Kids think I’m a bad-ass.

Well, only because I’m on our scooter, and for a scooter, it’s pretty bad-ass. When I’m at the front of the line at a stoplight, kids crossing the street will crane around and check me out – that’s right, it’s a girl on this 400cc snarler. My sun visor is flipped down, but sometimes I’ll give ’em a nod, and they either smile or freak out. Mommy, the robot talked to me!!

When I’m not avoiding the idiot drivers of LA, I’m humming Hava Nagila and tapping my toes on the footpads. On the scooter, you have to assume that no one sees you. The Yamaha Majesty is sizable, but still – I’ve had drivers yank left turns just as I’m approaching…drivers who swerve across lanes without looking…morons who don’t signal and turn impossibly quick corners. All the same stuff you experience in a car, but when there’s nothing between your leg and danger, everything gets really sharp, really fast.

C and I both have our motorcycle licenses, but opted for the scooter for the same reason you opt for an automatic car. Less to think about. Some day, I’d love to have a motorcycle. Truimph. Ducati. BMW. But for now, the Majesty is perfect for this road princess.

Let me describe the sensations: You smell everything. Carnitas sizzling on the grill of the taco stand. Peonies standing in water at the corner florist. Sourdough rising in the bakery. Exhaust of the MTA monster in front of you. You see everything. Potholes of all shapes and sizes (there are SO MANY). Waves in the pavement. Sand. Gravel. Oil. Baby shoes in the gutter. A plastic bag blowing low across the road. Train tracks that force you to stand up in the seat so your spine won’t come launching out the back of your neck. You hear everything. Volatile conversations in the car next to you. Dogs barking on the 11th floor. That guy needs a new muffler.

And because you’re so exposed, because your continued existence relies on an ever-vigilant state, even your pores pay attention. There’s no time for daydreaming. As soon as I feel my brain try to slip into a pondering mode, I snap it off. Riding in LA is one of the best ways to be totally, utterly, present. When the wind is blowing, contrary to instinct, you have to relax. Settle in. If you grip the handlebars, your rigidity can cost you a split-second of response time. It’s a goddamn challenge. For someone like me, it’s an annoyingly healthy reminder that if I lived the rest of my life in this way, things might happen. And when I’m able to relax in the midst of gale-force winds, it’s true – opportunities abound. Try it sometime – when everyone else is having a tornado, just relax. Besides feeling morally superior, you’ll also live longer. God, I’ve been next to car-bound drivers who are just screaming in frustration. Alone, in the car, red-faced and white-knuckled. Ticking years off their lives. On the scooter, I don’t have the luxury of holding on to road rage. Again with the rigidity thing. I shake my head and have been known to yell through my helmet, but then I have to let it go. Staying alive is more important than staying mad.

Besides, I have my fantasies to live out. Specifically, the one where I’m clad in black leather from head to toe, my long, lustrous, constantly wavy hair tucked into my helmet, my eye makeup perfectly effortless and killer. I gun it between rows of cars and everyone goes, WOW WHO IS THAT??? HE IS SOOOOO COOL!!! Then, perfectly, I come to a stop and take off my helmet. Surprise! Out tumbles aforesaid lustrous hair, and it bounces all over the place in slow-motion. MY GOD, everyone says, IT’S A GIRL!!! A REALLY HOT GIRL!!!!

This fantasy started when I was about six, and hasn’t let up. Did I mention that in this fantasy, my name was Jojo? I don’t want to talk about it.

Now, I’m just content to make it peacefully from point A to point B. No one to impress. Although I do admit to catching sight of my reflection and thinking, yeah, that’s right, you bad-ass.

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