organizations like the AMA, ABATE, and the MRF, that work to defend our right to ride. I applaud and benefit from their efforts. I guess my biggest question, though, is why do we have to defend our rights in the first place? Haven't you found yourself in a situation where a non-rider somehow puts you in a situation where you feel the need to defend your choice of transportation? It's not right but it's our reality. Why? Because the vast majority of voters and influencers are non-riders.

It's admittedly been a long way around but I'm getting back to Smugsy. It's people like him who have an affect on legislation. Good or bad. Whether I like it or not that's reality. That's one of the reasons I made my point and let it go. I didn't make it about bikes versus hybrids. It was about two travelers and the respect that should be shown each other. In this case, one traveler failed to play nice.

Maybe it's too subtle to follow. I don't know. My dealings with others are a fine line between standing up for myself as a motorcyclist and not crossing the line into antagonism. I'm certainly not going to let anyone walk all over me just because I don't want to alienate someone who could someday vote against motorcyclists. I'll never shy away from a battle. That battle, however, will be over how humans should treat each other and not about "car drivers" versus "riders". Am I writing this in such a way that you can follow my logic?

The incident with the Prius driver was an actual happening. What the guy said was pretty random. At least on the surface. Who really knows where people are coming from? It's like being pulled over by a cop. The cop seems rude and unreasonable. Sometimes the individual is just a jerk. How do we know, though, what might have happened recently for them? It's quite possible that the attitude is a direct result of the last traffic stop or call. Have you read Charlie's blog? Charlie's a probation officer in Spokane, Washington. After you finish this post go read this. Law enforcement personnel deal with things that make no sense. Worse, they would blow your mind, to use the common expression. As a professional, you'd hope the officer would be able to compartmentalize. I can tell you from experience that it can't always happen. That's the way it will always be since we're dealing with humans and not robots.

What had Smugsy's experience been with motorcycles? Does he often encounter riders with loud pipes? Did somebody take advantage of the "biker" stereotype and use it against him for intimidation somewhere? Has he been "strafed" by squids as he took his family on a relaxing drive? Has he lost a relative to a motorcycle accident? Or was it "none of the above" and he is just a "fear biter"?

I had absolutely no way of knowing. All I could tell is that from somewhere down deep a spark exploded. He obviously felt he couldn't stand up to me on a man to man basis. So he tried to put me in what to him was a lower class. He's a little man who needs a step ladder of some sort. Smugsy was no match as a man. I wasn't going to follow the road he pointed to. This wasn't about bikes versus hybrids.

Honor is a part of my makeup. But so is practicality. The situation boiled down to having two questions answered. What would I gain by conquering Smugsy? What could be gained by letting it go? As you know, I let it go. He may still view me as "one of those" but it wasn't by any direct action of mine. At least not to my mind. Your results may vary.

The logical conclusion didn't make it any easier to deal with. Yes, I wanted to grab him and shake him. Yes, I stewed about it for a long time. I'm both angered by his attitude and saddened by his attitude. Ultimately it will be him living with who he is, not me. I know that sounds all noble and everything. The fact that I'm saying philosophical things to make me feel better about not "doing something" to Smugsy. I don't know about noble. Maybe it's just a guy facing the passage of time. Conserving energy isn't always a bad thing. You want philosophical? Here's something Grandpa used to tell me.

Never wrestle with a pig. The pig likes it and you'll only get dirty.

This from a guy who could never get enough of proving how "manly" he was in his younger days. Then time caught up with him. A man can't just start saying that he no longer has what he used to. So he makes up sayings like this. It's working pretty well for me, too.

See how conserving energy can sound philosophical and noble? What it really means is that I'm just too tired to waste resources on this! Catch me twenty years ago.

I did have this horrible thought, though.

Who knows? Maybe one day Smugsy will become a rider. God, I hope not! I won't even ask what kind of bike he'd ride. I wasn't going to go there. Did I just do that? Shame on me. No offense intended to any readers. If you're reading this you're plenty enough by yourself. You don't need a certain kind of bike to feel worthy.

If I were to have engaged in the bike versus hybrid discussion, these are some points I would have made. Again, your comments covered some of this. Educated folks, you are!

It takes a lot more energy and resources to build a hybrid than a bike. More raw materials which require more energy. More truck, train, or ship space to transport these materials. Which takes more energy. More manufacturing time which requires more energy. More expense to buy the hybrid. Comparing the price of a new Prius to my new FJR, the Prius is several thousand dollars more expensive.

Operating costs aren't really that much less. At least to my way of thinking. Like you all brought out, the battery pushes the car at low speeds. At highway or freeway speeds, the Prius gets good mileage but is still operating as a regular internal combustion car. I'm told the batteries won't last the life of the car itself and replacing them is pretty expensive. Somebody at a dealer told me it was around five thousand dollars.

Then there's the disposal of said batteries. Toxic elements to be dealt with. Not so much of a problem with a bike.

Motorcycles are looking more "green" all the time, aren't they?

Not to say that a hybrid car is a bad thing. Just not wonderful enough to get all smug and self righteous over. I sometimes wonder why we all can't just do whatever we feel right about doing? Maybe I'm getting old and tired. I can't help but feel we'd all benefit a lot more if folks would support each other's efforts. The current method still has some bugs to work out, I think.

I'm just a simple Road Warrior. My brain doesn't have all the great answers. One thing I'm pretty sure of, though. I'll bet Smugsy never smiles as much in his Prius as I do on my bikes!

Miles and smiles,



Anonymous said...

I bet Smugsy also never jumps in the Prius just to go for a drive for the pure pleasure of it!

It's really hard to give a person the benefit of the doubt when they act like a jerk and say something stupid.

He could well have had a valid reason to sound off at you - something in his past - but the choice he made to adopt the attitude negated his right to common respect or courtesy.

Anonymous said...

On an unrelated note, I was directing a rider from another forum I'm a member of to take a Team Oregon course and in looking at the site it appears as if there are no more spaces on courses available anywhere for the rest of the year!
That's a little frightening that a lot of riders will still ride without the proper preparation or training.

Doug C said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Now, if I could have a hybrid bike that got 100mpg or so and was nearly as much fun as my v-strom, that would seem like the best of both worlds.

Bryce said...

Take more photos of your cat!

At 19.5 that cat is well preserved, probably deaf and somewhat slow. However, a cat is a cat and truth be told I prefer them to dogs.

As to the hybrid vehicles, suspect the owners feel they are doing right for the environment. Suspect they a
are also seemingly self-righteous in their so-called green direction.

And as hybrid vehicles cost more out the door only the well-heeled seem to purchase them or people who think they are well-heeled.

Bottom line the motorcycle is a far
better option than many dual fuel vehicles;mind the weather also has to be suitable as well. Round her
the temperature as I write this is
just at freezing, and many roads have a white look to them, from salt. So one's motorcycle really shouldn't be used, best drive that old rattle trap used car if you want to be safe, and the hell with the atmosphere. And yes diesel is
about ten cents more a litre here, however you go much further on that litre of diesel than you do on a litre of gasoline.

R.G. said...

Compartmentalization... Man I wish I could do that!

I have learned that my first reaction is often pretty primal, whereas if I give it a twenty count as you did I usually react in a more evolved manner. Funny how a few years and a bad back can make me more contemplative.

Orin said...

I have never seen any occupant of a Toyota Prius smile. Ever.

Anonymous said...

I had a weird thing happen today on the way back from Portland.
I was driving my wife's Honda Odyssey with my wife and 2 kids on board - they'd gone to the Zoo while I worked.
I came up behind a red/burgundy Prius in the fast lane of I-5 and the license plate was LS CO2!!
Could it have been Smugsy's relative?
Well, they pulled over to let me pass(no one in the inside lane) and when I went to pass them they accelerated up to 85 mph from the 70 mph they were doing.
Not sure what they were playing at - I still passed them as it was clear as far as we could see.
I guess they probably looked at their MPG display and had some kind of remorse or something and didn't keep accelerating!

irondad said...

Steve L,
I agree that a person who acts like a jerk sort of loses their right to be treated with respect. We just have to decide what level we're comfortable holding ourselves to.

As to the courses, there's only a few left. Amazingly, they're still booked solid. However, people will back out due to weather and stuff. I taught in Salem tonight. A guy had transferred from next week's class. Which means there's an opening there. Best to call the colleges and get put on stand by. Or else show up and hope to fill a no show spot. By the way, we still need instructors to help meet the demand. :)

What a coincidence about the Prius! Mine was green and had the letter "e" in the LES. I'm sure many drivers are trying to get plates as close to that as possible.

As to the passing, that was probably the Toyota / Honda superiority thing!

Doug C,
Thank you!

How are you at engineering?

The cat certainly hears what she wants to hear!

I agree that a bike is stil the best all around value for price and being green!

I don't have a problem being primal. It's the consequences that get me.

Thanks a lot. Now you've got me watching them to see if it's true!

Take care,


Bradley said...

Ahh yes, the wonderful world of profiling...

A Prius passed me tonight, going the other way in the dark, with their headlights off. I flashed my lights at them and they hadn't a clue. Maybe they were conserving electricity.
Try not to pull up behind a Prius at a light, for some reason Prius drivers are slow to accelerate. Between a Prius in front of you and an SUV behind you is not a good place to be.

Steve Williams said...

I only know one Prius owner pair, a husband and wife, and they also own two Vespa LX150s. In warm weather they both commute on the scooters and when it rains or is cold they are in the Prius. Both smile and laugh and they are all about being green.

All the other Prius cars I have seen have been pretty unremarkable to me. So have their drivers. My wife might say it is an indication of how utterly stupid I am when it comes to reading people. On the road others are just bodies I watch for but I seem to be oblivious to anything related to attitude or psychology. It probably reflects my loner tendencies and not wanting to invest much energy in the doings of others. Along with that comes what others see as great tolerance and compassion. But it is probably more likely indifference.

And that might be why I can be pretty relaxed in the face of hugely assholish actions by others on the road.

I wonder how many similar experiences I may have had that I missed because of my lack of social perspective? On the one hand Dan I envy your connection to things on the road, on the other I am glad I don't often invest energy in the attitude of others. It takes a lot go get me riled up and then it usually isn't nice. I don't seem to have a temper range. It's pretty much on or off. Almost always off thankfully.

I always enjoy reading your posts Dan. Seldom can I just read them and not think about them later. The last two fall into that category.

Thanks for the insights and sharing of your experience.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

irondad said...

I like to think I don't fall into the trap of profiling. I know I'm guilty at times, despite that. However, in my defense, there's usually some factual foundations for it.

I try to be open minded but not so open that things fall out. Better to expect the worst on a bike and be pleasantly surprised, I say!

Steve W,
I've found myself in several vocations where evaluating people is required. Even with my teaching, which is fun, I have to be able to assess where someone is now in order to get them somewhere else. Along the way I need to do spot checks.

Now I'm in such a habit I can't stop doing it.

Thanks for the compliment. Making a poet like you think is an accomplishment!

Take care,