Friday, November 27, 2009

Tell it like it is.

One of these days I'm going to open my mouth and really offend someone. Oh wait, I've already done that. Several times. Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is.

This particular incident started innocently enough. Work required me to be in Tualatin, a suburb of Portland. There's a new library and city hall building. It has a lot of our products in it. The owner has taken occupancy. Once in while there are teething pains as things settle in. That's where I come in. I'm Joe Handy and I ride a motorcycle. ( sorry, I still remember Dragnet )

In what can only be described as God smiling on motorcyclists, there has been a few days of great weather for late November. The afternoon highs are in the mid 50's ( f ). I'll ride in any weather but sunshine's always nice.

Elvira and I arrive at our destination. Parking is weird and crowded. In order to back the bike into a parking spot I chose to, shall we say, violate the traffic flow as prescribed by signs and arrows. Right in front of a cop car pulling out from behind City Hall. Not literally right in front of, but in full view of the officer. On a public street so I'm fair game. I escape unmolested. The sunshine has everyone in a good mood, I guess. Well, almost everyone.

As I'm dismounting an older man walks by the bike. He looks like a retired sailor. He has a well trimmed white beard which blends into his white t-shirt. The shirt looks like the "wife-beater" type but has short sleeves. Tan slacks top bedroom slippers. The kind with hard soles that you can wear outside to get the mail. Or to the library, it seems.

The man is full of admiration for the bike.

"I thought that idle sounded different than a car", he says. "What a pretty bike!"

Elvira and I let the "pretty" part go. The guy meant well. I'm just not sure that Elvira is the kind of bike that wants to be called "pretty". She'll eat up being called beautiful. The "pretty" part is a little "girlie" for her, though.

The guy keeps walking up to the library, but very slowly. The man doesn't try to engage me in conversation like so many do. He's just taking in the bike. I agree. Elvira's a lovely thing, isn't she? Elvira thinks so too. I kicked her tire to bring her back to reality. She so easily gets lost in the adulation of others. Maybe I shouldn't have transferred the vanity plate to her.

Having been bitten by the photography bug, I play around with the camera. I've brought both the Nikon and the new toy which I'll tell you about in the next post. I'm working on technique. Mostly getting the camera to do what I ask it to do without using the automatic settings.

The Givi trunk makes a great mobile tool box. I've brought a few tools along for my task today. As you can see, magnifying reading glasses are starting to become an essential for close-up work. Unfortunately. I thought I would be Superman forever. What a disappointment.

In the process of playing with the camera for a few minutes, I take a couple of photos. The objective is to see what different aperature settings do for depth of field. I don't know that a couple of people in the photos will figure prominently into my morning in just a few minutes. More on that in just a bit.

I've been told very pointedly that I MUST check in with the library personnel before taking a door apart. Understandable in this day and age of the fear of terrorism frenzy. The advice is useful since I am within a few feet of a place where armed police officers hang out. No point in upsetting the apple cart no matter how much of a rebel I consider myself. So I enter the library and go find someone. The closest place is the Help Desk just inside the inner set of doors. With a business card in one hand and an upside down helmet full of small tools in the other, I wait patiently to talk to the lady at the desk. You see, somebody else has beaten me to the desk.

If you look at the photo above you will see a man on the right in a sort of two toned colored jacket. To the left is a young man in white pants. When I took the photo I wondered about this group at the front doors. By my reckoning the library should have been open for ten minutes or so. These two people are the ones ahead of me at the Help Desk.

The young man has some challenges. His brain and his body aren't in total synch. I feel that way myself sometimes, truth be told. Must be the occasional stray Kryptonite particle floating about. Anyway, the young man's body movements are jerky and his speech is pretty garbled. The older guy is at the Help Desk with the young man. There is a clipboard with a sheet of paper on it in the older guy's hands. He is making notes as things progress. Or, in this case, don't progress.

"Can you ask the lady where the bathrooms are?" says the older guy to the young man. The young man eagerly points into the large vestibule where the bathrooms are located.

"No! Can you ask the LADY where the bathrooms are?" asks the old guy again. The lady at the Help Desk, bless her heart, assumes an encouraging look on her face with a warm and friendly smile.

Again, the young man points to the bathrooms. Again, he is called to task.

"No! I said 'Can you ask the LADY where the bathrooms are?'" There is a little more agitation in the man's voice now. One more time the young smiles and points to the restroom.

Those who know me can guess what happens next. Katie says I should learn to be less shy. She also says I have a wicked sense of humor and enjoy messing with people. My riding students who love me for being so kind and patient wouldn't recognize me in real life, she says. I've tried to wait patiently but my "this is so stupid" meter has pegged out.

"You know, your pupil might be more motivated if he didn't think the exercise was such a tremendous waste of time", I say to Clipboard Guy.

He looks at me like he's just seen a big, nasty, bug but is afraid to come close enough to squish it. Help Desk Lady looks at me like this could be fun. The young man looks at me, too. I see a spark of intelligence in his eyes. I'm pretty sure he knows what I'm saying.

"What do you mean?" inquires Clipboard Guy. I get the feeling he's not really wanting to know what I'm thinking. He's setting the stage to skewer me with his sword of Superior Intelligence.

"Well, it's obvious the young man already knows where the bathrooms are. He's probably wondering why on earth you're making him ask something he already knows the answer to," I counter.

Clipboard Guy motions to his clipboard, oddly enough. He's been making some sort of note every time the young man points to the bathroom instead of asking the question of the Help Desk Lady.

"This is a program designed by people with more intelligence than you", he says. "A lot more intelligence and with degrees in Behavioural Development. We need to follow the program". Now he's starting to get that satisfied look like he's about to deliver the death blow to the Heathen who dared question him.

He doesn't expect the Heathen to fail to be cowed by his obviously superior position. So The Heathen opens his mouth one more time.

"Well, it's true I only have a helmet full of tools and no Sociology degree handy. What I do have, though, is a Master's Degree in Human Nature. I know a thing or two about teaching and motivating people. It seems to me like things work out a lot better when the students understand the goal of the exercise and it actually means something to them. I'd suggest you quit hiding behind that clipboard for a bit and get to know the young man. Do you have any idea of what he likes or what might interest him? I know it sounds crazy but you'd probably be more effective if you took a bit to time to find these things out."

This time Clipboard Guy has a look on his face like he just tasted the most sour thing on Earth. All of the muscles around his mouth are contracted. He's in a sort of a bind. I get the feeling he doesn't know if I meant I have a real degree or if it was just a figure of speech. The young man is patting me on the shoulder while he studies my face. Don't know for sure why, but the timing is right. Help Desk Lady has this interesting look on her face, too. Only hers can better be described as glee. She's a working person like me. I have a feeling she's dealt with Clipboard Guy before and doesn't exactly have the warmest feelings for him.

It's a sort of no-win situation for Clipboard Guy. He knows he's not going to intimidate me. He doesn't want to look bad in front of the Help Desk Lady. Coming to the library with his clients is probably a frequent occurence. Ok, maybe not anymore for Clipboard Guy after this. He musters whatever superiority he can and motions to the young man.

"Let's go over there and look for some books" is his exit line. He and the young man go to the other side of the library.

Personally, I don't consider it any sort of victory. All I ever wanted to do in the first place is to get his ass out of the way so I could officially "check in" and do what I came to do.

Once I was finished and returned to Elvira, I put the tools away and started to zip my jacket. A lady was rolling by in her car as she exited the parking lot.

"Better bundle up good!" she shouts.

Heck, it's up to fifty degrees already. Even with wind chill factored in, that's above freezing. It's going to be a glorious ride into Northeast Portland where my next stop is located!

Miles and smiles,



bobskoot said...

Mr Irondad:

I was mesmerized with your story clinging to every word and you with your riding gear on. You could have egged him on with "Okay let's go outside and battle it out right now as soon as I put on my helmet"

You weren't so meek and mild. Nice sharp photos. I peeked into your GIVI topcase and didn't see the "G"

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Arizona Harley Dude said...

A degree in Behavioral Development and a need to follow the program might be important, but stopping to be forced to ask for directions when you can see the bathroom will just lead to wet pants. Maybe, just maybe, the young man should be carrying the clipboard.

Thanks for standing up for the young fellow.

Mike said...

You could've called me and we take Clipboard Guy to lunch. He rides with you.

Anonymous said...

Touche Dan...

Something tells me you're more of a people person than you realized.

A degree in Human Nature is always handy, and proves once and for all
you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Man with clipboard sounds like a sour puss.

Steve Williams said...

I live vicariously through your stories. I think I walk through the world oblivious or indifferent to people and their interactions unless I have a camera in front of my face or am sitting in a dark corner with a cup of tea evaesdropping on the world.

The clip board guy represents a lot of what I hate about the world.

Oh, by the way, you know you're a trouble maker right?

irondad said...


Thanks for the compliment. I've thought of the helmet thing before. Seems a little chicken!

I'm going to introduce the G soon. It was with me but in the saddlebag.

Airzona Harley Dude,

I knew I could count on a teacher to see the practical side of things! Thanks.


I don't have a helmet that big!

Take care,


irondad said...


There's a use for both honey and vinegar. The trick is to know which recipe you're working on.


I've always been an active participant. That's just me.

As to the troublemaker part? Are you talking to me? Let me put my helmet on and we'll step outside!

Take care,


Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):

I think you were kind of mild about it. I thought you were going to ask the gentleman if he'd ever had a clipboard shoved up his a$$ before?
Questions like these tend to break the ice with a degree of finality.

The description of the man's actions remind me of the geeky self-appointed behavioral specialist in the original Miracle on 34th Street.

Fondest regards
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Bucky said...

While breaching the topic of presbyopia, do you have recommendations on the type of corrective glasses for riding?

I am myopic (near sighted), and have bifocal glasses with progressive lenses (without a line between the distance and close vision sections).

This gives good close and far vision, but I cannot help but wonder whether my peripheral vision would be better without the bifocal. This might be the case when looking through a turn while using peripheral vision to sense position relative to the centerline, for example. With the bifocals, the downward peripheral vision is through the bifocal instead of through the distance vision portion of the lens, making the vision there somewhat out of focus.

How about single vision contact lenses instead?