The other day on our way to Sheetz, Ashley and I found ourselves discussing pet peeves. Hers is people who wear sunglasses indoors. There are only three reasons for a person to wear sunglasses indoors: 1) The person has a severe sensitivity to light and is unable to function in society without shielding his or her eyes at all times; 2) The person put the sunglasses on while outdoors and, due to absentmindedness or senility, has forgotten to remove them upon coming indoors; 3) The person believes to wear sunglasses indoors makes him or her appear cool, and, consequently, is a clueless dick. Not a bad pet peeve to have, all in all.
We didn’t talk much of my pet peeve that time; not because I don’t have one (Jesus fucking Christ no, that’s not the reason), but because Ashley is already fully aware of what mine is. I have several, I suppose — football, bumper-stickers, people walking around in public without shirts on, the Yankees, people who chew gum, Glenn Beck — but there’s one big one that trumps them all, especially this time of year. Motorcycles. Within my soul there burns, merciless and indiscriminate, a white-hot hatred of motorcycles.
Loud, dangerous, insufferable — motorcycles irritate me more than just about anything else in my day-to-day life. And in the summertime they are inescapable, especially in Sharpsburg, since Nutter’s Ice Cream shop is like a fucking mini Sturgis. Long-haired, leather-clad, mostly overweight men and women roar into town, park their vile two-wheeled conveyances along the curb, talk loudly amongst themselves as they maw their waffle cones and slurp their milkshakes, then ride off again, thoughtfully spewing jets of gray exhaust and earsplitting noise behind them as they go. What a hideous group of people.
“But wait,” I already hear people protesting, “I ride a motorcycle and I’m not like that. I’m not a long-haired, fat, leather-wearing scumbag. I’m just an ordinary person who enjoys riding with the wind in my hair.” If this is you, then to you I say, buy a goddamn convertible. Do people who have been riding motorcycles for years realize how it looks to people from the outside? Is there any recognition of what a rude and self-centered thing it is to drive something so infuriatingly loud through a quiet neighborhood on a calm summer evening? Nothing ruins a nice night out on the stoop so quickly, or regularly, than some moron tooling by on his bike, which he has obviously deliberately tuned to be as loud and obnoxious as possible.
People drive loud-ass cars, too, and I don’t like that, either. But with motorcycles it’s not just the noise or the self-centered attitude that gets me — it’s the entire hateful little subculture that’s grown up around bikes and their riders. There’s the leather and the bandanas and the macho tough-guy bullshit, and there’s the little acknowledgements motorcyclists give when they pass one another out on the road. I notice it nearly every time I’m stuck behind someone on a bike. Some other biker passes from the other direction, and they give each other a little wave — not even a proper wave, more like a vague gesture down and to the side, as though they’re inviting an invisible dog to sniff their fingers. I’ve seen motorcycle riders do this when they pass each other so often that I have to assume it’s standard operating procedure. Think for a moment about how stupid this is. Imagine if people made a point to wave at one another whenever they passed someone driving a similar vehicle, waving at complete strangers who happen to also be driving an SUV or a pick-up truck or whatever else, as though purchasing that particular automobile bought them membership in some elite private club.
The world’s largest annual bike rally is taking place this week, though thankfully it’s in South Dakota so I am not made to suffer through it. There is another noteworthy annual event involving thousands of motorcycles that I do unfortunately have some first-hand knowledge about, and that is the incredibly misguided Rolling Thunder ride that culminates every Memorial Day weekend near the Pentagon. The motive behind Rolling Thunder is a good one, to raise awareness of prisoners of war and soldiers listed as missing in action, but I have never understood what riding motorcycles across the country is supposed to do about any of that. The five years I worked maintenance at Pilot in Hagerstown hipped me quite sufficiently to what a loud and pointless affair Rolling Thunder is.
Being only 70 miles or so from the Pentagon, Pilot was a popular fuel stop for enormous packs of bikers involved in the ride. In the day or two leading up to Memorial Day weekend, we were overwhelmed with swarms of motorcyclists, wave upon wave pouring over from nearby interstate 70. Several times during my shift, sometimes for hours at a stretch, the parking lot would be filled with idling motorcycles, parked wherever their riders found an empty space, whether it happened to be a parking spot or not. There would be so many bikes parked on the concrete pad atop the fuel tanks (where the delivery trucks would park to drop off a load of gasoline or diesel to be pumped out to customers) that you couldn’t even make out the large, bright yellow letters painted on the ground that read “ABSOLUTELY NO PARKING.” Behaving in a manner I’ve observed to be typical of bikers, they arrived in large numbers, imposed themselves as long as was convenient for them, oblivious to anyone but each other, then rode off en masse with a deafening roar, leaving behind a cloud of smoke that stunk of rubber and took several minutes to dissipate.
It might sound like my real problem isn’t with motorcyclists in general, but with the one percenters, the “biking and brotherhood” crowd that don’t just get the Harley out on the weekend, but live that loathsome life every day. And don’t get me wrong, I do wish all of those people would try skydiving without parachutes one of these days. But they aren’t the end of the issue. It’s the satanic invention of the motorcycle itself, and the self-centered, discourteous act of riding one, that I have a problem with. When I go out in public, I try my best to behave as a member of a civil society. I hold doors for people, I use my turn signals, I wear fucking clothes, and I try not to make desperate pleas for attention by displaying bumper stickers or wearing shirts with clever slogans. And I don’t burden the senses of others by riding a motorcycle.
Ride a bicycle, bitch. But not on the road. Do you want me to run you the fuck over?