When I first aired my complaints about taking the bus to work everyday, neither my boyfriend nor I even considered putting a second vehicle on the road. Our two commutes take us in two different directions every working day and our hours differ too much to make carpooling practical. While we are saving for our first property, taking on the cost of insurance, maintenance, and gas for another car wasn't within the realm of financial possibility. The idea of buying a scooter had come to me a while back, and I thought it would be worth re-investigating. I quickly came to the decision that a scooter would complement our lifestyle in an undeniable way. The initial cost of a scooter or moped can vary quite a bit depending on the make (with Vespas being at the very top end), but I opted to buy a used 2007 Yamaha Vino.
The Vino is great, I love driving it, and the savings over public transportation is staggering. What I didn't know about was the complex hierarchy of the motorcycling world that I was about to enter. Needless to say I am at the bottom of the food chain. I had no idea how bikers would treat me as I sped around town, and assumed that they would view me in a geeky novelty. Then the mocking began. I would sit at a stoplight next to one biker and they would hoot and holler, or sing a little song in order to have a little fun at my expense. It's really interesting to see grown men behave this way, especially considering how focused and quiet I am when I travel down the road. I can see their frustration with the local tourists who rent scooters for the day and generally cause mayhem on the roads of our fair city, but that has nothing to do with me. Also there seems to be tension between the bikers who drive the traditional chrome motorcycles and those who get around on "crotch rockets." Though it is not fair to stereotype the two different groups, my experience after a few months within this world is that a lot of "crotch rocket" bikers take unnecessary risks, weaving in and out of traffic at dangerous speeds. They are also a bit more disdainful of me, giving me a challenging look and gunning their engine at every opportunity. I suppose they need a punching bag to make up for the flack that they take from the more traditional riders, but I don't want to get sucked into the realm of insecure male bravado. Quite frankly, one false move and we are all roadkill, and as a chick on a bike with the power of a lawn mower, it's better that I not engage in this type of posturing. The release of the movie "Larry Crowne" with it's scooter gang, will probably not help my cause either.
Besides the hidden hierarchy, their is also the introduction of the motorcycle wave. Due to my place in this chrome caste system, I only receive the wave on very few occasions. And it's always exciting. For those who don't know, the motorcycle wave is basically a peace sign held out sideways towards the recipient. Often bikers will wave to one another right in front of me and glare as I approach, whatever. This is not high school and I don't require to acknowledgement of the cool kids, but it is always a happy moment when I get the wave or a stoic nod from a fellow biker. It is a nice reminder that whatever the internal politics are, we are all motorists who are in it together, inches from death at every turn.