Happy Holidays, everyone!
I told Ross I'd have the chimichangas, coffee and water, thank you, and handed him my menu. I sat on the patio watching some of the world roll by and the rest pull into Zoka's for breakfast as I had. I heard a loud motorcycle approaching, not the only one I'd hear that morning. I looked up and by golly it was a trike, a red, white and chrome Gold Wing- or Valkyrie-based one, with a man and a woman on it. No helmets.
They rolled in and stopped in a space just below my table. He shut 'er down - to general relief, mine certainly.
I admit it: I don't get trikes. What's the attraction? If I rode one, I'd wear a helmet and wouldn't feel as free as if I were driving a car with the top down. And the trike wouldn't lean - so I wouldn't enjoy controlling it as I do steering a conventional motorcycle. I figure they're for guys who are getting old enough to distrust their strength or balance. Maybe I'm wrong though. Often I am, and not just about trikes.
The guy climbed off the converted Honda, leaving the woman in the saddle. He was a big dude and solid, well over six foot and over 225. Maybe about 55 years old. He had silky blond hair parted in the middle and hanging to his shoulders, like Mary Travers (R.I.P.) from Peter, Paul and. Jeans, a biker belt, t-shirt and a vest. Tattoos down both arms. Maybe I remember a studded leather wristband, black in color.
Standing next to the left back wheel of the trike, he pulled a comb from his pocket and eased the in-the-wind snarls from his hair. I don't think I want that guy to hit me, I thought. I don't even want him to notice me. I don't like who he says he is.
Maybe you don't feel as I do. Maybe you don't feel that the way people present themselves means anything about how they are. Life's a huge costume party, right? I look at a guy or a woman outfitted as one kind of person or another; I believe that's what they are. When people dress in a connotative way, I figure they're aware of the impression they're making. There's nothing accidental about it. They're trying to produce an effect.
Call me old-fashioned. If an urban kid looks like a cheap gangster, I believe he's what he appears to be. If a woman dresses like a boy-toy, I figure she wants me to think she is a boy-toy. If I don't get to know her, I'll never realize that she's not - she's a missionary and neurosurgeon and not a bit promiscuous.
When I see a guy in biker gear, resplendent in body art and riding with his feet stuck out in front of him and without a helmet on his head or silencing devices in his exhaust pipes, I figure he aims to intimidate. Or would he claim that a black leather vest with a patch on the back is effective protective clothing? Warm on cold days? Keeps the rain off? What good is it except to tell folks how bad you are?
A guy in biker gear wants folks to think he's anti-social and downwardly mobile. That he holds society's norms in low regard. That the woman on the back seat is "riding' bitch." Isn't that what all that stuff says?
The big blond guy's woman, heavy-set and gray-haired, was still sitting in the saddle of the trike. She's no hot Daytona biker-bar chick, I thought. She's kinda dowdy, like a waitress in a Midwestern small-town cafe. Warm your coffee, honey?
As the seconds passed, I began to wonder why she didn't climb off and walk up the steps onto Zoka's patio. Then I saw the guy holding a cane with four rubber-tipped prongs at the bottom. He handed it to her and ever-so-gently reached under her arms and lifted her up and off the saddle of that trike. I'll bet it took 30 seconds of lifting before her right leg slid over the seat.
Until and after she got both feet on the ground, he had his arm around her. To call it gentle doesn't half describe it.
They stood there for a full minute, I'd say, looking at the wooden steps. Then they very slowly walked, his arm still around her, to the stairs and yet more slowly up them to the patio and the cafe door. He opened the door for her and helped her through it.
I thought: This is maybe the sweetest thing I've ever seen.
So when Ross came back with my water and coffee, I said, I just watched the guy with that trike help his wife off the bike and into the restaurant. Really somethin', I said.
He said, "They are genuinely nice people. Come in three or four times a week, always on that trike. He takes care of her and fusses over her every time. They're like among our favorite customers.
"Something happened to her, some illness, I think," Ross said, "maybe 10 years ago. He's been taking care of her since. As I said, we see them really often, and it's always the same thing. He can't do enough for her. Cool, huh?"
I said, "Super cool," but I felt foolish. I'd weighed the evidence, the heavily chromed trike, the loud pipes, the bare heads, the tattoos, the biker clothing...and was led to the wrong conclusion.
I want to say to the guy: Hey, until I saw you in a better light, what was I supposed to believe?
You look like you're under FBI surveillance but you behave like someone I could trust babysitting my pre-teen daughter. Maybe you were a hell-raiser at one time. But you're not raisin' hell now, are you? You're a loving, patient man, looking after your ol' lady.
If you are a loving, patient man who reveres a woman or all women, why the bad-guy outfit? Why do you try to look scary? When people see you and choose to walk on the other side of the street, does that mean you've earned their respect?
A black leather vest isn't just clothing, is it? It's an emblem. It advertises who you are. That's the idea, right? You don't wear it expecting no one to notice. They will notice and they will make assumptions about you, as I did. Until I saw that cane, you had me fooled.