Mar 4, 2019

Tell Me How Good You Thought My Riding Was

Ripped from a section of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Fit the First:

FORD PREFECT:
Well…if we’re lucky it’s just the Vogons come to throw us into space.
ARTHUR DENT:
And if we’re unlucky…?
FORD PREFECT:
If we’re unlucky the Captain might want to read us some of his poetry first.
NARRATOR:
Vogon poetry is, of course, the third worst in the universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their poet-master, Grunthos the Flatulent, of his poem ‘Ode to a Small Lump Of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning’, four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos was reported to have been “disappointed” by the poem’s reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelve - book epic entitled ‘My Favourite Bath-time Gurgles’, when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save humanity, leapt straight up through his neck, and throttled his brain. The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Vogon Poetry is mild by comparison, and when the Vogon Captain began to read, it provoked this reaction from Ford Prefect:
Scene 9: Int. Vogon Spaceship Bridge.
FORD PREFECT:
[Screams]
THE BOOK:
And this from Arthur Dent:
ARTHUR DENT:
[Horrible screams]
VOGON CAPTAIN:
"Oh freddled gruntbuggly…"
ARTHUR DENT:
[Blood-curdling screams]
FORD PREFECT:
[Awful screams]
VOGON CAPTAIN:
"…thy micturations are to me, as purdled gabbleblotchitson lurgid bee."
ARTHUR DENT:
[Ghastly screams]
FORD PREFECT:
[Suffering screams]
VOGON CAPTAIN:
"Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes..."
ARTHUR DENT:
[Dreadful screams]
FORD PREFECT:
[ Agonised screams]
VOGON CAPTAIN:
"And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles, for I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don’t!"
ARTHUR DENT:
[Terrible screams]
FORD PREFECT:
[ Horrendous screams]
ARTHUR DENT:
Aghhh. Ahhhhh.
FORD PREFECT:
Ahhhh. Aghhhh.
VOGON CAPTAIN:
So, Earthlings, I present you with a simple choice. I was going to throw you straight out into the empty blackness of space to die horribly and slowly, but there is one way, one simple way, in which you may save yourselves. Now think very carefully… for you hold your very lives in your hands! Now choose: either die in the Vacuum of Space, or -
[Dramatic chord, then several not-so-dramatic chords]
VOGON CAPTAIN:
…tell me how good you thought my poem was.

And that is pretty much what it is often like to be a motorcycle safety instructor when your friends, relatives, and aquaintances ask you to tell them what you think of their motorcycle skills. I would much rather be tossed into the vacuum of space. Most motorcyclists over 40, the majority of motorcyclists I know, are pretty awful and almost none of them know it. They don’t want to hear about it, either. Without getting at least $50/hour there is no chance that I want to be the one to tell them, either.

I didn’t even much enjoy telling strangers that they had no business being on a motorcycle and I did get paid $50 an hour for the privledge and repsonsibility. Damn few people want anything resembling honest when they ask you “Do I look ok in this dress?” or “Does this color make me look fat?” or “All in favor of my decision/idea/self-promotion raise their hands.” Or any number of “let’s pretend I’m able to accept criticism” moments. Most people just want affirmation of their wonderfulness. Most people are not particularly wonderful.

Teaching motorcycle safety classes is a different situation, for the instructors. All of my favorite co-instructors were really quick with evaluations or criticism of both my verbal presentatiuons or my riding demos. They were receptive to my opinion of their performance, too. At least, they pretended to be. Going for a group ride or a track day with a bunch of motorcycle instructors is an exercise in listening to criticism about your riding skills, judgement, and your motorcycle maintenance habits at every stop and, sometimes, on the fly.

I am not complaining. Normally, going for ride in a group of motorcyclists is a weird kind of suicide mission where nobody knows who is going to come back in a box or an ambulance. Watching the characters in most group rides like like observing odd-shaped objects spiriling into a gravity well intended for perfectly round coins. Lots of random motion, nearl collisions, and solid impacts preceded by poor judgement, marginal riding skills, and a misguided belief that gods or nature or Murphy is on our side.

I’m pretty comfortable in the rider-coach group. In fact, as I age out of my motorcycle years I wish I could still have the opportunity to regularly have my riding technique criticized by these people. I have a “test” that I’ll continue to give myself, but that’s not the same as being observed and criticized by riders who have no horse in my riding race. Not only are they competent, realistic riders, but they are my friends and they care (for multiple reasons) that I am doing those exercises correctly and consistently. They are not going to tell me “how good” my riding is if it sucks and if the demos I provide will be poor examples of riding technique. They are going to tell me that I either need to do more work on my demos or, worst case, that I am not good enough to be an instructor. That was a hard thing to give up when I retired from the MMSC this spring. Maybe the hardest thing.

On the other hand, when I watch my friends wobble away from a stop light or wobble to a stop with both feet on the ground dragging on the ground because they don’t trust their ability with a front brake and don’t have the balance to use the rear brake all the way to stopped, I’m supposed to keep my opinions to myself. I’d love to claim that “my training” prevents me from saying something about those riding skills, but it’s really the fact that I am naturally an asshole that makes me say what I think. The only way to avoid blurting out “You Suck!” is just to avoid the whole situation. It is just one more reason why I don’t like riding in a group. In fact, there are about a half-dozen people on the planet that I enjoy traveling with.

So, don’t ask and I won’t tell.

2 comments:

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