Saturday, August 20, 2005

Encounters with the Boorish: Food for Thought (warning: LONG)

Some time ago, I posted the following comment on two online motorcycle lists. A synopsis of replies follows.

I'm sure you've all encountered this, but it's really starting to piss me off more and more every time I encounter it, and I'm running out of patience: I identify myself socially as a motorcyclist or rider, or someone pegs me as a motorcyclist / rider (helmet=dead giveaway) and immediately I get to hear everyone's horror stories about their stupid accident/their cousin's accident/the horrible MC accident they saw once. This even happens with other riders.
#1--I've got over 150K urban miles/22 years riding. I UNDERSTAND the risk.
#2--Have these folks NEVER SEEN A CAR ACCIDENT?!?!
#3--What makes them think I want to hear their stupid horror stories?
How do you resolve this colossal failure of common manners, decency and politeness? How do y'all deal with these morons?
1. Tell gruesome car accident stories?
2. "OHMIGAWD! Yesterday I saw this motorcyclist--he must have been going AT LEAST 55!!--and there was this exit ramp off the highway---and he exited!!--and there was a red light at the bottom!--and HE STOPPED for it!!--then he turned right!!--and I NEVER SAW HIM AGAIN!!"
3. Stony silence.
I just don't get it, and one of these days I'm gonna go off. Then they'll REALLY have a story to tell.

—Just tell them it's safer than riding a horse. It is. Per capita.
—My favorite being a careful fellow I knew who got himself killed in a Volvo. Usually I just smile and say I know I'm crazy, and I know I'm probably going to die doing this, but at least I'll be having a good time when I go. Which is the truth. Why do they rag on us? Because they wish they had the guts and lack of sense to ride, that's why.
—Generally I tell 'em I had an uncle one time who went home, went to bed, and croaked in his sleep, and by golly, damned if I still don't go to sleep at night, guess I'm just blessed with that risk takin' gene ;o) Cheers
—Just yah yah them, ignore them....or try to educate them without being too lofty. I say.... calm down, it goes with the territory of LIFE.... when you have a life...doing something interesting and fun. At one time, my response was something like: Yeah, it is dangerous, but I'd rather my tombstone said 'he lived active and well'. Now... I just don't bother with these folks anymore.... unless they seem open to an honest reply.
—Nice rant. Loved it. I think I'll go for response #1. There are many gruesome car accident stories to choose from. I am reminded of the pics of a motorcyclist with his head splattered all over the road. What does that pic prove? F*ck all. That's what. You can get your head splattered in a number of different ways but somehow it's only pics of motorcyclists that get shown. Your list of three items just sums it up beautifully. In fact, next time someone bends my ear with a horror story or advises me of the risk, I think I'll just let fly with your three points one after the other. Bang, bang, bang. Cop that.
—You get my vote for rant of the day. Someone said you should just agree and walk away. Sounds good to me and it gets you away from the gas can before anymore hits the campfire. Good luck
—Everyone wants to be your savior. The answer is humor. Mean, twisted humor, but if it's funny to me, it's funny, dammit. ;-)
—Try being a pilot. This is a hazard you are going to have to encounter for the rest of your life. The doctors who tell you of their ER trauma stories, the women who wouldn't be caught dead on a motorcycle and the stories of how little girls burned their legs while riding in shorts on some boy's enduro dirtbike. Just be polite, stop them from telling their story, then explain that you have no interest in their opinions, dammit (you have to add the "dammit" in there to show that you mean bidness). As with the other examples, you'll just have to learn to live with it. Lighten up, Clarence.
—I always answer, 'Yes, people often tell me that bikes are dangerous, but you know, when I was in hospital there was a guy who couldn't walk for six months after lifting his dog's kennel and ruptured a disc very badly. There was another who slipped in his toilet and broke his neck; a guitarist who had his strap break, the guitar swung full circle and broke his jaw in two places; a guy who'd been riding a bicycle when a pedestrian suddenly stopped in front of him- he fell, badly breaking his shoulder so he had to walk around with it at ear-level for four months; a kid who broke his elbow playing baseball; a woman who broke her ankle stepping off a pavement. ‘So it's pretty dangerous keeping a dog, going to the toilet, playing the guitar, riding a bicycle, playing baseball and walking... I feel safer riding a bike’. This is what I say, but I like talking :-)
—I just nod and go "uh-huh" until they're done.
—Two little stories that confirm that you are not alone:
Story #1: My father never knew I was an avid MC person. I was wild child of the family, and he had a couple of members of his family hurt and killed on a MC. His brother, my namesake, rides, unfortunately not BMW, but we can't have everything. My older brother was going to sell me his Jap 500 for almost no money, but my father nixed the deal. From that point on I never let him know I rode, figured it was best. After he died, my mom visited me, and I finally let her know--even she thinks I did the right thing.
Story #2: A couple of weeks ago I scraped up my arm pretty bad doing some yard work (I know I should have been out riding). The next week at work my boss saw my arm and said "Were you in an accident on your bike?" I told her what happened, and said "With all the crap that I wear, if I am in an accident there are really only two outcomes: I walk away, or major injuries and a hospital visit." Since it is well known I ride, every little bump and bruise is attributed to the MC. Anyway, it is not just you, brush it off, go on your merry way, and remember we go from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ and have a grand ole time doing it, while they are stuck in a cage. Peace all
—Maybe you need to get out to the country more often.
—I'm gonna give you a 9.3 for that one. *clapping* Here's a tip: Move to a place like California where motorcycles are more normal. Most of the crap you just described will go away. Really.
—Dude, some days most things I see piss me off. Chill, have a cold brewsky, and go for a ride damnit! Oh, and just tell these people you heard it before, spare me, thanks.
—Just say, "Yea, I've heard that riding bikes is a great way to clean up the human gene pool."
—You spoke my mind perfectly. The last time I had an experience like this, I wanted to post similarly, but found that I couldn't be both civil and candid about the situation, so I dropped it. I see now that I was both right and wrong: you can't be civil about it, but it does need to be said. :) Thank you, Dennis, for that post. Thank you also to the others who reminded us that getting p*ssed off about it only increases the risk of a stroke. Humans aren't logical. There's even a commercial that warns people to "buckle up, it's a jungle out there," and features a cop pulling over a motorcyclist going 100mph. ?!? WTF ?!? 45,000 people a year die in their cars, and they fret about 2 cases of West Nile Virus ... the list of irrational fears is long, but we can't go too far into it…
—I've found that smiling politely, throwing in an "is that so?" now and then and then either changing the subject or walking off works every time...I control my emotions, not them.
—I'm sure all of us agree…It's a waste of time talking to those people.
—Indeed. Occasionally, I'll remind them that the ultimate cause of death is life itself.
—Most folks, though, are just wanting to be friendly and share their "motorcycle experience/story" which most of the time is social, cool and neighborly. But when their tale/question seems skewed toward bad-mouthing bikes, painting them with blood and gore, branding riders as fools/idiots/kamikaze, I parry with question that makes them re-analyze what they're saying/spreading. Either way, it's generally pretty cool and part with a neighborly "Take it easy." Except for the soccer-mom-type who insists on telling you what a death trap you ride, how she'll never let any of HER kids ride a motorcycle and refuses to listen, giving you the "talk to the hand" gesture if you try to say anything. In that case, you bid your time, then pull alongside her vehicle, smile, and give all her kids a big wave (they always wave back smiling saying "Look mommy! A motorcycle!"), and then one more wave to her, maybe with "Drive safe!"
—I point out that my only REAL "accident" has been in a car, caused by a drunk, and I was lucky to be alive and I'll live until it's my turn to die. Usually ends the "conversation".
—Lean in to it dude! When someone tells me a horrible MC accident story I just tell a more gruesome one! If they ask me why I still ride I just tell them that I would rather die doing something I love then alone in some nursing home pissing myself and drooling all over the place.
—I tell them, my mother died of brain cancer by the age of 51; she laid in bed for the previous year and a half. They shut up real quick, with nothing to say cept Sorry...and yes, she really did die that way, She loved the outdoors, one of her last joys was me taking her for a ride. She couldn't ride for long as she was so weak. RIP Mom
—My story is that I've been hurt worse riding a bicycle than ever on a motorcycle.
—I rode by bike to breakfast and was sitting next to a group of older guys (my age) when a fellow came in and sat down with them, saying facetiously to his friends, "I suppose that motorcycle outside belongs to one of you?" One of the other guys at his table replied, "My life is worth too much for me to ride one of those things". I leaned over to them and added, "That's exactly why I ride that bike. My life means too much for me not to ride." Thanks!
—I usually say the following: All of life is risk management. Each of us chooses the risks that we are willing to deal with. For instance you ...(smoke, drink, hang glide, sky dive, overeat, tame lions) [insert the appropriate risky behavior]. I, on the other hand, am comfortable managing whatever risks may be involved in motorcycle riding. ---
—It may not the location at all, but rather the recipient. I've been riding a year and have yet to hear one of these tales. People look at me and either think that they'd be wasting their time or that I wouldn't listen anyhow. (And both are applicable ;) So, people like you and that is a cross you'll have to bear.
—Let it be expected, anticipated, and have some really fun answers ready for all those inevitable questions and make a game of it instead of letting it get to you. Once I started that (I have lists of answers for the above questions), I came to look forward to someone asking that dumb question and seeing if I could get a reaction out of them they weren't expecting.
—Actually, my favorite answer when someone drones on about how dangerous motorcycles are, I mention that more folks die from impacted bowels than from motorcycle head injuries and if we were REALLY serious about public health, we should mandate enemas instead of helmets. Shuts them RIGHT up.
—I went in to renew my license at DMV. The clerk said to me in an off-hand manner, "Oh, I see you still have a MC endorsement, You'll want that taken off, of course." My reply was, "Well, I may be 72 years old but I still ride around 10-15K miles a year so I think I might still need it." Apparently being old to him means you shouldn't be riding these machines. Cheers,
—"Well, some people confuse breathing with actually living." Works for me.
—I tell them about a friend who was horrible injured because he was driving a car and got rear-ended at a traffic light. If he'd been on his bike he could have moved forward between the lanes of traffic and saved himself. But he was in a car and got hurt because of it. 'Bout this time they sometimes conclude that different vehicles have different advantages and disadvantages...
—Well, let's look at this a minute. What is the underlying motivation of these motorcycle gloom-meisters? Why are they compelled to treat us to these gory stories? Coupla possibilities:
(1)They want to, in some way, connect with you. And they don't know how, so they do it in a ham-handed, stumbling, kind of way.
(2) Fear. Maybe they have their own secret desires to ride that they can't face and the gore stories are more to convince THEMSELVES than us that no one belongs on a bike. Because if it's all not true, that motorcycling is indeed a safe and enjoyable activity--then that means that they've missed out on a lot of fun over a lot of years. And what else might they have missed out on? Folks can find that chasm pretty frightening to face.
(3) The green-eyed monster, jealousy. Those who are envious often try to tear down that which they cannot attain. Or show superiority where there is none.
And in the case of #2, these people should be pitied for their narrow, small lives. Perhaps they will achieve enlightenment someday. So, how to handle it? My vote is to treat them as you would a developmentally impaired person: with kindness and patience that allows room for them to grow.
—When people hit me with the "MCs are dangerous" blather I just smile and mention the first couple slots on my worst ways to die list. "Actually, I'm much more worried about"
1. Burning in a car accident
2. Drowning
3. Freezing
That usually shuts down the over-protectiveness pretty quickly. Don't think I've ever gotten to item ten.
—That happens to me, too. I let them finish the story, look them in the eye, put on my most sincere expression, nod, and say (with as straight a face as possible) “thank you for sharing…” In my experience, that ends the conversation.

RLYMI says: I have been told that response #2 is very effective.


Andrew said...

sorry, too long to read but sure reminds me of McK... heh heh heh

Anonymous said...

You notice no one ever has any stories like "One time I was riding my bike and a dozen high school cheerleaders decided they wanted to have sex with me", do you?