Have you ever been so far outside your element that you just couldn’t relax no matter how hard you tried?
Recently my wife made me attend a holiday “work” party with her and I was simply dreading it. She works in the computer software industry, and most of her colleagues are really nice people. All of them are very fluent in the “science” of computers and how they work…and all that stuff I find to be, well…really boring. Now it’s pretty obvious to her colleagues when I walk in the door that I am a bit of an outsider. It could be because they are all wearing V-neck sweaters and Dockers and chatting about the latest apps and downloads and I come in the door wearing a Hoody and Alpinestars hat and jeans. I stood there for some time and said absolutely nothing for fear I would be noticed and invited into a conversation. Conversations that would simply accomplish nothing and make me look like a complete idiot. Don’t get me wrong here, I love computers, and I have even built a few myself, but these people are WAY beyond the home PC realm. These people speak a whole different language.
While sitting at the table chatting, one of her co-workers started talking to me about my “lifestyle” in the motorcycle world. She was asking me the normal questions about where I work and what I do, what type of riding I do, and what the bikes are like the normal stuff. As the conversation progressed, it took a turn for the worse. She was making it pretty clear that she was not really fond of motorcycles at all. She brought up every different genre of motorcycling she was familiar with and had really nothing positive to say about them….at all.
She talked about Harleys and asked me why they were so loud. She talked about people who don’t ride with helmets and how dangerous it was… Then…(yes this was the straw that almost broke my back) she brought up a question concerning my age and asked me why I continue to ride when it is so dangerous…(there was an undertone about me having children in there too…uggg!!)
Now my first thought was..(Ok Lowell. Don’t say anything stupid or offensive) simply because I have a tendency to do that sort of thing and I really didn’t want to embarrass my wife. I was a bit pissed-off and my initial response was crude and involved me asking her why she bothered to put make-up on her ugly fa.….(as I said…I have to turn on the thinker before I open the flapper sometimes). So I gathered myself and gave her a really honest response.
I told her that I continue to ride because it is one of the few things I still enjoy doing no matter how often I do it. I explained that the risk involved with riding was worth it to me. I let her know those motorcycle enthusiasts come from all different backgrounds and professions and that she might want to go out and experience motorcycling for herself for some time. In the end, she accepted the response, but I am not sure she really understood it.
After I calmed down a bit I rewound the conversation in my mind a few times. What I realized is that people just don’t get it. Many people will only scratch the surface and make judgments based on very little knowledge. The point here is that the non-motorcycling community is becoming more motivated to speak out, and the motorcycle community needs to unite and speak out too, but with the right mindset. I think if I would have gotten angry and let her “have it”…it would have convinced her and the others in the room that “motorcycle people” are bad. This is becoming more and more of a problem these days. Riding areas are being shut down daily, helmet laws are being mandated, sound laws are being established, and motorcyclists are soon going to lose the things we love the most.
I guess I was guilty of doing the same thing that evening. To me, these people were from another planet, but in the end, I guess I judged them the same way they were judging me. It’s hard to convince someone how great something is if they have never tried it. I don’t see myself sitting down learning to write computer code anytime soon, but next time I go to a function like this I will try to have a different mindset before I walk in the door.
(This article was originally published in Go FAR Magazine January 2012)