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Friday, February 09, 2007

The Road Warrior

Mopeds: Fun for the whole family.

The Road Warriors

I want to like motor scooters, I really do. They get about a million miles to the gallon and take up very little room on the street. You can park about ten of them in the same space needed for one economy car. I should love motor scooters. I do love motor scooters, but I really hate the mindless bags of protoplasm that act as their guidance mechanism, sometimes referred to as riders. Motor scooters are the tequila of internally combusted transport vehicles; they bring out the absolute worst in people.

Here in Europe scooters are without a doubt the most lawless of all licensed vehicles. The single biggest transportation menace is people on bikes in the Netherlands but that is another story. Cars have become progressively more comfortable with the idea of pedestrian traffic while the relationship between people on foot and mopeds is slightly more violent than the one between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. From the way I see things in Spain, it seems that they are using the movie The Road Warrior as a driver’s training film. I half expect people on motor scooters to be shooting cross bows at other drivers and hurling poisonous snakes.

From the way the young hoodlums drive mopeds over here I am pretty sure that they don’t have accelerators, they simply have an on/off switch for the gas. They are either stopped at a traffic light, snarling angrily, or they are barreling full-tilt down the street. When you watch mopeds it appears that the riders have no control over their speed. Their necks whip backward and forth violently every time they hit the gas or brake. I have seen bronco bull riders more in control.

AND SCOOTERS ARE SO LOUD. I’m sorry, was I screaming? My hearing has become slightly impaired lately. It is a common ailment in Mediterranean countries that have more than their share of mopeds. Instead of mufflers I think scooters have a bullhorn they attach to the tail pipe to amplify their noise emissions. I can't imagine that anyone would actually build a machine this noisy so owners must remove any noise-reducing baffles so that their scooters are as loud as a prepubescent 747s. And this is just the engine noise.

There must be some law in European Union countries that states that the smaller your vehicle, the louder the horn you are required to honk almost constantly, and never for any purpose. Yesterday I walked past a guy sitting on a scooter in front of an apartment building. Just as I walked past he blared his horn, I suppose to summon someone living in the building. From the volume of his horn he could have awakened someone from the dead on the 110th floor. I am still unable to react quickly or instinctively in Spanish. In this case I screamed a startled obscenity in Englsih. The guy on the scooter just looked at me timidly like he didn’t know what I was upset about. He obviously doesn’t see anything wrong with inducing a 20% hearing loss in a complete stranger.

I have always thought that horns should come equipped with a meter that registers every time you use them. People should be required to pay 5€ every time they honk their horn. When I first got here I thought that moped riders honked their horns for no reason but I soon began to understand their method. You honk your horn when someone pulls in front of you, when someone is about to pull in front of you, when turning left, when you are approaching a pedestrian crossing, when driving up on the sidewalk…I think you get the picture I’m trying to paint. If someone is riding a scooter alone in the forest, he will honk his horn. If a tree falls in the forest and lands on a guy on a scooter, how long will he honk his horn before he realizes that no one is coming to save him?

Researchers at the University of Valencia recently conducted a study to determine whether riding a moped turns people into aasholes or if it is only assholes who buy mopeds in the first place. After months of interviews and study, the answer they came up with was “Yes.”

I get my revenge on motor scooters when I ride my bicycle. I can accelerate as quickly as most scooter and around town I can keep up with them pretty well. There is nothing a snot-nosed moped rider hates worse than being out-done by someone on a bike. When a scooter is behind me on a narrow street I keep to the middle so they can’t pass. I can hear their little two-stroke engines furiously red-lining behind me and I chalk one up for the home team. Scooters are kind of like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz; just one of them isn’t very intimidating but there are always hundreds, thousands of them. Sometimes it is nice to separate one from the herd and put them in their place.

Another thing that I do to piss off scooterists when I am on my bicycle is to draft behind them in traffic. They really hate that for some reason. I can see them looking at me in their rearview mirrors, desperately trying to find more power to pull away. You can almost see their little brains working to conjure up every cliché about getting more speed: A ship captain screaming down to the boiler room to throw more coal on the fire, a Roman cracking the whip on a slave galley, Captain Kirk bitch-slapping the snot out of Scotty to go faster and screw it if the Enterprise breaks up in the process. If I am drafting I can keep up with most of the smaller scooters for as long as I want. I am like a tick on their butt that they can’t reach to pull off. You have to learn to enjoy the simple things in life.

I promise that I will stop picking on motor scooters as soon as they all lose their acute case of Napoleon complex. Guys, you have little bitty engines, just deal with it. I’m sure there are women that love guys with little bitty engines. I personally don’t see how it’s possible to please a woman with such little bitty engines but I may be wrong. I am probably not wrong but don’t give up hope, and keeping honking those horns. Women love that.

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