Friday, July 2, 2010


Scooters on my left/motorcycles on my right; here in the middle, the difference between the two go beyond shifting.

Scooter folks are mellow, there’s no Jack Daniels, machismo, posturing. Still, it can be a snooty club in its own right. “It’s not a Vespa” echoes the “It’s not a Harley” of the motorcycle world. Still, scooters feel friendlier, the mechanics hidden in rounded, simple architecture. Twist n go to the grocery store, heading home with two bags on the floorboards. At a scooter block party I attended 30 somethings introduced themselves, politely offering me a beer, asking my name. Biker parties are keep to yourself or else. My scooter mechanics had become fixtures in my life, their shop a mere 3 blocks away from where I lived. I met the owner one day before I was up on two wheels, he was on his ancient Lambretta stopped at the red light. “Come by the shop,” he offered up in his English accent, “we’ll get you up and riding,” he chirped before putting off as the light turned green.

My mechanic mentors guided me through 3 scooter upgrades, made me laugh, and gave me invaluable advice including; “sorry, they don't make a scooter that goes 2000 miles an hour, you won't be happy 'til you're up on a motorcycle.”

I suspected they were right. Scooters are great, but I would find myself looking longingly at the guys who pulled away from the light on their bikes with grace, speed, and control. Yet when my mechanics steered me towards motorcycles, I felt I was being pushed from my nest. Motorcycling is a big man’s world. I had talked to guys in the neighborhood parking their bikes, mentioning I had put money down on a bike I’d get a questioning look. I had been invited to ride with other scooterists more than a few times. I couldn't see a couple of guys on Harleys asking me to meet them on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But I had bought my first motorcycle – it would be delivered in the next couple of weeks. I felt excited, scared, and completely disenfranchised. My scooter days were officially over.

Today I walked down towards the block where my scooter mechanic friends have their shop. But I was headed towards the motorcycle repair shop that was up the same block. These guys turned out vintage Moto Guzzi. BMW’s, and BSA’s. The owner was outside on the sidewalk, mid-rant about some “dick” who promised to buy a bike but had reneged. I stood at a safe distance waiting for an opening, I would need him to check out my bike upon delivery. The uncomfortable customer who was the captive audience of his spew turned into his Greek chorus. “Yeah, what a douche bag. What a dick.” This didn’t seem to pacify the agitated owner, standing in a pool of stomped out cigarette butts. I turned away from the dark motorcycle shop and walked towards the friendly blue fa├žade of my shoe-box of a scooter shop down the block. Inside my mechanic friends stood next to deconstructed vintage steel scooters, chatting, chuckling, tinkering.

“Well, I finally took your advice and bought a motorcycle,” I announced with mixed emotion, I was going to miss these guys. “A 250??,” they joked. A 250cc is a starter motorcycle; I was treading lightly into this transition. “I predict one month,” the owner said. “Yeah, she’ll be knee draggin’ at the track by the end of August,” his lanky partner chuckled, “I can see her now all suited up standing next to a gold trophy twice her size.”

“So I guess I’ll have to find a new mechanic,” I shrugged. The two conferred through eye contact and reached consensus. “Fook,” the owner said in his Burmingham accent, “I don’t see why we can’t take care of you here Just order some different filters, that’s no big thing, is it?” Tenderness filled the shop for a moment before it was back to business. I walked back home feeling calm and excited about my new bike, motorcycle school, whatever was coming my way. It wasn't Scooters vs. Motorcycles, it would be what I would make it.

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