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.
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,