Since the middle of December, I’ve been conducting a little social experiment. As I’ve noted before, I’m recovering (well, by the way) from a little crash about a week and a half before Christmas.
The social experiment has been very simple. When a person asks how I hurt myself, I tell them something along the lines of “I had a little accident on my bike – wet railroad tracks” and I leave it there. Many people assume that “bike” in this instance is defined as “bicycle” and there is nearly universal and instant sympathy. “Oh that’s terrible”, they’ll say. “Those tracks are murder, I’ve slipped on them on my bike too” they mention.
Now, take the very same person and correct them slightly by injecting “It was on my motorcycle”.
Oh man. The change in heart of a person who was, until a moment ago, genuinely concerned with my welfare as a human being? Yeah, not so much anymore. “Oh, well, of course you got nearly killed on one of those ‘murder-cycles’ … ” and on it goes.
Yeah, I get it folks. A lot of people out there don’t like motorcycles, motorcyclists or the entire idea of the sport. They view it as irresponsible, dangerous and nothing that a smart, “normal” person should engage in. Someone’s uncle’s brother-in-law’s cousin’s barber’s daughter went out with a guy who got paralyzed on one of those damned things. Heck, it even extended to the very nice get well card that was circulated around my office while I was out back in December. Most comments were very kind, but several people couldn’t resist the opportunity while wishing me well after an injury to inject a sideways comment in about maybe taking up walking or something equally witty.
And yes, I get that as work friends, most of them were actually trying to BE witty, and it was mostly my pain and discomfort and side effects from the pain meds that were all making me grumpy and perhaps taking some comments the wrong way, but, ya know…
Yeah, the massively ironic twist on the tale that I managed to crash and that I teach motorcycle safety isn’t lost on folks either – nor on me. I learn from every mistake I make (don’t we all?) and this experience will, like all other things that I learn while riding, inform how I instruct my students in the future as well. I have a very good handle now on what I was doing, or more accurately, not doing, that caused me to kiss the pavement back in December. My technique will be adjusted going forward. My attention will be greater.
I teach this sport because I want people to enjoy it safely. I don’t want people to be fearful of bikes and riding. As we ask in class, does riding a motorcycle carry more risk than driving a car? Yes it does. Is it completely unreasonable risk? No. It can be managed. But, crashes happen. Even to instructors. I find it best to look at the situation as a terrific first hand learning experience and incorporate that new knowledge in to my skill set. And if I forget, all I have to do is run a couple of fingers over my collarbone for a now permanently installed reminder of the perils of taking a situation for granted and losing focus.
The folks that think I’m nuts for riding? They’re entitled to their opinion, and as a motorcyclist, I hear it all the time – and if I have a moment, the scolding and the questioning can lead to an opening to educate once in a while. Want to know why I wasn’t hurt worse? I was wearing proper protective gear. And by the way, the crash happened at a speed that you can very easily travel on a bicycle. I know people who have been pretty badly injured by crashing human powered bikes too. So scold away. I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you have a better day.
Besides, the Anesthesiologist that took care of me for my surgery? Avid long distance motorcyclist. The X-Ray tech at the hospital? Races at PIR and other tracks. I’m in very good company, thank you.