Saturday, July 2, 2011

Motorcycle Musings

There are a lot of motorcycles in my neck of the woods at this time of year.

First, there is Motorcycle Weekend (also known as "Bike Week") in Laconia. I attended this festivity once when I was going to college up north and was much prettier, thinner, and of course younger. One of my friends that I was with swears that there's a topless picture of me in a collage-style calendar made from that year. (There's a whole shirt-lifting thing that is sort of like Mardi Gras beads but not really ...)

Anyway, I also live in a beach town, and riding along the coast seems to be a favorite route for bikers. I don't blame them--I love to both walk and drive the same road. It's so pretty ...


It seems like there have been a lot of motorcycle accidents this year. It's funny, according to the news there were actually fewer Bike Week incidents, but maybe I'm just paying better attention, I don't know.

I've been on a motorcycle, of course. Once was with my old friend, Andy, who had a knack for exploiting what I refer to as my self-destructive streak. Yeah, I almost fell off ... no helmet ... dumb.

The other was with the father of an ex-boyfriend, a wonderful man (the father, not the ex-boyfriend) who wanted to show me why he enjoyed riding his bike so much. He insisted that I wear a helmet, and it was a really neat experience. It's definitely a unique way to view the countryside, and I must say that I enjoyed it.

As a bumper sticker I recently saw on a motorcycle states, "I completely understand why my dog rides with his head out the window."

Which brings me to the crux of my concern, I suppose.

There is probably a 3:1 ratio, based on my own informal observations through two hours spent in a car each day of the workweek, of motorcyclists who don't wear helmets to those who do.

I feel two ways about this.

First, I suppose that if you're going to be riding a motorcycle, there's an inherent risk involved. Wearing a helmet is not going to protect you from getting a broken neck or back, from losing a leg or landing hard on a sharp piece of machinery and being impaled (we writers have vivid imaginations ;-)). Furthermore, it kind of defeats the purpose of riding a motorcycle, of feeling the breeze in your hair and being just a little bit closer to nature than cars allow, if you're going to stick a helmet on.

However, head injuries are the most common cause of motorcycle fatalities, and helmets are an obvious safety measure that can lower that number. Also, on a purely practical level, I suspect you'd eat a lot of bugs if you weren't wearing a helmet ...

I don't wear a helmet when I ski or ride a bicycle (although my kids do). I don't even wear my seat belt half the time, a habit I'm trying to get better about.

However, I have long had kind of a hang-up about helmetless motorcyclists, and it hit me while riding with my mother to drop off my nephew this afternoon (we had him for the day because my brother and his family were having a yard sale) why this bothers me so much.

It's funny how I never realized this, that an event that shook my subconscious so strongly wasn't something that I connected until today with my disinterest in getting on a motorcycle ever again.

The brain is an amazing thing ...

I took a couple of summer courses at UNH shortly after transferring there from Plymouth State, English electives that ended up being two of my favorite college classes ever (one was "Studies in American Poetry" and the other was "Anger in Literature"). The night before the last class, one of my professors was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was not wearing a helmet, and it was evidently pretty hard for him to be identified, if you get what I'm saying.

So, yeah, every time I see someone on a motorcycle without a helmet, I cringe a bit. I guess it's just not something I will ever understand.