Due to recent financial hardships, I had to trade in my beloved old truck. In its stead, I got myself a motorcycle. Fuel efficient, fun, low insurance -- all great things. But in having a bike as my primary mode of transport, I've learned a lot of terrible things about motorcycles. Not just the fact that any given ride can end with your organs flung across four lanes of traffic. Everyone knows that. Things like:
Go to craigslist and search for motorcycles. You'll see people advertising their bikes as "garage kept." It makes sense: Less weather, less random molestation, better bike. Right? This is a lie. What you are seeing is a front perpetrated by motorcycle owners. People that have ridden before know what is really being said here: No spiders.
Due to necessity, I have to park my bike outside. Often under a tree. For seven months of the year. In Austin, Texas.
This is a picture of my helmet hanging on the handle bar of my bike.
In the few hours I spent visiting my parents, a bird built a nest in the helmet.
This means rain, heat, sun and humidity. These four elements combine together like a horrific Voltron to produce billions of giant, inexplicably hostile bugs. Not the cute, harmless kind; the kind that appear to be sporting prison tattoos. And their yard -- the place where they mingle, fight, maneuver and plot -- is my motorcycle. All the little nooks and crannies are like a pre-built insect metropolis, just waiting to be populated by creepy little pedestrians. My general morning ritual consists of a quick dusting for the visible spider webs, egg sacks and booby traps placed by the crawling terrors that -- but you can never get them all. If there's one thing spiders know, it is patience: They hide in their hidden crevices, waiting for you to get on the street when they can emerge and feast upon your jiggly bits unimpeded.
"Surprise! I'm going to eat your FACE!"
Like all rational beings, I once had a fear of spiders. But the first time one dangles in front of your face from the inside of your helmet, you make a decision: Overcome your fear, kill the part of your brain that feels emotions, and calmly guide your bike to the side of the road, or obey literally every instinct in your body to swat, scream and flail, and become modern art on the highway.
But for the real excitement, you turn to wasps. Wasps that nest in your exhaust, building the equivalent of an Apocrita daycare in the middle of an active volcano, just so they can fester in hatred when you start your bike up and proceed to barbecue their young. Because that's how wasps work. They only build as an excuse for murder, and they have the uncanny ability to find any opening in your clothing to accomplish it. This is such a problem, people have even patented a quick release helmet ... for the select few steely individuals capable of working a release catch with one hand while maneuvering a street-bike at high speeds through heavy traffic with the other, and all while simultaneously being stung by wasps on the fucking face.
WARNING: Does Fuck-All to stop Wasps, Spitballs or Burning Cigarette Butts.
Most red lights work one of two ways: They're timed or they're triggered. The triggered lights usually work on an induction loop, which is basically a bit of coiled wire that completes a full circuit when the weight of a vehicle squishes it together. This is a problem, because unless you're Lord Humungus out riding your massive 800-pound armor-plated tank-bike, you aren't triggering any lights. You're just sitting. Sitting, impotent, while Mad Max escapes with all your precious oil.
Something tells me this guy never gets doored by angry commuters either.
So you have a choice: You can sit, potentially for hours, waiting until a "real" motorist pulls up behind you to trigger it, or you can just throw caution to the wind and run the light. You'll wait the first few times it happens -- and it will happen -- but even if you have the patience of a saint, you're eventually going to run a lot of lights. Luckily, this is such a common problem that Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Georgia, Virginia and others have all passed laws allowing motorcycles to run reds. Not in a gesturing-maniacally-at-panicking-cross-traffic-as-you-tear-through-major-intersections-on-your-iron-steed kind of way, but by allowing motorcycles to treat the lights more like stop signs. So as long as you pull up at an intersection, slow to a stop and check both ways for traffic, you can just blow right on through there. It is totally allowed. I mean, you'll collect hatred from other drivers like condensation on a frosty glass, sure, but it'll be legal hatred. And that's the sweetest hatred of all.
You can almost taste it ...
When you get a motorcycle, you join a club. Enrollment is automatic, and you cannot opt out. It's a club that you will always be in, right up until you get kissed by an amorous semi, or wise up and sell the bike to invest in a safer, more practical mode of transportation. Heroin, for example. But until you sign up for one of those two inevitable fates, you are part of the club. And there's only one simple rule: Motorcyclists wave at each other. No big deal. Right? Well, until you consider that:
1) It seems like every time another bike passes you and waves, you are in the middle of a shift. This leaves you fumbling to expedite the shift and get an arm out there, which will either lead you to stall, or else weave around the street like a drunken toddler experimenting with mom's high heels. Either way, by the time you've managed to get your hand up in return, they're long gone, and completely despising you and your rudeness. Oh yeah, and you're probably also sliding your bike through the median. But it's the dislike that really smarts.
Notice that she's looking at literally everything but the road.
2) If you do manage to see an oncoming bike with enough time to get an appropriate wave up, you better make sure it isn't a scooter. Unwritten bike rules make it a crime punishable by exile or death to wave at a scooter. And damn if it isn't hard to tell when you two are approaching each other at a combined 100 mph. If you do catch yourself mid-wave to a Vespa, however, it is acceptable to slowly turn it into an upraised middle finger. It's like the handshake-psyche of the two-wheeled world, and the look of dejection on their face will redeem any momentary awkwardness.
It is legally and morally permissible to clothesline this person as you drive past.
3) Like any club that has grown too large, it has become mired in vacuous debates and split into a thousand splinter factions. Older riders hate squids; cruisers hate sport riders; Harley riders hate everyone, including themselves. The social labyrinth is like navigating a high school prom, except you're sprinting through it at about 75 mph, on one leg, while programming a remote control and probably being attacked by bees.
We're not sure what the etiquette for dealing with this guy is,
but we're pretty sure it involves fire.